Learning was also temporarily interrupted in eight schools as parents kept a close eye to their children, teachers fled for fear of their lives. What knowledge can be imparted on a child who has slept in a valley where gunshot rained overnight or saw bloody scenes their innocent eyes never fathomed?
As this reign of terror erupted, security agencies in the region barely responded in time to save even one soul, with some police stations barely 200 meters from attack sites. Mt Elgon is not new to clashes; with one of the worst ones having happened at the height of Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF) in 2008 that called for a Military operation. Amidst the atrocities that came the operation, the upside is that a permanent military camp was set up in the area and has been in the region since then, as well as contingents of officers from General Service Unit, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Police Service.
In such a guarded territory, 36 people have lost their lives in a span of eight months between July 2017 and February 2018 and a similar number left with physical and psychological wounds. Women have been raped and men have been marked as wanted by the criminal gangs. A curfew has been imposed and officers can now been seen patrolling the area with a visible calm having returned.
KNCHR has held various missions and meetings with local administration and security agencies since the eruption of the violence in February and no concrete cause of the conflict has been tabled. Some say it is revenge missions by former inmates who were convicted in the 2006/7 clashes who have recently been released. Others say it is political rivals getting back at each other and those that supported opposing side. While on the other hand land remains a perennial and thorny issues emanating from the Chebiyuk phase III settlement scheme. One person is marked as the key perpetrator despite the attacks being orchestrated by gangs of more than five persons.
The right to life and right to dignity as guaranteed in Article 26 and 28 of the Constitution of Kenya cannot be over ridden and accountability by both perpetrators and enablers of violence, to include public officers. As the institution mandated to monitor the Country’s compliance with human rights standards, KNCHR continues to document emerging issues and monitoring efforts at containing the security situation in Mt. Elgon.
As the curfew takes effects, residents are calling on the government to set up psychosocial support centers to manage the trauma. Further, they are calling on the government to address with finality the land issues and reshuffle security officers who are currently serving in the region to allow a new eye deal with the problem.
The trigger to the violence remains a mystery and thus the situation is like a latent volcanic mountain, the lava still boils from below.