Confrontation in KDF maize farm leaves four locals killed, scores injured

Angry locals gather in a scene where bodies of men suspected to have been killed during confrontations with the military in a maize farm in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu yesterday November 26, 2023. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

Residents of Kamagut are angry after four men were shot and killed near the Kenya Defence Force’s Ordnance Factory and Recruits Training School in Eldoret following confrontations in a maize farm.

Three bodies were discovered in different locations near the KDF installations in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu county. Another person died while undergoing treatment after sustaining gunshot wounds.

Four others, who sustained gunshot wounds and bruises during the Saturday night incident, were taken to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and other facilities within Eldoret for treatment.

Tension was high after hundreds of angry locals prevented the police from taking the bodies found on military land.

By yesterday afternoon, locals were still searching for an unknown number of missing persons in areas around the Kenya Ordinance Factory (KOF) and Recruits Training School (RTS).

Turbo Deputy County Commissioner Charles Igiha said confrontations erupted between a group of men and KDF soldiers. The clash is reported to have taken place in Kapchurman Ngano, a maize farm near the KDF bullet manufacturer.

Authorities managed to quell tensions at noon after forming a team comprising locals, the police, and KDF soldiers to search for missing persons.

Hostilities between the military and locals living adjacent to the KDF school and bullet manufacturer escalated on Christmas Day 2021 after three people were shot dead near Chebarus Primary School.

The three men killed on December 25, 2021, were also shot during an alleged confrontation with KDF soldiers.

Locals said the deceased and the injured men had gone to the KDF farm to collect remains of maize after the force recently harvested its crop.

Benjamin Lagat, a resident whose son Ken Kipkemei, 26, was killed during the attack, described the hostilities between the military and locals as devastating.

An agonised Lagat says his son, a building and construction worker, had left home for a menial job only to be found dead moments later. “I was informed that my son had been injured near the road adjacent to RTS. When I arrived, I found him dead,” said Lagat.

Lagat added, “I want thorough investigations done to establish why he was killed.”

Sally Mare, a squatter living in disputed land near the military barracks, said the fallen men were youths who were fending for their families.

Mare said it was normal for locals to collect maize left behind during harvesting. “They were poor young men struggling to make ends meet. Collecting mrokoto (maize remains) was a sign that they were poor and needed to be assisted but not be killed,” Mare said.

According to Igiha, the men were found stealing maize.

“We have spoken to the military, and we have agreed that we will jointly conduct investigations into the ongoing killings. A team of 20 locals, police officers, and military soldiers are currently searching for the missing persons,” he said.