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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid