Villagers started fleeing their homes after General Service Unit (GSU) officers were deployed to Kamaindi village of Tharaka Nithi County and Ugweri market of Embu.
The deployment follows the killing of a senior police officer and a local area chief. The police OCS was killed as he pursued a suspect named in
the gruesome murder of Chief Japheth Mayau Mukengu on Tuesday, April 30.
Source of Dispute
What started off as a bitter dispute over the use of the waters of River Thuci several months ago escalated into hostility and murder.
On December 12, last year, one villager, Gitonga Kibuibe, went missing after he made his daily sojourn to the river with his animals, generating more suspicion and seething hatred between the villagers and the chief.
After Kibuibe’s disappearance, calm was restored following the intervention of the chief’s bosses that saw the river diversion removed. It held until April 4, when the remains believed to be Kibuibe’s were found in the river at the spot where the diversion had been located. This reignited the cloud of suspicion between the villagers and the chief.
Chief Mukengu was reportedly killed by an angry crowd at his brother Gikware Mukengu’s home when he went to resolve what police termed a grazing dispute.
This was after his brother had been accused of detaining goats owned by a resident, Gitonga Kibuibe, who had gone missing since December 2018.
Hacked and Burnt
When the chief arrived at his brother’s compound, the villagers turned their rage on him and hacked him to death before burning his body.
Before the death of the chief, the bone of contention for the villagers of Kamaindi was the death of a villager and the fight to control the precious waters of River Thuci, which residents had earlier accused the slain chief’s brother of diverting.
But one villager defended the villagers, saying the chief was killed by a gang that had been hired by the suspect, Ikaaba, to help him recover his goats from Ugweri shopping centre in Embu.
For now the villagers who had so murderously meted out their anger on their chief, keep away from their homes and businesses, hoping the Government will eventually let them be.
Police have vowed that the security operation will not stop until all of the killers are brought to book.