How I survived 2012 Baragoi massacre - Constable Abdullahi Nur

A chilling experience.

Kenyan Police officers look over the vally on November 15, 2012where the mass killings of police took place in Samburu north district near Baragoi . Some of the remaining four bodies where found close to where the ambush took place by alleged Turkana cattle rustlers.  Ivan Lieman/AFP via Getty Images

"It’s a nightmare that has refused to go away," these are the words, Police Constable Abdullahi Nur Dagane used to describe the 2012 Baragoi massacre.

The second weekend of November 2012 the worst single incident for Kenyan police in living memory took place. A total of 42 officers were killed in treacherous Suguta Valley.

According to then Internal Security Minister Katoo Ole Metito the police officers were part of an operation to recover cattle belonging to the Samburu that had been stolen by the Turkana.

Many of the officers were fresh recruits in their early 20s. They had only worked in the police service for slightly over a month. A majority had earned just one month’s salary before they were butchered.

Dagane knew some of the dead men by name. They were his best friends. Just four days earlier, the 42 young men were full of life and promise.

After his colleagues died in the mass shooting, Dagane was left alone in the wilderness. He struggled to walk out of the war zone due to the pain cutting through his frail body.

When the 42 were felled by the enemy bullets, their remains lay scattered in the blazing battlefield for hours.

Another group of officers managed to wrest themselves from the jaws of death and escape back to Baragoi Police Station. It’s those who escaped the carnage that alerted their seniors about the bloodbath in the dreaded Valley of Death.

Dagane's wound remained unattended four days after the attack, as he wandered alone in the wilderness, hungry and thirsty, frantically trying to retrace his steps back to police station.

He knew death was fast beckoning him every minute that got lost while trying to retrace his bearing. He was the last survivor to emerge from the Suguta Valley.

“To defeat pangs of hunger, I uprooted grass and ate the roots. With something in my stomach, I gained a little more energy and I continued walking. My only nightmare was the painful gunshot wound.”

Dagane's hour of glory came on the fourth day when he spotted two women fetching rainwater in a rocky place. The women were armed with bows and arrows and they threatened to shoot him if he dared come closer. They had mistaken him for an enemy.

Not far away, Dagane spotted two other women herding goats. These were friendly. “The women spoke in incoherent Kiswahili. They looked at my G3 rifle, which I had hoisted on my shoulder and knew I was a policeman,” he recalls.

One of the women told Dagane that his journey to nowhere had landed him in Nachola Village. He had heard of the village. And he breathed a huge sigh of relief. He knew there was a GSU camp nearby.

“The two women who were fetching water fled. After a while, a young man aged around 25 appeared from nowhere,” the officer narrates.

“He pleaded that I don’t shoot him. He told me he worked closely with the officers at the GSU camp.”

He goes on: “I told him he had only two options: Either take me to the GSU camp or I kill him. I ordered him to lead the way. I couldn’t trust him on the face value.”

Dagane surrendered his rifle, the magazines and bullets to officers at the GSU camp. After narrating his ordeal, they gave him glucose and drove him to Baragoi Police Station

Dagane recalls the three-hour journey from the death chamber to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport on November 13, 2012 – like it happened yesterday.

As Dagane limped to the waiting police helicopter battling razor-sharp pains from a gunshot wound in his hip joint, his initial thoughts were, it had come to airlift the injured officers to hospital.

It was a rude shock for him when he was greeted by corpses piled on top of each other on the floor as he entered the plane. The body bags were like sacks of garbage!

“Here I was seated next to stinking corpses of the same officers I had gone with to the battlefield. To suppress the stench of death and keep off a swarm of flies, we were given a spray,” he says.

“The stench was overwhelming and irritating and drowned the spray’s scent. That has remained the lowest moment in my life.”

With tears in his eyes, he says: “The smell of death has refused to fade away. It has remained permanently etched in my nostrils.

Every time I pass by stinking drainage or garbage, it rekindles in me that awful stench from the corpses. It’s a nightmare that has refused to go away.”

The devastating shock made him temporarily forget his own woes -- he still had a blazing unattended wound and a bullet lodged in his body. The bullet had been lodged there for four days.

The three-hour journey to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport was most agonising for Dagane and one he shall never forget for the rest of his life.

At the airport, distraught families eagerly waited for news of their loved ones. The airport became flooded with tears when the plane carrying the corpses taxied on the runway.

Dagane and the other two survivors were immediately ferried to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), in ambulances. More survivors were flown into the capital in another plane, were also taken to KNH. Some 13 survivors were admitted to the hospital.

After two weeks, Dagane and the other officers were discharged. Nine years later, families of the slain officers and survivors are still crying out for justice.

Just like that forgotten part of the country where the killings took place, Dagane and other survivors were left with painful and horrifying memories that refused to heal. They appear to have been forgotten, too

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