News / Africa

Kenyan Ambush Death Toll Rises

Relatives wait for the bodies of slain police officers to arrive at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012. Suspected cattle thieves hid on a high hill and ambushed and killed at least 34 police officers pursuing them over the weekend in northwestern Kenya.Relatives wait for the bodies of slain police officers to arrive at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012. Suspected cattle thieves hid on a high hill and ambushed and killed at least 34 police officers pursuing them over the weekend in northwestern Kenya.
x
Relatives wait for the bodies of slain police officers to arrive at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012. Suspected cattle thieves hid on a high hill and ambushed and killed at least 34 police officers pursuing them over the weekend in northwestern Kenya.
Relatives wait for the bodies of slain police officers to arrive at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012. Suspected cattle thieves hid on a high hill and ambushed and killed at least 34 police officers pursuing them over the weekend in northwestern Kenya.
Gabe Joselow
Officials in Kenya now say at least 42 police officers were killed in an ambush Saturday, as more bodies have been recovered.  Police believe cattle rustlers were behind one of the most shocking attacks in the country’s modern history.

Family members of the slain police officers waited at Wilson Airport in Nairobi Tuesday for the bodies to be returned, four days after the ambush in Samburu County.

The long, anxious wait has added insult to grief, particularly to Muslims here who say their religion requires them to bury the bodies as soon as possible.

Harun Mohammed Yusuf, whose cousin was among those killed, says the government has failed at every step.

“And we are worried about the capacity of the government and whether it was negligence or whether it is a sheer failure of logistics," Yusuf said. "Because if the government was not capable of equipping its soldiers to defend its community and its people, does it mean it does not even have the capacity to lift the dead?

Police entered into an area known as the Suguta Valley by truck Saturday ahead of an operation to recover stolen animals.  But officials say the gunmen were waiting in the hills, and overpowered the security forces with automatic weapons.

In addition to those killed, at least nine other police officers were injured, while several others are still unaccounted for.

Violence over resources in Kenya’s remote regions is not uncommon, but an attack on government forces of this magnitude is nothing short of shocking.

Kenyan Commissioner of Police Mathew Kirai Iteere, left, addresses media on the weekend attack on the police officers in Samburu, northwestern Kenya at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012.Kenyan Commissioner of Police Mathew Kirai Iteere, left, addresses media on the weekend attack on the police officers in Samburu, northwestern Kenya at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012.
x
Kenyan Commissioner of Police Mathew Kirai Iteere, left, addresses media on the weekend attack on the police officers in Samburu, northwestern Kenya at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012.
Kenyan Commissioner of Police Mathew Kirai Iteere, left, addresses media on the weekend attack on the police officers in Samburu, northwestern Kenya at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Nov. 13, 2012.
Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe, speaking to reporters at Wilson Airport, said police will resume their hunt for those responsible.

“The search and rescue will continue until we are very, very satisfied that the area has been thoroughly covered and then the operation will continue because by any means and by any circumstances, the perpetrators of this kind of action can not be left to go unpunished,” he said.

At the heart of the violence is an ongoing conflict between the pastoralist Turkana and Samburu people.

Police were pursuing heavily-armed Turkana cattle rustlers, who are said to have led the ambush.

Abdullahi Halakhe, a Kenya researcher at the International Crisis Group, says the problem is that for too long, the government has had little presence in the area.

“There is an absence of state," he said. "So there is an ungoverned space there, which is a carryover from the colonial era where the pastoralist communities, or areas where the pastoralists were occupying, were never considered economically viable and as such the government never invested.”

He says that has all changed since the discovery of oil in the area, which is forcing the government to reconsider its relationship with the Turkana people.

While the weekend assault will likely set back efforts to re-engage, Halakhe said the government should avoid responding with more violence.

“This is not a very responsible government, particularly the security apparatus, so we have to monitor how they will react," he said. "I'm not sitting here and saying, you know, these guys should be handled with kid gloves.  But at the same time, there should be a proportional response, it should be within the law.”

The attack also raises concerns about Kenya’s ability to control violence that could arise around the time of the presidential election in March.  More than 1,100 people were killed in post-election violence after the last poll in 2007.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs