Chaos as coffee farmers meeting in Embu ends abruptly

Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire (L) engages a farmer during a special sitting to present the External Auditors Report. [Murithi Mugo, Standard]

A special meeting convened to unveil an audit report for Murue Coffee Farmers Coop Society in Embu County turned chaotic on Monday evening.

Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire who attended the meeting was unable to contain the situation as two groups clashed.

Tensions remained high before the meeting started and it took the intervention of Embu North DCC William Owino, who warned that authorities will not condone any unlawfulness at the meeting.

"I know some people have been asked to cause mayhem here. Others want to raise issues of water but be warned we are on high alert, the governor will give a direction when to discuss the issues of water," Owino said.

Previous meetings at the Coop Society have ended prematurely with farmers engaging in fistfights.

Farmers are split into two, following a report that pointed accusatory fingers at the Coop Society Committee for mismanagement and dictatorship in running the affairs of the largest coffee society in Embu.

One group has been pushing for the immediate suspension of the committee led by Chairman Muriuki Maruk, while another supported the current leadership.

Governor Mbarire was forced to retreat to a closed-door meeting with the County Technical Committee to deliberate on the way forward, and in consultation with the Coop Society Chairperson and his Committee resolved to have a vote-of-no confidence motion.

Efforts to pass the vote with the Society's management failed after the proposers failed to garner the two-thirds required by the law.

With 961 farmers participating in the vote, 531 voted to suspend the management, while 430 farmers voted in support.

When temperatures flared up, Mbarire requested the farmers to allow her to consult the National Government and Cooperatives on the way forward.

She observed that she could not make any decision outside the act. "I understand the frustrations from either side and you are all my people but what I can't do here is engage in any activity that is outside the law," the Governor told the farmers.

Officers from Manyatta Police Station had a rough time as they put a buffer zone to separate the two warring groups.

The Coffee Society has been marred by wrangles for some time with some farmers accusing the Chairman and his committee of serving beyond the term limit.