10 February 2016

Kenya: Protestors Burn Four Houses in Naivasha in Society Land Row

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Angry members of a cooperative society in Naivasha Tuesday set ablaze four houses, including one belonging to an assistant chief following a land row.

A Nakuru County Assembly member was among eight people who were arrested in connection with the incident, following protests among members of the troubled Ng'ati Farmers' Cooperative Society in Maiella, Naivasha.

Three houses belonging to leaders of the society and another one owned by an assistant chief were razed to the ground after hundreds descended on them setting them on fire.

The protestors accused the four of malpractices in the subdivision of the expansive parcel of land.

Tension remained high in the area throughout the day as the villagers started burning the houses belonging to embattled chairman, Karanja Mwahuki, the treasurer and a former director.

The Maiella Ward MCA, Mujinga Kariuki, and seven others were expected to appear in court to face incitement charges.

Earlier, the demonstrators had forced four primary schools and a secondary school to close down, with students joining them in the day-long demonstrations.

Police fired in the air to disperse the charged protestors who engaged them in a cat and mouse game round the expansive farm.

Deputy Sub-County Commissioner John Opondo, who was at the scene, confirmed the burning of the four houses.

INCITING VILLAGERS

Mr Opondo accused the MCA of inciting the villagers to violence, saying he had been holding a series of meetings which led to the torching of the houses.

"He is leading a group opposed to the current leadership and we believe he is going to assist us in our investigations," said the administrator.

Mr Opondo immediately banned any unlicensed meetings especially those being held on Sundays without clearance from the police terming them a recipe for violence.

But before he was whisked away, the MCA maintained his innocence and accused police of brutality while arresting him.

"They have beaten me up after they found me calming down the people. I wonder why they have arrested me,' said Mr Kariuki.

He was permitted to drive his vehicle to the Naivasha Police Station with a heavy security guard by the officers who drove in the same vehicle.

Mr Opondo accused the villagers of pelting police with stones and digging trenches to deny the law enforcers access to the troubled area.

"Police showed a lot restraint in discharging their duties despite obvious provocation by the villagers,' he added.

MEMBERS SHORT-CHANGED

A member of the cooperative society, Kibiru Kimani, accused the current leadership of "short-changing" them in the subdivision of the land and allocating themselves huge parcels.

"Each member was entitled to seven acres but were given two acres after they (leaders) sneaked in more than 200 members out of the original list of 581 and listed them as beneficiaries," he said.

Trouble started two years ago following the sale of more than 3,000 acres of the land to a power generation company.

The members claimed that the sale of the land was shrouded in secrecy, insisting that they were never consulted, and demanded to see the sale agreement.

They called for removal from office of the current officials, accusing them of lack of transparency and accountability when negotiating for the sale.

At the time, the MCA said each member was getting Sh415,000 for a five-acre parcel of land, which he said "was too little" going by the current value of the land.

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