Grief and shock gripped Kirumbi village in Sagalla division of Taita Taveta County following the killing of a 35-year-old man after a dispute with illegal herder at his farm on Thursday evening.
A well-meaning neighbour who was trying to resolve the dispute between the two was severely injured. The attacker fled from the scene and is still at large.
Hundreds of villagers who flocked at scene said the herder stabbed the victim for resisting forceful grazing of camels in his farm.
The police from Voi Police Station rushed to the scene to contain the situation. The angry residents resisted efforts by authorities to collect the body forcing the police to use teargas to disperse mourners.
The body was later taken to Moi County Referral Hospital awaiting post-mortem. Police later held night-long patrols in the area.
Local residents allege that herders in the region were armed and threatened to attack anyone who barred them from grazing in land. “They have been grazing their camels in our farms. They keep threatening us all the time,” said Ms. Halima Shangira, the sister of the victim.
She disclosed that her brother had told off the herders who had tried to drive camels into his farm.
Speaking to KNA on Friday, Voi Sub County Police Commander, Joseph Chesire disclosed that five suspects have been arrested over the murder even as police launched investigations, vowing to arrest all those involved in the crime.
He also stated that the police were pursuing a sixth herder who is the main suspect in the crime. “The assistant chief too has recorded a statement over what he knows about the matter,” Chesire said.
There are fears that angry residents were planning to impound the camels to compel the authorities to act decisively by ejecting illegal herders from the region.
The police and members of county peace committee are also moving in to defuse the rising tension in the village.
The Sagalla Ward Member of County Assembly (MCA), Godwin Kilele termed the incident as a direct act of provocation even as he urged the residents to remain calm as they sought ways to halt the illegal grazing.
“We are following the matter with the police and the government agencies,” he told the residents.
There are claims that scores of people have lost their lives in the last five years from violent disputes over grazing
zones. There have also been unverified reports of women being raped by illegal herders who evade authorities because they have no documents making it hard for police to track them.
A senate committee on security toured the area in April and suggested a probe be done on insecurity brought by herders in the region.
Dubious agreements between village elders and herders to be allowed to graze in the villages and adjacent bushes are said to be the key contributors to frequent flare-ups between locals and the herders.
The County Peace Committee Chair, Rev. David Zowe said his team was organizing for a series of meeting with residents in the affected area to initiate a dialogue that will address the issues likely to raise tension.
By Michael Oduor/Yassimin Zuena