KENYA-Security forces have sent reinforcements to Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto’s rural home in Sugoi, Uasin Gishu County, as a deadly operation to flush out an assailant entered its second day.
At 2am on Sunday an armoured personnel carrier arrived at the scene.
At about 6.50am special forces started a heavy offensive against the attacker holed up in the home.
At least one assailant stormed into DP Ruto’s on Saturday and injured a policeman, less than two weeks before the country votes in high-stakes polls, the police and security sources said.
Mr Ruto was not present during the attack, the details of which remain unclear. Police say it was carried out by one man armed with a machete, but several security sources said the assault was staged by multiple people using guns.
“There are armed people who staged the attack and have shot the GSU officer and stolen his gun,” one security official said, referring to the elite police General Security Unit deployed to guard Ruto’s house.
A second source, a senior police officer, said security forces are trying to establish if there are still attackers in the deputy president’s “expansive” home near the town of Eldoret, some 312 kilometres northwest of the capital Nairobi.
“More security personnel have been deployed and a security operation is ongoing,” the officer said, and witnesses reported hearing several gunshots from the compound shortly after reinforcements arrived.
Their accounts differed from a statement issued by Kenya’s police hours after the assault, which said someone carrying a machete attacked a police officer guarding the entrance to the residence and then fled into the compound.
“Other officers were quickly mobilised and the intruder was forced to hide at a building that is still under construction next to the gate,” Kenya’s police chief Joseph Boinnet said in a statement.
The attack occurred despite the round-the-clock presence of guards from the GSU’s top-notch reconnaissance unit.
A spokesman for Ruto declined to comment but the security official said the deputy president had left the house shortly before the attack to attend rallies alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta, his running mate who faces a tight re-election contest on August 8 against longtime opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Mr Ruto’s home sits in Kenya’s western Rift Valley area, the flashpoint for an outbreak of election violence after the disputed 2007 polls that killed 1,100 people and tarnished Kenya’s image as a regional beacon of safety and stability.
According to opinion polls, this year’s election will be close and tensions have been rising.
Odinga has repeatedly claimed the government is scheming to steal the election, while Kenyatta has accused Odinga of trying to delay the polls.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of threats and voter intimidation in Naivasha, a flashpoint town in 2007 and one of the potential hotspots in this year’s election.
In the Rift Valley, hate speech flyers have been circulating and some local residents have already left their homes.
Gideon Moi, son of former president Daniel arap Moi and an influential senator from the Rift Valley, released a statement calling Saturday’s assault “shocking and worrying.”
“Kenyans at this moment want to peacefully participate democratically in electing their leaders and no criminal element or group should be allowed to jeopardise peace at this critical time,” Moi said.
The 2007 bloodshed haunted both Ruto and Kenyatta long after it ended, when the International Criminal Court put both on trial for orchestrating the violence.
Those charges were later dropped, with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda blaming a relentless campaign of victim intimidation for making a trial impossible.