By Robert Manyara
The thorny shrubs path foot leads to Keekunyuk village, a remote village in southwest of Turkana County in northwest Kenya.
For a visitor, it will be difficult to access the village. The villagers are not in hurry to clear the footpath since it is a defense mechanism against intruders.
However, the environment and the rough terrain in the village is not a challenge to cattle rustlers.
On April 4, Pokot raiders struck the village and left behind a trail of blood. During the fierce attack, seven people were shot dead and dozens wounded.
The bodies of the slain victims had been left unburied providing hyenas the rare opportunity to eat from where they had not sowed. The families had abandoned their homestead and fled to a safer area miles away.
The perennial attacks between the Turkana and Pokot communities with children and women becoming vulnerable.
According to Teresa Ekiru, tension has been rising along the border of the two communities after suspected Turkana warriors shot and killed a Pokot man late last month.
“After the killing, Pokot bandits on revenge mission surrounded several Turkana manyattas and threatened to wipe our families. For two days the village was under siege before the bandits left after they received report that the targeted village was not involved in the killing of their kin,” Ekiru said.
The bandits did not end their mission as they proceeded to Kakong village 20km away, where they sporadically sprayed local manyattas with bullets leaving two men dead and three others wounded.
Again this was not their target- the next stop was at Keekunyuk. After the weekend attack, the families moved to Kalemongorok near the Kapenguria–Lodwar highway.
Here six women have been widowed. They are mourning their departed husbands.
“He was our breadwinner. He was our mirror and protector. The family life has been shattered,” tearfully wailed Jacinta Etabo.
Her husband Joseph Ekeno, a Kenya police reservist, was among the six men who got killed at Keekunyuk village. The raiders in hundreds overpowered the three reservists before opening fire at the manyatta.
They drove away several herds of cattle during the deadly attack. In the villages of Kaptirir, Kakong, Kainuk, and Keekunyuk, the areas are dotted with graves as the death toll from endless rustling continues to dog residents.
The hilly thorns and stones count the number of graves in the village. Villages find hurdle to dig graves on the rocky soils. Here men woke in the morning to herd family cattle but hardly come back from grazing fields.
“We thank God when we hear the movement of cattle in the evening. Some men go out to herd family prized animals and miss to return. When they fail to return the answers are in our fingerprints – the enemies have silenced them,” noted Joyce Atabo.
For many women like Atabo, they wonder when the rustling practice will come to an end. Many women have been widowed and left helpless after losing family stocks to raiders.
A fortnight ago hundreds of widows staged a demonstration in Kainuk to protest against government failure to end the rustling menace.
The women led by the Mandeleo Ya Wanawake Organization MYWO Mary Ngilimo accused the government of slow response to the attacks which has led to lose of lives and livestock.
“When will the government bring to end this vice? Our men are resting in the graves. We are suffering and dying of hunger,” protested the women.