Scores injured in land clashes in Voi

Tension remains high in Kirumbi area, in Voi Sub-County after clashes between two rival groups over land, left scores injured and property worth millions destroyed over the weekend.

Reports say the conflict started on Thursday last week, after a gang of youth invaded farms in the lower zones of Birikani village. Armed with crude weapons, the youth demanded the owners to leave or face unspecified consequences.

Later that night, the gang struck with vengeance, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. They raided several houses, destroyed furniture, before setting a 14-seater Matatu ablaze. They also destroyed cow sheds and slaughtered chicken and killed dogs.

Hassan Mwasambo, one of the affected farmers, said he was lucky to escape with his life, and the gang drilled a hole in his house baying for his blood. He stated that he was living in his ancestral land and no amount of intimidation would make him leave.

The people attacking us are our brothers from the hills. They have come down and are demanding that the land we are currently occupying is also theirs, he said.

Eight people have already been arrested over the attacks with more being sought by the police.

There are claims that the surging prices of land in the region is behind the clashes. Raphael Mwawasi, another farmer, said most of the invaders have farms in highland, where the land prices were low. He noted the land in villages of Birikani, Mwingoni, Msambweni and Kalolenyi where the conflicts were reported fetched good prices.

The land we occupy is going for as high as million shillings per acre. This has made it very attractive for other people who want to displace us so that they can sell, he said.

On Monday, the area leaders led by Voi Deputy County Commissioner, Joseph Mtile held a daylong meeting with a section of the residents in the disputed land. Also present were Kalolenyi Ward Member of County Assembly Omar Ahmed and his Sagalla counterpart Godwin Kilele.

Speaking to KNA, the Deputy County Commissioner said the government will not allow gangs of criminals to terrorize local residents under the guise of fighting for their land rights. He noted that the issue of land was being addressed by senior government officials and a report will be presented to the residents.

Mtile said the police are hunting for people who engaged in wanton looting, destruction of property and other criminal activities.

The land issue should be disassociated from the criminal acts, carried out in the affected areas. There is no justification to destroy private property before exploring other avenues where any dispute can be resolved, he said.

Kalolenyi MCA, Omar Ahmed said armed vigilante groups cannot be allowed to roam the region creating fear and causing mayhem amongst peaceful residents. He added that the police had been properly briefed on the situation and had promised to intensify crackdown on the criminals involved in the attacks.

He further noted that a meeting will be held by the end of the week in the disputed area to thrash out the differences amongst the residents to avoid further chaos.

We condemn the criminal acts and commend the Administration police for their response. These attacks have the potential to create fear and we will not allow that, he said.

Source: Kenya News Agency