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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mixed feelings greet deployed ‘Red Berets’



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Buses transporting officers from the GSU posted to the Tana Delta District to maintain peace arrive in Malindi town in the morning on Friday 14 September, 2012 on their way to violence torn parts of the District where more than 120 people have died in clashes pitting two communities against one another. Photo/ROBERT NYAGAH
Buses transporting officers from the GSU posted to the Tana Delta District to maintain peace arrive in Malindi town in the morning on Friday 14 September, 2012 on their way to violence torn parts of the District where more than 120 people have died in clashes pitting two communities against one another. Photo/ROBERT NYAGAH 
By MARK AGUTU magutu@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted  Friday, September 14  2012 at  23:31
IN SUMMARY
  • Many people have been leaving Garsen Town in busloads heading for Garissa, Hola and elsewhere ahead of what many believe will be a door-to-door operation by the no-nonsense GSU.
The first contingent of General Service Unit (GSU) officers arrived in clash-torn Tana River County on Friday, triggering waves of relief and trepidation among local residents in equal measure.
The 200 paramilitary officers arrived at the district headquarters in buses at around 12.30pm and pitched tent at Garsen Police Station. They were later joined by more officers to make a force of 1,800.
The contingent is under strict and clear instructions: Stamp out the violence that has ravaged the Tana Delta, resulting in the death of 100 civilians and nine police officers and displacement of nearly 13,000 people.
The group left Nairobi on Thursday, a day after they were commissioned by President Mwai Kibaki.
The head of the operation, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Kamitu, said they would from on Saturday comb the area for troublemakers and also to keep the peace.
“The personnel have started arriving and will be doing so in batches,” said Mr Kamitu. “What I want to tell wananchi is that there is no longer any need for anyone to go away; this is their home and they should stay as the security is here.
“We won’t waste any time. There is a way in which we are going to undertake this but how we are going to do it is our secret. We are going to deploy everywhere as we consider anywhere in this region a hotspot.”
The deployment follows a month of violence between the pastoralist Orma and the Pokomo, who are farmers, but other communities have also fled the area for fear of being caught in the crossfire.
Last week, the government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in a series of measures aimed at containing tension in the area.
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On Friday, displaced families camping at Witu, Tarasa and Dida Waride were optimistic that the GSU would restore law and order.
‘We want to return to our homes’
“Let them come so that we have security; we want to return to our homes and continue with our normal lives,” Mrs Adija Ali Malipe, a resident of Sendemke Village, told the Saturday Nation at Witu Health Centre where she was camping with her children.
Mrs Malipe, who said she fled her village early this week for fear of being attacked, however added: “But there must be security since we do not want to go back to our homes only to be killed.”
Mrs Jenipher Guyato said more people were fleeing their homes for fear of retaliatory attacks. But even as some bet big on the GSU officers to restore order, others expressed fears that the security operation would cause more suffering.
Many people have been leaving Garsen Town in busloads heading for Garissa, Hola and elsewhere ahead of what many believe will be a door-to-door operation by the no-nonsense GSU. They feared the operation would disrupt business as clients stay away for fear of being arrested.
“We have lost many clients due to the early start of the curfew,” said Mr Nixon Mwamburi, a restauranteur in Garsen Town. “We no longer have clients coming for dinner.”
Garsen is largely a transit town and traders rely on travellers for business. Mr Jillo Amuma said innocent people had nothing to fear: “Only the guilty should be afraid. Let the GSU do their work. As for me, this is my home and I will stay through it all.”
The officers are expected to mop up illegal firearms, some of which are believed to have been used in the deadly skirmishes.

Kenya Police reservists in the county were also ordered to surrender the guns and ammunitions issued to them by the government.

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