More than 20 families in a village in Busia County have been rendered homeless after their houses were burnt.
The incident followed the killing of a Form One student, Ramadhan Abdala, from the neighbouring Nanyeni village, by Malomba residents the previous night in a suspected case of mistaken identity.
According to reports, Abdala had been escorted by two friends to meet his girlfriend in Malomba on Sunday night.
The escapade allegedly turned tragic when the three boys were mistaken for thieves. Residents chased and caught up with Abdala, who they beat to death. His two friends escaped.
When residents of Nanyeni learnt of Abdala’s death on Monday, they embarked on a revenge mission, indiscriminately torching nearly 50 houses and leaving the village in distress.
Malomba village in Butula constituency, Busia, is separated from Nanyeni village in Matungu Constituency in Kakamega County by River Nanyeni. A bridge connects the two villages and children study in schools on either side.
Tension was high yesterday as Matungu OCS Julius Kombo with local officers camped at River Nanyeni to prevent Malomba residents from crossing over to avenge the loss of their property.
Abdala was buried yesterday at their home in Nanyeni.
Plea for help
By yesterday afternoon, little had been done to address the plight of the affected families that pleaded with well-wishers and the Government to provide temporary shelter, clothes and foodstuffs as they looked for a long-term solution.
Benedict Were, whose two houses were burnt down and four cows driven away, said the attack caught them unawares. Mr Were said a local bumped on Abdala and his friends in Malomba.
“The boys were asked to identify themselves, but they started running away instead of answering the question. That prompted whoever asked them the question to raise the alarm. He thought they were thieves,” said Were.
Were said residents armed themselves and pursued the teenagers. Abdala, who had just joined a local secondary school, was caught about a kilometre away from Malomba and struck on the head with a blunt object. He died on the spot.
This prompted Nanyeni residents to plan a revenge attack on their neighbours in Malomba.
“They came to attack us at a time people were away from their homes. Some were in the farms while others had gone for menial jobs. Nothing was saved from more than 50 houses that were burnt,” said Were.
Everything in sight, including crops, was destroyed and livestock stolen.
“I did not save anything. My 10 bags of maize, clothes and other valuables were burnt. I do not even know where my children are right now,” said Were.
Geoffrey Shirumba, another resident, blamed police officers for not responding to their distress calls in time.
Mr Shirumba claimed he had called police more than 10 times to tell them about the attack and that houses were being burnt. The officers only showed up after more than one hour, by which time huge damage had been done.
“If police had responded promptly, at least they would have saved the situation. But they kept telling us they were coming until houses had been burnt and some of our livestock driven away,” said Shirumba, who also lost two cows.
Sylvester Owino, another resident, claimed the attackers were only out to steal and burn houses because they did not injure anybody.
“They were armed with weapons and petrol, which they used to burn houses. We hope the Government will make arrests and arraign the culprits in court,” said Mr Owino.
Butula Deputy County Commissioner Winston Murunge held a meeting with victims and assured them that the government would carry out investigation and hold to account those who lynched Abdala and torched houses.
“Those who killed the Form One student and those who burnt houses will be arrested and taken to court. We cannot condone this kind of lawlessness,” said Mr Murunge.
The administrator said they would hold meetings between residents of the two villages to restore peace.
“We have put proper measures in place to ensure residents live peacefully despite what has happened.”
During the attack, the bridge over River Nanyeni was destroyed, leaving school children stranded.
As Murunge was holding a meeting in Malomba, his Matungu counterpart held a separate meeting with residents of Nanyeni to remind them of the need to live harmoniously.
Murunge said officers would stay behind longer to investigate the matter as well as restore order.