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Arsonists burn chiefs’ homes in Kericho

Kapkwen Chief Henry Kemei inspects the damage caused by arsonists who raided his homestead and reduced it to ashes. [PHOTO: NIKKO TANUI/STANDARD]

Police are pursuing arsonists who attacked the homes of two local administrators and destroyed a farm belonging to a former Member of Parliament.

The attack on Tuesday night reduced to ashes the homes of Kapkwen Chief Henry Kemei and Chelele Assistant Chief George Murara.

Following the incident, Kericho County Commissioner Muktar Abdi said he had deployed a contingent of Administration and regular police officers to the area to restore calm and arrest the culprits.

The gang of about 100 attackers also torched acres of sugar cane and slashed coffee, bananas and eucalyptus trees  belonging to the family of former Belgut MP, the late John Kerich.

Reports indicate that the gang went on the rampage after a bitter dispute over the construction of the 15-kilometre Coffee Research-Imbaragai-Kiptenden-Chesigot-Singoywek community road. The road was meant to cut through the former MP’s 200-acre piece of land

According to former Kenya Bureau of Standards Director Hillary Koskei, before the attack, villagers had reached an agreement that every landowner on the planned route would surrender a small stretch for building the road.

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He said construction was going on smoothly until it reached the MP’s farm.

“In 2012, the residents approached the Government through former Roads minister Franklin Bett for assistance to construct the road, for which he allocated Sh26 million. A contractor was on site but got blocked when they got to the late Kerich’s farm,” said Mr Koskei.

TWO SUSPECTS

The county administrators were attacked for leading the police to arrest two suspects after a car belonging to Kerich’s family was set ablaze during an earlier altercation with the villagers over the access road.

Koskei however condemned the attack, saying violence would not resolve the issue.

The county commissioner vowed to bring the arsonists to book.

“We are not going to allow the villagers to take the law into their own hands. We are following crucial leads to arrest all the suspects who participated in the arson,” he said.

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Speaking when he led the county security team to assess the damage, Koskei also declared that two suspects already in custody would be taken to court.

A visibly shaken Mr Kemei said the assailants struck his homestead chanting war cries at 11pm.

“I sneaked out and hid in the bush before the gang arrived,” he said.  

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