North Rift traders count losses over bandit attacks

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Traders in insecurity-hit counties in the North Rift are counting losses after many businesses closed due to fears of bandit attacks despite promises by the government to contain armed conflicts that have claimed several lives and displaced hundreds of families.Several traders in West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counties have closed shop and fled the area following renewed attacks that have claimed more than 10 lives in the last two weeks.Some of the remaining businesses are recording low activity which has impacted negatively on their income as bandit attacks and boundary disputes disrupt the socio-economic livelihoods of the residents.The Chesogon market shared by traders from three counties has been hit hard by insecurity forcing some of the traders to close shop and relocate to safer areas.“Suspicion remains high among the warring communities which have scared our potential customers. This has forced some traders to scale down their operations due to fears of attacks,” said Jackson Meriong’or at Chesogon market.The market located at the border of Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot counties is still recovering from the effects of landslides that claimed 23 lives two years ago.The region continues to experience retaliatory attacks as armed criminals have acquired sophisticated guns threatening to outsmart security personnel deployed to restore law and order.The renewed attacks have also disrupted the reopening of schools after many families relocated to safer areas.The worst-hit are schools bordering conflict-prone West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties and Baringo South and Baringo North sub-counties where hundreds of families have been displaced by perennial a cattle raids and boundary disputes.“Many schools may not open due to the security situation. We need security beefed up in learning institutions,” said Peter Lochakapong, MP Sigor.Administrators and security teams in the region admit that criminals believed to be behind the attacks are still on the run, a clear indication of the possibility of staging further assaults.He said security patrols have been intensified to deal with any act of lawlessness that has claimed over 30 lives in the past three months.“Although the region is experiencing relative peace, retaliatory attacks cannot be ruled out,” said Dr Omar.He disclosed that a major road is being constructed along River Kerio belt to act as buffer zone between the warring Marakwet and Pokot communities.“A Rapid Deployment Unit has also been set up and the process to establish an office for a special Deputy County Commissioner to coordinate crack-down on criminals on the affected counties is ongoing,” added Dr Omar.bbii@ke.nationmedia.com