When Emmanuel Ekeno sold part of his herd to engage in public transport business, popularly known as matatu, he was hoping for a bright future.
He bought a lorry to transport goods between Kapedo and Marigat towns that are 180 kilometers apart in the arid northwestern Kenyan counties of Turkana and Baringo respectively.
“I used to get good money from the transport business. I could make one trip per day to deliver goods from Marigat but I’m no longer in the business,” Ekeno said, recalling the good old days before increasing insecurity on the road forced him out of the business.
“I almost lost my life one day. The bandits sprayed the lorry with bullets forcing my driver to stop and we lost everything to the armed bandits,” Ekeno recalled the 2014 incident.
He regretted why he ventured in the transport business despite advice from his closest relative that the business was risky due to banditry crime.
“I wish I could have listened to my cousin’s advice. I would not lose my investment,” said Ekeno who is among several people who have pulled out of the transport business.
Eric Emulimuli, a father of five, is the latest person to withdraw the public transport service on the route after several bandit attacks.
“I quit the business and I don’t dream of going back to it. It is like putting your life on the crossfire. It is tormenting and many people have lost their lives along the route,” Emulimuli spoke about his decision to quit the business last year.
The attacks have rendered many people out of business and other jobless. Motorists narrated disturbing stories while encountering with bandits.
According to Turkana Chamber of Commerce and Industry TCCI, all the 30 public service vehicle operators have withdrawn their services along Lokori-Lomelo-Kapedo highway, which has caused a transport crisis.
“Last year alone we recorded over 15 incidents of bandits attacks while 10 similar attacks were reported on the route,” said Peter Ejore, TCCI chairman.
“At least most of our members pulled out of the business after loss of investment and insecurity on the road. Despite police escort the route is insecure,” said Ejore.
The official said business opportunities in remote markets in Turkana such as Lokori, Lomelo and Kapedo have not been tapped due to the transport problem.
“Insecurity has pushed several people out of business. At least 20 people who owned shops in Lokori, Lomelo and Kapedo areas closed their businesses,” added Ejore.
Tourism sites like a hot spring near Lomelo remain idle as bandits roam the area freely.
“Business has been ruined and tourism potential is idle. We don’t know when banditry will end to pave way for investment,” said Ejore.
Lack of education among the tribal youths from the Pokot and Turkana communities and the high presence of illegal guns have been blamed for the menace.
Residents now have to rely on security trucks for transport to access goods from towns in Baringo County.
On Dec. 9, 23 civilian were killed in a road accident when a police truck they were traveling in veered off the road.
The civilians had hiked a lift from Marigat where they had gone to buy food supplies and were returning back when they were involved in the accident.
The administration police truck was loaded with food items and belongings of the civilians.
“Since matatu operators stopped the public services on the route civilians hike lift on government vehicles because of lack of public transport and insecurity,” said Robinson Ndiwa, a senior police officer in Baringo County.
Meanwhile, it is common to find that most trading centers run out of stock due to insecurity.
“We sometimes lack stocks in our shops and we replenish when there is security truck go to Marigat to take officers to their basic requirement,” said Jane Ekiru, who runs a shop in Kapedo.
Turkana County Governor Josephat Nanok, while mourning the civilians urged for a lasting solution to the banditry menace.
“It is disturbing to lose such big number of Kenyans on the road. The road insecure and residents scramble to get lifts in government particularly security trucks to access food in Baringo county,” said Nanok.
Many people have lost their lives while others left with physical wounds to banditry attacks, though no exact figure has been provided.
Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Wanyama Musiambo said the government is committed to bringing sanity on the road and give people opportunity to engage in economic activities such as transport business.
“It is true there is a problem along the Marigat-Kapedo road but the government is putting in measures to restore sanity and improve security for residents to tap investment potentials in the region,” the official said. Enditem