Easter break marred by accidents, clashes

Published on 14/04/2009

By Standard Team

Thousands of people return to their places of work today after Easter festivities marred by a streak of incidents and accidents that left about two dozen dead and scores homeless.

Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the Easter weekend was “better” than previous ones.

“Apart from a few arson incidents reported in parts of Western, Nairobi and Central provinces, the country was generally calm compared to the past,” Mr Kiraithe said.

More than 20 people perished in road accidents and others lost their homes to floods, fire and tribal clashes.

“Preliminary statistics show there were fewer vehicles that left for upcountry, Mombasa and other areas for the season,” Traffic Commandant Aggrey Adoli told The Standard yesterday.

Eleven people, many of them relatives, died in Kathiani, Machakos, when a matatu that had been left unattended rolled, tossing its passengers into a ditch. They had travelled from Kathonzweni District for a marriage ceremony. Machakos OCPD Hassan Barua said the matatu driver, who went into hiding soon after the accident, has been arrested.

He told The Standard on the telephone that the man is likely to appear in court to answer charges related to the tragic incident in which several other people were injured and admitted to various hospitals.

A cloud of gloom and grief hang over Kwa Kavisi, Kitonyini and Thinu as villagers mourned departed relatives and friends.

In Kiambu, four people were killed in a grisly accident on Good Friday. Twelve others were seriously injured and a survivor is still in a coma.

In the 1pm accident, a car with six passengers hit another vehicle it attempted to overtake on Kiambu Road, leading to a pile-up affecting four other vehicles, which were extensively damaged.

Three people died on the spot, while the fourth succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment.

The 12 are admitted to different hospitals. Rescuers said police were late to reach the scene.

Separately more than 50 police officers were left homeless when a fire gutted down their houses in Nairobi’s Kariokor area.

Officers on duty

Most of the Administration Police officers were on duty when the inferno broke out at the weekend.

The cause of the fire is yet to be known even though police said they suspect an electric fault.

Central deputy OCPD Richard Muguai said morale of the officers had been dampened by the accident.

In Trans-Nzoia East District, a police officer was shot dead by cattle rustlers only a week after Rift Valley PC Hassan Noor toured the area.

And tension remained high in villages near Kabolet Forest after the attack, with families fleeing homes in fear for their lives.

The raiders ambushed a team of APs at Ekegoro in Sinyerere and shot dead one during the Saturday night attack. Local DC Naftali Mungathia said the officer was on normal patrol when suspected rustlers struck. In Kapkoi, Kwanza District, four people were killed in what residents feared could lead to renewed tribal clashes.

On Saturday night, two raiders were shot dead when police reservists thwarted their attempt to steal cattle. Local DC Hassan Mohamed said officers on patrol ambushed the cattle raiders and killed two. But others escaped into the forest.

And hardly a day later, in an apparent revenge attack, the raiders killed an elderly woman and a young man near Bondeni Primary School, a few metres from where the raiders were gunned down.

Ms Nekesa Lungui was alone in the house when the raiders torched her house during the 2am incident.

They went to another homestead where they dragged Harun Simiyu out of his house and sprayed him with bullets. They did not take anything.

The killings have sparked tension, with Pokot leaders claiming the killed ‘raiders’ were visiting schoolboys.

The DC, however, dismissed allegations by the leaders, led by Kapenguria MP Julius Murgor and former Assistant Minister Samuel Moroto.

“How can they claim that those killed were schoolboys when they were armed and wanted to steal cattle?” asked the DC.

But the leaders alleged that a police reservist had opened fire and killed the boys said to be pupils of Kanyarkwat Primary School.

Led by Mr Moroto, the villagers held a peaceful demonstration in Bondeni to protest against the killing. But a resident, Mr Anthony Odinya, said: “We do not feel safe because tension is growing.”

Officials of the Kitale Catholic Church Justice and Peace Commission, led by Boniface Wanyoike, who toured the area, feared that planting could be interrupted unless the farmers got enough security.

The incidents, the official said, would hinder peace building processes going on and urged the Provincial Administration to restore peace.

Politician Albert Gumo said the area has been peaceful for the past two years, but the killings could disrupt the peace.

But the DC assured residents that adequate security would be provided and urged them to resume planting.

In a separate incident in the same district, a church and four houses were torched in Likhuna village in Kolongolo by unknown arsonists.

Pentecostal Evangelical Fellowship Church of Africa was set ablaze in what sources said was related to leadership wrangles.

The burnt houses belong to worshippers. Those responsible are yet to be established.

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