West Pokot residents protest over relief food theft

West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo (left) condemned the alleged relief food theft in the County
West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo (left) condemned the alleged relief food theft in the County

Residents of West Pokot County on Monday protested over an alleged theft of relief food by government officers as Governor John Lonyangapuo and County Commissioner Apollo Okello locked horns over the saga.

This comes after Governor Lonyangapuo claimed he had impounded people who were loading relief food meant for residents in a lorry, KBR-404B, at the government store in Kapenguria on Saturday night after a tip-off.

According to his orders, the lorry was meant to be kept at the spot for investigations to be conducted. However, on Monday morning, he found the lorry had been driven away, and he placed the blame on the County commissioner.

“I ordered them to keep the lorry here till Monday but they’ve disobeyed me and the driver escaped,” he said, “We’ve heard about dirty deals involving relief food.”

He called for the prosecution of those culpable, “We want them to be investigated, transferred and even jailed. Our people are suffering because of hunger, given that half the harvest was destroyed by insects and the drought,” he lamented.

A few hours later, angry protesters who carried twigs and placards labeled ‘Operation ondoa wezi’ took to the streets of Kapenguria town accusing the national government officers of stealing relief food.

Led by nominated MCA Mr. Elijah Kaseu and Kapenguria ward representative Mr. Emmanuel Maddy Polokou, they marched up to the County Commissioner’s office accusing West Pokot County Deputy County Commissioner Khaliff Abdulahi, government storekeeper Mr. Wycliffe Giganane and other officers of being cartels, who were stealing food meant for residents.

Residents took their protests to the West Pokot County Commissioner's office
Residents took their protests to the West Pokot County Commissioner’s office

Services came to a standstill at the government offices as they searched for the storekeeper and later found him in one of the offices.

They demanded to be addressed by the County Commissioner, however, he was not in the office at the time.

“The County received 300,000 bags of maize recently and we don’t know how it has been distributed. We want to see the maize, rice, beans, cooking fat, and flour,” said Kaseu.

Mr. Polokou revealed that the relief food was being sold in Turkana and Kitale.

However speaking to the press in his office, West Pokot County commissioner Mr. Apollo Okello dismissed the allegations terming them as baseless, outright lies and rumors hence said the said food was still in the store.

“I refute the claims that food has been stolen. The Governor should cooperate with us and if there are issues we should sit down and settle them,” he said.

Mr. Apollo blamed the Governor for being behind the demonstration and challenged the leaders to report the matter to the police.

“Why have they not reported to the CID, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission?” he posed.

He cited that on Saturday they agreed with the West Pokot Governor that the loading and offloading of the relief food should stop.

However, he reiterated that if any government official is found stealing food action will be taken against him or her.