41 fighters arrested at clash-hit border
Published on February 20, 2008, 12:00 am
By Robert Nyasato
Police have arrested 41 suspected fighters and recovered a cache of weapons at the troubled Borabu-Sotik border.
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr David Baya, said on Tuesday the raiders were held as renewed clashes hit Riotonyi at the Nyanza-Rift Valley province boundary.
Fighting between two communities started after four houses were burned.
Baya and Borabu, Nyamira, Bureti and Sotik districts security committees displayed recovered arrows, bows, spears, pangas, slings and a machine for making arrows.
The suspects had forced three Riotonyi Police Post officers to retreat before their colleagues came to their rescue.
Police pursued the warriors for more than 5km. Baya said the more than 1,000 fighters escaped with about 10 youths injured in the confrontation.
He said the suspects would help police unravel the puzzle of who was behind the clashes.
Baya said the youths could not afford the arrow-making equipment, adding that someone must be financing the violence.
He commended the security officers for restraining themselves, saying the fighters could have been shot for carrying offensive weapons.
At the same time, Baya said Anti-Stock Theft Unit personnel had been posted to Memisi Camp, which was disbanded last year.
North Mugirango MP, Mr Wilfred Ombui, his Sotik counterpart, Ms Lorna Laboso, and DCs, Ms Asha Kiiva (Borabu), Mr Kutswa Olaka (Bureti), Mr Humphrey Nakirate (Sotik) and Mr Karanja Njora (Nyamira) had to adjourn a peace meeting at Arrocket to visit the troubled area.
Security committees rejected Laboso’s pleas to have some of the suspects released on medical grounds.
“We will not discuss anything about armed gangs. Let the law take its course,” said Nakitare.
He added: “Police should continue dealing with criminals decisively and professionally. Allegations that police are partisan do not hold any water.”
Earlier at the peace meeting, Laboso denied allegations that she was behind the clashes. “I have not financed or incited anybody to fight. Those are allegations being fuelled by PNU protagonists,” she said.
“I don’t want politics to divide us. Let us preach peace because we have to live with one another.”
But Ombui said there should be sincerity in the call for peace if calm was to be restored.
Nakitare accused politicians of hypocrisy: “You are preaching peace in Kiswahili while fuelling trouble in your local dialects. You should preach peace in both languages.”
He added: “As an elected leader, what legacy do you want to leave? Do you want to be remembered as the one who presided over clashes in which several people were killed and property destroyed?”
It also emerged that several schools had not re-opened, while learning had not picked up in most schools.
“Most schools along the border have recorded low turnout. We want to ensure that learning returns to normal,” said Kiiva, who chaired the meeting.
Teachers from Kisii have refused to report to schools in Rift Valley Province because of insecurity, and are seeking transfers.
Ombui said workers must be assured of security. “In Kisii, people from all parts of the country are coexisting peacefully. We want the same to happen in the Rift Valley,” added the MP.