Violence rages despite heavy
security in volatile zone
Story by MOSES MWATHI
12. March 2008
Police vehicles jam a dusty and bumpy path leading to Rumuruti
forest in Laikipia West District in the wake of renewed wave of
violence that has claimed more than 13 lives and left property
worth millions of shillings in ruins.
A sharp stench wafts in the air and dead bodies and clothing
litter the path. A few metres away fire is spreading fast across
five villages, consuming both household goods and creating a swath
Gunshots can be heard from a few kilometres away deep in the bush,
prompting some security officers to head to that direction.
Another contingent is dispatched to unblock the Nyahururu-Maralal
road near Gatundia, which women, children and older men have
barricaded, protesting at the soaring insecurity. Residents accuse
police of being of little help.
The ethnic violence, triggered off by the earlier lynching of a
suspected cattle thief, opened fresh wounds of hatred and
suspicion, precipitated by cattle rustling that has rocked the
area for decades.
The lynching added fuel to the brewing hatred between the farming
and pastoral communities. It took ruthless gangs from one
community 72 hours to prepare and wage a revenge attack in the wee
hours of the night.
The vicious raids, carried out simultaneously by more than 400
gunmen, left a trail of deaths, injuries and destruction and led
to a bloody clash the following day.
The attacks in Gatundia, Ndagara, Magomano, Mutamaiyu, Muguongo,
Munyu, Oranyiro and Murichu villages, left six people dead and 200
houses burnt. Eight primary schools - Murichu, Oranyiro, Kinite,
Gathui, Muguongo, Ndagara, Melwa and Lolanyiro - have been closed
Youths quickly assembled and plotted to pursue the raiders, who
split into two groups and headed toward northern and southern
parts of vast Laikipia plains.
At Nyahururu district hospital mortuary, six bodies were received
while the injured were admitted to the wards and others to
Rumuruti sub-district hospital.
At Muguongo, a pregnant woman was shot dead after she declined to
disclose the whereabouts of her husband, who the bandits accused
of being involved in the killing of their accomplice.
Her one-year-old son was knocked down with a blunt object and was
admitted to Rumuruti hospital.
“They killed about seven people in the dawn attack. They also
stole phones and personal effects. This time, they did not take
away cows,” said Mr David Thumbi, a local elder.
Still, worse was to come. The raiders shot dead four youths, who
were in a group of 600 armed with arrows and spears. Ten youths
were seriously wounded and taken to hospital.
The youths, in a self defence, retreated but police went further
“I saw them and they brandished sophisticated guns that do not
resemble those of local police officers,” said Mwangi Nderu, one
of the youths.
Last Friday morning, the raiders struck again at Mutamaiyu village,
killing three people and stole 40 head of cattle. The residents
believe the attack was aimed at eliminating influential figures.
Bullets struck Mr Michael Kariuki Guandaru, who was walking
alongside his sons, immediately after they attended prayers for
peace and unity.
As they prayed, they heard distress calls from neighbouring
homesteads. Little did Mr Guandaru know that the marauding gangs
were also in his compound. Three sons of the 50-year-old pastor
slipped away unscathed.
Pool of blood
“My eldest son called me from hideout, complaining that their
father was not answering calls. It came to my mind that gunshots
fired in the compound hit him,” Ms Magdaline Wambui, the wife of
the pastor, told the Nation at the scene.
Just a few kilometres from Mr Guandaru’s home, the raiders killed
Mr Robin Muthiga, a trader and speared his wife several times.
They then proceeded to the home of Mr William Ngumba and shot the
owner and stole 20 sheep.
In the neighbourhood, they killed an unidentified man who spoke
their dialect. The bodies were taken to Nyahururu mortuary.
Hundreds of residents have fled to police stations, posts and
safer zones as more houses were burnt at Mutamaiyu. Some are
heading to Central Province with others opting to go towards
Most residents have been using donkey carts and vehicles to ferry
their belongings to Nyahururu and Nyandarua.
The Nation crew found emaciated and hungry families at Gatundia
police post as more trickled in with some of their belongings.
The victims said they had not eaten anything since last Thursday
night. They said their harvest and household goods were destroyed
“We have really suffered. The clashes have rendered us homeless
and hungry,” said Pastor Loshishi Erukeli.
He said the bad blood between them and their neighbours had been
caused by primitive cultural values, which encouraged cattle
rustling, among other vices.
Mr Erukeli appealed for assistance, saying the surrounding
community could not deny them food. “We have lived together for
many years and whoever brought trouble was not from our midst,”
said the man of the cloth.
He said that most of their grass-thatch houses in 15 out of 20
manyattas had been reduced to ashes. They accused their neighbours
of treating them with suspicion, yet they knew each other well.
The residents accuse some neighbours of collusion with rustlers.
“We have some spies in our midst who collude with rustlers to
terrorise at night. They do not report rustling, but we do it
often,” a resident, who sought anonymity, said.
Local leaders say the conflict is not linked to political or land
issues. “Economic difference between farmers and pastoralists is
enormous and this has led to suspicion and hatred,” said Mr Joseph
Eilman, the chairman of Rumuruti town council.
The chairman said some communities have been sidelined for long in
the distribution of resources and this could result to violence to
bridge the gap.
He asked the Government to improve infrastructure in areas
dominated by pastoralists and boost their economic gains.
Area district commissioner Julius Mutula has advised the residents
to return home and form a reconciliation committee, as part of a