The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) has temporarily suspended all operations in Baringo county and withdrawn all its staff from the county effective today, Saturday, 25 February 2017. This follows a confrontation with the residents that led to looting of relief food and harassment of KRCS staff, yesterday in Moinin, Loruk.
The unfortunate incident took place on Friday, 24 February 2017 in Moinin, 12 kilometres from Marigat town, where a convoy of seven KRCS vehicles carrying 96.8 metric tonnes of relief food comprising of maize flour, pulses, cooking oil and salt meant for Kapedo and Lomelo areas in Turkana county, was blocked by the residents and forced to turn back to Marigat.
“It is with a heavy heart that the Kenya Red Cross Society announces the temporal suspension of our activities in Baringo county, as we can no longer guarantee the safety of our staff and resources. Our staff were threatened by residents despite our assurance that the consignment was headed to Turkana county, and had nothing to do with the current inter-clan conflict in Baringo county,” said Dr. Abbas Gullet, Secretary General, KRCS.
At the first roadblock, KRCS staff attempted to negotiate with the residents, majority of whom were young people, but they were adamant. After one hour of negotiations, the convoy had to turn around after residents pounced on one vehicle and threatened to burn it down, only to meet another roadblock 4 kilometres from the first one. The second crowd directed the convoy to use a nearby detour back to Marigat, through a nearby small centre, where crowds from the first and second roadblocks, as well as those at the centre trapped KRCS staff.
The confrontation escalated, as the residents who are from the Tugen community accused KRCS of giving food support to the Pokot community. KRCS was forced to present the waybill that clearly indicated the food was destined for Turkana county, triggering some order. At the time, a police vehicle arrived from Marigat and in no time the youth approached one truck that had 8.5 tonnes of maize flour looting it clean, claiming they had fresh orders.
“Never in the history of Kenya Red Cross Society, have we ever been hampered from delivering our humanitarian work. We have always had access to all areas due to our neutrality and impartiality, during all crisis and emergencies,” continued Dr. Gullet.
Baringo is affected by both the drought and conflict, where KRCS has been supporting residents with monthly cash transfers, non-food items, rehabilitation of waters sources and medical outreaches in Baringo North, Baringo South and Tiaty sub counties. In addition, KRCS has been evacuating those wounded in conflict, and supporting displaced mothers and children.
“Kenya Red Cross Society may only resume operations when the Baringo County government guarantees the safety of our staff and resources. I also request the central government to intervene and shield vulnerable residents from the suffering we continue to witness,” concluded Dr. Gullet