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Police deployed after youths invade gemstone mining field, take investor hostage

By Renson Mnyamwezi | February 21st 2019

Security officers have been deployed in a vast ranch after dozens of youths raided and took over operation of a disputed gemstone mine within it.

Armed with weapons, the unruly youths numbering about 100, raided the investor’s residence within the vast Kasigau Ranch and took her and her workers hostage for several hours before police from Maungu Police Station arrived and rescued them.

The mining has been going on since 2011.

Tensions remained high as the security team led by Deputy County Commissioner Joseph Lewa patrolled the disputed area that has been a source of conflict between the investor and the ranch management.

The armed youths first raided the ranch offices and closed them down before raiding the mine within the vast ranch.

The men later raided the mine and took the investor and her workers hostage for hours.

“As I am talking to you, the youths have displaced the investor and taken over the operations of the mining field. They have started mining,” said Jonathan Mwangeje Mshiri, the ranch chairman.

The official said they had advised the youths to leave because the invasion was in contempt of court.

But youths, who claimed they had been deprived of their land and mining rights by the investor, defied the advise.

“The controversy surrounding the mine is still pending at Voi Law Courts and the case is yet to be concluded. We told the invaders to leave the area but they told us that the case has dragged on for far too long. They have taken over the site and started mining for gemstones,” said Mr Mshiri.

“The raiders are telling us that we are dragging the case and wasting public funds. We told them that we are not the court,” he said.

The official claimed the youths were incited by one of the ranch directors to invade the area and cause violence. “We have also been displaced as we cannot access our offices which have been closed. We have reported the matter to the police and we are still waiting for the law to take its course,” added Mshiri.

Sources also alleged officials of an NGO have been inciting the youths to invade the private property. “We are aware of the NGO illegal operations in the area. It has been dishing out money to the youth to incite residents into violence. We are investigating the conduct of the NGO officials,” confirmed a senior police officer.

Mr Lewa said he would brief the Press after visiting the volatile area. “We are currently patrolling the area to maintain peace,” said the administrator.

Nyangala Assistant County Commissioner Agnes Wangari confirmed that security personnel had been deployed and that the security committee is visiting the area to diffuse tensions and help find a lasting solution.

“The rule of law must, however, apply. We are visiting the controversial mining site to solve the problem,” said the administrator.

Ms Wangari warned that anyone found inciting residents to invade private property would face the full force of the law.

Kasigau location has of late been hit by a spate of criminal activities.

In one of the latest incidents, a gang torched the house of Abraham Juma, an MCA. The incident came barely two days after the MCA reported to the police that his life was in danger.

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