Athletics Athletics

Loroupe on saving Tana River crusade


NAIROBI, Kenya, November 27- The killings of 48 police officers in Suguta Valley and three Kenya Defence Forces soldiers in Garissa in the past fortnight are the latest attacks against security forces commanding national attention at the moment.

However, barely two months have elapsed since the Tana River Delta bloodbath took its turn to be in the grim spotlight with the carnage that hit the region fast becoming a fading memory in a country that stood in horror when it occurred.

On September 10, nine police officers and 28 civilians were slain in clashes along the delta of death as rival Orma and Pokomo communities that inhibit the Tana River County set upon each other leaving behind a trail of death, destruction, shattered villages and displaced people.

The attack by 300 armed men in Kilelengwani Village made a mockery of the nation’s security organs but it could have been worse had respected global peace ambassador and former world women’s marathon record holder, Tegla Loroupe and her group had not intervened.

“It took us a long time to go there. When we asked the Government we want to go there, they said they had to look for logistics. If we had known, we would have gone the way we were and we could maybe have saved the third attack.

“When we came there, we were able to disengage 300 other people who were close to attack another village called Daragwa. The second group we did not meet them that night, they had already gone to Kilelengwani and the following day, they killed 39 people,” Loroupe told Capital Sport on Tuesday.

At the time, Loroupe had visited the area twice, to organise one of the legs of her annual circuit of Peace Races and on the second occasion, to bury the father of the CEO of her foundation.

“It is not that the security forces did not know what was not happening. There were early warnings even from the BBC who had been sending them to their head offices here (Nairobi).

“It is the way people take things for granted, things have not happened to me, you don’t care. When they killed nine police, they deployed security to the letter. What happened when civilians were killed? We have lost the culture of helping each other,” the three time former World Half Marathon champion lamented.

At least, she has not forgotten the violence visited in this region and on Saturday, Loroupe is moving her annual signature Tegla Peace Race from its traditional Kapenguria venue to Tana River.

“I was there during the third attack. We went there thinking after the first two, we could talk to the people who were asking where is Tegla? Where is the foundation? They were looking for somebody to trust.

“The third attack caught us there. I saw children being killed; I witnessed women in the Mosque being killed, in a sacred place for anybody to run. It changed my mind,” she claimed explaining why she switched the race.

That was after the area OPCD called upon her to intervene after reports 300 heavily armed men had been spotted preparing to attack another village at the time.

“In the middle of the night, the OCPD asked me what to do since we people with clothes (uniformed) cannot go there in the night alone, we need influential people, he said.

“I told him let’s go there together, I know it is not good for you but we have been doing that with Karamanjoong and Pokot warriors and if we talk to them, they will realise and understand and that’s how we intervened,” the two-time Rotterdam Marathon champion disclosed.

“I was not supported by this country, I would have done more but I will think of something,” Loroupe, a member of Champions for Peace group of 54 famous elite athletes committed to serve peace worldwide elaborated.

After speaking to event sponsors, an agreement was reached to switch the race to Tana Delta with one of them, National Bank of Kenya giving the organisers Sh1m towards the event on Tuesday.

“Those people realised we can use sports to reach other people and Government. We can give hope to women and old people who are the most affected. It’s up to me and you and the one who seats on the top seat in this country to give this country peace.”

According to her, the foundation will spend Friday engaging the two communities in discussions to foster peace before they line up against each other to run for unity.

Former fighters from the previously warring communities of Pokot, Karamanjoong, Turkana and Marakwet communities of northern Kenya and Uganda now turned peace campaigners will accompany the decorated runner who returned from the IAAF Centenary Gala in Barcelona on Tuesday morning where she was recognised for the Tana Delta mission.

She hopes to transform the Tana Delta belt where she first pitch camp in 2006 into a haven where the Orma and Pokomo can exploit the rich arable land.