by Robert Manyara
KAPENGURIA (Xinhua) -- Relative calm
has returned at the troubled Kerio Valley in Kenya’s western
region where perennial deadly conflicts between local
communities have existed.
On Wednesday, Pokot and
Marakwet communities signed a peace deal in a ceremony witnessed
by Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto.
The peace pact held in Chesogon, which is along the West
Pokot County and Elgeyo Marakwet County border, follows a series
of dialogues spearheaded by lawmakers from the two warring
Ruto praised the peace accord and said it will pave way for
the revival of development projects.
Revenge attacks in Kerio Valley have left over 120 people
dead in the past three years, as the two communities have
disputes over agricultural land and resources at the border.
But the tough stand by Kenyan government on the reckless
killing and the deployment of security personnel have enhanced
security in the region.
The clashes over the control of some areas in Chesogon, which
has good soils for mango and vegetable production, has seen loss
of lives and destruction of property.
The presence of illegal firearms in the region has also
fueled tribal conflicts with rights groups blaming the guns on
the ravaging insecurity.
In the past months, local learning institutions at the border
remained shut as the warring communities attack each other.
Education officials said that over 20 schools along the
border had been affected by insecurity.
Several farmers who had abandoned their homes and farms for
safety are slowly returning back following the restoration of
security in the region.
The area produces huge tons of mangoes supplied to Eldoret,
Kitale and Lodwar towns.
But in the past months the fruits have rotted on the farms.
Ken Siwotom, a rights activist told Xinhua on Thursday that
there is calm and some families have gone back to their homes.
Siwotom said the heavy presence of General Service Unit (GSU)
has caused confidence among the families.
"There is heavy presence of soldiers and there is calm in the
region and some families have moved back to their homes they had
abandoned in the past months," said Siwotom.
Joseph Samuli is among several people in Chesogon trading
center who were displaced by insecurity.
Samuli operated a shop at the trading center before he fled
the area and sought refugee protection in neighboring Rumuti.
"I closed my business because I feared for my life after my
neighbor was shot dead by bandits.
"We want peace and security here to enable us to continue
with our economic activities," said Samuli.
He said bandit attacks had frustrated business and farming
activities and forced families to flee to safer areas.
"The learning of our children has been disrupted by
insecurity and we want the government to ensure those
responsible for crime are arrested," he added.
While welcoming the prevailing peace, residents urged the
government to find a lasting solution to the border conflict.
"Our economical activities have been hurt by insecurity.
"Our lives have been shattered and we are urging the
government to protect us," said Samuli.
In July, Kenyan government announced plans to launch a
security exercise in Kerio Valley to retrieve illegal guns in
the hands of civilians and restore peace in the region.
Areas targeted for the intended forceful disarmament program
include six counties of Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Elgeyo
Marakwet, Laikipia and Samburu.