On a normal day, the small, dusty and sun-baked Kamuluyuni shopping centre is a sleepy place with minimal activity.
The place is often deserted save for a few herders who routinely dash inside the shops to buy some items.
But around midday on Thursday, the sleepy market burst into life as hundreds of locals poured out of their homes to witness the high octane drama that had erupted in their locality after the arrest of three fleeing Kamiti prisoners.
The three, Musharraf Abdalla, Joseph Juma and Mohammed Abdi, upon arrest, had been driven to the local market and kept at a strategic place from where the locals would every now and then crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the convicted terrorists.
“It was a full town on Thursday, many came in just to see what 'an Al Shabaab' looks like. Many were amused to find out they are just people like us,” said Juma Kilonzi, a local resident, bursting into laughter.
But his laughter is quickly swept away by worries of how insecure their sleepy village might be, now that the convicted terrorists were nabbed in their locality.
Kilonzi fears that their accomplices might want to avenge the arrest of their colleagues by visiting terror on the area residents.
When The Saturday Standard visited yesterday, we found a handful of locals huddled in sections of the shopping centre, discussing the happenings in low tones. It was clear from the outset that tension was still high in the area.
“Escaping all the way from Kamiti to this place shows those people were in communication with others, maybe from this region. And who knows, they might want to avenge their arrest. We are in fear,” Kilonzi said.
This fear is compounded by the fact that 15 kilometres away, a group of herders have erected manyattas in parts of Kitui County after driving away the locals from Eengamba hills.
It is at Eengamba where the local primary school was closed after parents withdrew their children and teachers due to incessant attacks from the invaders who cross over from Tana River and Garissa counties.
“We are very close to the border and we have appealed to the government to establish a police station in this area. This is the only way we can be sure of our security,’ said Kilonzi.
The herders often clash with the locals over water points and grazing lands for their livestock. The bloody incursions have led to loss of several lives in recent years, with security organs believing that some criminals are disguising themselves as herders.
As we carried out our interviews, two water bowsers passed by the trading centre, driven by the herders. One driver alighted and bought sodas from a shop.
The herders, according to locals, draw water from the nearby Enziu River for their thousands of livestock, including camels stationed within the forested Eengamba hills.
“Our relationship is like that of a cat and a mouse. We don’t trust each other at all," remarked Kathina Muumbi, another resident.