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IPOA probes military shootings as local leaders make demands

By Stephen Rutto | Dec 30th 2021 | 3 min read
A team of investigators from Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) in a disputed Kiplombe 9 Farms near the Recruits Training College (RTS) in Chebarus, Uasin Gishu County on December 29, 2021. The land is disputed between the military and civilian landowners. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Investigations into the fatal shooting of two people in a land dispute between the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and residents of Kiplombe in Uasin Gishu County have started.

Two people were shot dead and three others injured on Christmas Day in a confrontation over the land adjacent to Kenya Ordnance Factories Corporation (KOFC).

The shootings allegedly executed by a team of military personnel and officers from Soy Police Station continues to spark uproar and tension at the Kiplombe 9 Farms in Chebarus area.

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) commenced the collection of evidence at the scene of the shootings on Tuesday evening as Uasin Gishu County administration and local leaders issued 10 demands to the national government.

A team of investigators from IPOA combed the scene and discovered a fully loaded magazine about 400m away from where the shooting happened.

The team also found several spent cartridges and live bullets near Chebarus Primary School.

“We will not open the magazine because the matter is under investigation by IPOA. We are involved because some police officers reported to have taken part in what happened on Christmas Day,” an IPOA investigator who did not want to be named said.

Residents living in the disputed farm were accompanied by their lawyer Katwa Kigen during the IPOA investigations.

As the investigations were underway, Uasin Gishu leaders, led by Governor Jackson Mandago, issued a statement, making 10 demands from the national government.

Among the demands is the immediate arraignment and prosecution of military personnel and police officers involved in the shooting of the civilians.

According to the leaders, the residents did not confront the military personnel who were carrying out a survey at Chebarus Primary School.

“The leadership asks for an identification parade of the KDF, KOFC and police officers involved,” the statement read by Mandago on behalf of the leaders said.

“We want the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to direct relevant authorities to conduct objective investigations and to personally hold responsible the KDF, KOFC, the police and National Land Commission surveyors involved.”

Yesterday, a storm was brewing over where the victims – Joel Keter and Eliud Menjo – will be buried because the military personnel at the Recruit Training College had warned residents for the last one year against burying their relatives in the disputed land.

The leaders said President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces should publicly condemn the attack against civilians.

“We want the president to order the stoppage of illegal intimidation, arrests and detention of neighbouring civilians by KDF and KOFC officers,” the leaders said.

“IPOA to put witnesses on witness protection scheme and safeguard their safety.”

Mandago said they want answers on why police were brought from Soy Sub-county to disperse residents during the debacle in Turbo Sub-county.

The disputed land is over 5,000 acres. Locals claim they bought it from a colonial farmer in mid 1960s.

From May 2020, the land tussle intensified when families were stopped from burying the deceased kin in the disputed property, forcing them to bury their relatives at dawn when no one is watching.

In one case in August last year, the family of Grace Tapsawe, 82, was forced to bury her at 5am, sparking an uproar since it was against the Kalenjin culture that only allows burial rites to be conducted at daytime. 

It was the fourth time a deceased person was shockingly buried before sunrise in a hide-and-seek game with the military who claim the land is a buffer zone for the Recruits Training College.

According to Philip Kosgei, the chairman of a section of the farms in the disputed area, prohibition of burials started in May last year when the family of Grace Kitur, another deceased landowner, was ordered not to bury her body.

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