3 February 2008

Kenya: Gunshots As Police Battle Youths in Sotik

Nairobi — Fighting raged along the Sotik-Borabu districts border Saturday as unconfirmed reports indicated that at least 10 people have been killed in tribal attacks.

Residents arm themselves at the Sotik-Borabu border. Two communities along River Sondu have been involved in violence for the last three days, leading to deaths and injuries. Houses have been burnt on both sides and schools and businesses shut. Photo/TOM MARUKO

Fighting went on from Friday night to yesterday morning. Gunshots rent the air yesterday morning as police battled the marauding youths.

More than 100 houses have been burnt on both sides of the border. Ribaita primary school in Borabu district was burnt down. The raiders looted the school before setting it ablaze.

Several shops at Chebilat town along the common border were looted and torched.

Property estimated at millions of shillings went up in flames after several buildings in the town were torched.

Residents fled the town to nearby Nyansiongo district headquarters. They claimed that police watched from a distance as the raiders looted and torched their properties.

At Elimu Academy, pupils were evacuated by police.

A provincial administrator speaking from Esise location said: "Fighting is going on now. You can hear gunshots and more houses are on fire from both sides."

Security had been beefed up at Eronge Boarding Primary School and Manga Girls' High School

Provincial security teams from Rift Valley and Nyanza provinces were yesterday afternoon expected to tour the violence-hit border.

Residents are demanding the deployment of the General Service Unit personnel along the troubled border, saying police were openly biased and had taken sides in the conflict. The residents also said police were overstretched and needed reinforcements from the GSU and the Army.

North Mugirango Borabu MP Moriasi Ombui alleged that more than 20 people have been killed and many others injured.

He said: "These groups are well organised and somebody must be financing their activities. We have co-existed harmoniously with our neighbours for many years," said the Kanu MP.

He accused some of his colleagues of fuelling the chaos by telling their people that certain communities were occupying their ancestral land and must be evicted.

West Mugirango MP Dr James Gesami, also a resident of Borabu district, threatened to resign unless the attacks targeted at the Abagusii were stopped. "The Gusii people did not steal the presidential vote and everybody should know that," said the ODM MP. The MPs wondered what security officers were doing given that the arson attacks and killings were carried out in broad daylight.

Nyanza PPO Anthony Kibuchi said he was assessing the situation on the ground, including allegations that police had taken sides, before issuing a statement.

KNA reported that 10 people were shot dead and eight, among them two pupils, injured as violence escalated between two communities.

Police collected bodies with arrow wounds from Nyankono and Ikonge areas on the Nyamira-Bureti and Borabu-Sotik border.

The injured are admitted to various hospitals in Kisii.

Nyamira DC Samuel Njora said yesterday that four of the dead were attacked by raiders who also stole cattle before setting houses on fire.

North Mugirango-Borabu MP Ombui visited the injured at the hospitals and helped airlift Nyamusi Primary School headteacher, Mr Francis Mangire, to Nairobi for specialised treatment. He suffered bullet wounds during the raids. His son Omayo, 17, was also admitted to hospital with bullet wounds. Mr Ombui said the violence, which has spread to Nyansiongo, Kineni, Mogusii, Isoge, Nyankono, Chepilat and Kerito, had taken a different dimension. He said: "It is no longer politics but organised attacks on a particular community."

He demanded the transfer of police officers from the two communities saying they had taken sides. The Kanu MP asked the government to deploy neutral security officers to the area.

Maize plantations were also destroyed at Mogusii Estate as police allegedly watched from a safe distance, Mr Jones Nyakundi, a resident, said.

Meanwhile, Sotik MP Lorna Laboso and her Bomet counterpart Kipkalya Kones along with Sotik District Commissioner Humphrey Nakitare toured the Chebilat area and appealed for calm. Mr Kones and Ms Laboso accused police of being biased while executing their duties.

The MPs asked the government to take action against officers found shooting innocent people.

They urged the government not to deploy police officers from communities affected by the tribal violence to restore law and order.

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