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Police failure in Lamu blamed on recent changes

09 July 2014, 12:24 Victor Tinto

Nairobi - The failure by police to prevent and react quickly to recent attacks in Gamba and Hindi areas in Lamu County has been blamed on their lack of knowledge of the area.

The attacks in the two villages cost the lives of 22 people and saw property damaged and women and children put through bad ordeals on Saturday night.

Once again though, failure by the police to react to calls for help were blamed as reason for the high number of deaths, with some victims saying police took over four hours to react to their calls.

Asha Mwinzi who was attacked by the assailants, said they took their time to go through her house and look for men and boys, and says that by then, she had already alarmed the police of impending attacks, having been called by a relative.

" We called the police way before the gang got to where I live. I was lucky because they were looking for men and boys and I have two daughters, she said.

She said that by the time the police arrived, the gang had long disappeared into the night.

" They arrived three hours after they had left, she added.

Lamu County Commissioner Miiri Njenga admitted that the police were lax in responding to the calls for help but blamed the recent changes in personnel for the laxity.

" As you know, most of the police officers here are new including the bosses and they do not know the area well and that is a major factor, he said.

" Yes, we should have reacted faster but there was a logistical nightmare, he added.

Security expert Simon Ng'anga believes that it is wrong for the police to have a team that does not know the terrain in a place like Lamu which provides ample hiding places for potential gangsters.

" The question you have to ask yourself is what are the police thinking having a totally new team in such a place knowing the terrain is difficult. They should have made one or two changes but largely maintained the status quo.

" Who strategizes for the police? Who calls the changes. It is unheard of to do such a thing in a volatile area, he says.

For now, Njenga says the police are liaising with locals on how best to handle the current situation.

" We are talking more with locals to see how best to take care of the situation on the ground.

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