Two schools have been closed in Buuri Location, Tigania East in Meru County as residents fled following attacks by armed Turkana herders who invaded the area on Monday.
Tension is high in Ntangilia, Kaongo, Lii and Maburwa villages after the heavily armed herders from Isiolo arrived in the well-watered area and started shooting indiscriminately leaving one person injured.
Kaongo and Kiremu primary schools were closed on Wednesday morning as teachers and pupils fled after hearing gunshots.
When Nation visited the area on Thursday, Maburwa Primary School was open but few pupils managed to attend school.
Mr Patrick Aringo, a teacher at Kaongo Primary School, said all 384 pupils and teachers fled the school after the incident.
Pupils of Kiremu Primary School said their teachers sent them home and asked to return on Friday if security improves.
On Thursday, women and children could be seen fleeing from Ntangilia and Kaongo where several houses were broken into and household items stolen.
Residents claim they were attacked by more 50 armed bandits on Wednesday forcing them to abandon their tomato farms in the area that relies on irrigation.
Ms Karambu Mwongela said armed bandits hit Kaongo Primary School and villages around it, stealing cattle, destroying property and displacing residents.
“They were shooting indiscriminately at around 9am to scare us away. They broke into houses and stole food, solar panels and any other valuables they could find. Teachers and pupils of Kaongo Primary School fled from the classrooms when they heard gunshots,” Ms Mwongela said.
Men armed with guns, slings and other crude weapons could be seen keeping vigil in the area as they accused police officers of not taking action.
“The Turkana herders came here three weeks ago and the chief told us they would not do any harm. They have now paralysed our businesses and learning. Women and children have fled to safer areas,” said Mr James Thuranira, one of the men keeping guard.
Ms Martha Mutabari, one of the residents whose house was looted, said she fled from her other home in 2015 after a similar attack.
“We had just bought one acre of land and started living in Ntangilia in 2015. We were planning to build a permanent house when the bandits attacked. We used the money meant for building to buy this land because this area was safer. We are now being forced to relocate again,” lamented Ms Mutabari.
She said her children fled to her brother’s house near the sub-county headquarters.
Meru herders association chairman John Ntiritimi called on the government to provide security in the area saying they have had to move their livestock to Tharaka-Nithi County.
“I don’t understand how the bandits attack locals yet there are several police camps in Gambela, Mariara, Ndumuru, Bulu and Elat along the Meru-Isiolo border.
“The camps are manned by General Service Unit (GSU), Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) and Rapid Deployment Unit of the Administration Police (AP) yet they are not doing anything,” Mr Ntiritimi lamented.
Tigania East OCPD Samuel Kosgey confirmed the incident saying 10 cattle were stolen while an unknown number of donkeys and goats were also stolen.
However, he refuted claims that people were fleeing the area saying they were engaging in normal economic activities.
“I can confirm one person was injured following a row at Ntangilia watering point near Kaongo Primary School. At the moment locals are engaging in their normal activities with all schools opened save for Kaongo,’’ Mr Kosgey said by phone.
The divisional police boss said they are tracking down the stolen animals.
Last week police arrested six herders and detained 500 camels after the pastoralists defied their orders to vacate the volatile area.
The herders who moved into the area in search of pasture owing to drought in neighbouring regions.