New road project aims to bring peace to Tugen, Pokot and Marakwet
A journey through the bandit-plagued regions unveils a tragic tale and the extraordinary lives led by the warring communities of Tugen, Marakwet, and Pokot.
Among the locations emerging from isolation and opening themselves to the rest of the world are the little-known areas of Kinyach, Kapturo, and Kabirwek.
These names remain unfamiliar to many residents of Marakwet and Baringo Counties.
Those who possess knowledge of these places cannot help but speak of them in hushed tones, for they are synonymous with the chilling concept of the “killing fields,” where the Pokot Bandits wander without consequence.
These bandits freely wander through the land, casting a shadow of fear and tragedy.
Under the current political regime, bold steps are being taken to address the challenges in the region. One significant endeavor involves the construction of a new road.
The broader area in question is known as the Kabirion location, situated within Baringo North Constituency. However, it is specifically the village of Kabirwek that became notorious as the bandits’ stronghold and a repository for stolen livestock.
Kabirwek village is characterized by its remote and inaccessible roads, located nearly 100 kilometers away from Kabarnet town. Additionally, it is about 30 kilometers from Bartabwa, the birthplace and upbringing of the renowned General Daudi Tonje.
To reach the infamous “killing field,” one must travel from Kabarnet to Kabartonjo, Kipsaraman, and Bartabwa. Beyond Bartabwa, where the paved road ends, individuals must navigate through treacherous valleys associated with death and danger.
These valleys mark the border separating Baringo North and Tiaty Sub Counties. On one side, we find the Pokots, while on the other, reside the Tugens.
The land in this region is abundant in limestone, which is visible throughout the area, alongside other valuable minerals.
Strangely, many residents from Baringo North said they have never set foot in Kabirwek.
“I live in Bartolimo which is less than 50 kms away. Since I was Born, I have never set foot here. That’s a war zone,” said 60-year-old Tom Chepchieng.
In the face of Pokot bandit attacks on the Tugen community, their primary objective is to seize livestock, which they then bring to this location.
Once individuals arrive here, they may reach the area safely, but leaving becomes exceedingly difficult.
The region’s volatile nature and bandits’ presence make escape a perilous and challenging prospect.
On Saturday, first Lady Rachel Ruto, spearheading peace efforts in the area, sent her representatives to reconcile the Tugens and Pokots.
The residents, political leaders, and the local administration shook hands and vowed not to kill each other.
The first lady also works with Borders Community Peacenet-Africa (BCP-A) and International NGO.
The NGO is headed by the CEO of the Kenya Anti Cattle Rustling Program James Kandagor.
Renowned evangelist Reverend Edward Ngaira was sent to represent the First Lady Rachel Ruto.
Kandagor and Ngaira witnessed the clearing of the bushes as the Kinyach-Kapturo Kabirwek road took shape.
The road will go around the Chebarcholom Hill in Tiaty Sub County.
The road will link the residents to the tarmac running from Marigat to Chemolingot.
Once the bushes are cleared and perhaps tarmacked in the future, it will be the shortest route for residents who live in the Marakwet lowland and Tot areas to travel to Nakuru.
It’s expected to cut travel time and distance in half.
“This is a miracle! I was born here. We were driven away by bandits in 1978. I have never been back since. Now I am coming back to see the bush being cleared to make a road. I can’t imagine it,” said Kandagor.
Reverend Ngaira, for his part, said that as ambassadors of peace, they would push the government to provide more social amenities for the residents to give up cattle rustling.
“I was in the USA last month. It’s not as beautiful as here. Beautiful landscapes and fresh air. As stakeholders, we will work with the government to build a school here, a hospital, an airstrip and other social amenities. We are serious about peace and please support the peace process,” said Ngaira.
The two distributed food to both Pokot and Tugen families displaced by the bandits.
A borehole is also being dug to provide water for the locals.