Police in Igembe South, Meru County have been accused of setting on fire nine homes at Thunu village.
Residents, who are now camping at a local church, said about 40 police officers raided the area on Saturday, fired in the air and set the houses on fire.
Ms Jane Kaari, 46, a resident told Nation that the officers, who were accompanied by a chief and an assistant chief, arrived in the village at midday and started firing in the air, sending everyone to scamper for safety.
“They said they had arrived at the targeted house and were issuing orders. I watched as goats, chicken and foodstuff were burnt. They said that they were smoking out criminals,” said Ms Kaari who linked the arson to a dispute over a 50-acre piece land.
“The officers claimed that after setting the houses on fire, we would move out, we are appealing to the county and national governments to come to our aid,” said Ms Kaari.
Mr Jenaro Morara recounted how he missed death by a whisker as an officer fired at him. He said the officers also burnt a house where they had kept music instruments belonging to the church.
“I watched the officers ransack the house before setting it on fire,” said Mr Morara.
Kanuni Ward Representative Josphat Mugambi said the incident had led to a humanitarian crisis. He called on the police to probe the incident. He urged the government to ensure that those who lost property are compensated.
“This is a very shocking incident, they set houses on fire while children and some pregnant mothers were inside. The police have blocked residents from recording statements. They claim the residents burnt their own homes,” said Mr Mugambi.
He said families living on the prime land, including those whose houses were spared, had fled the area for fear of being attacked.
However, County Police boss Patrick Lumumba denied that police set the houses on fire. He said they had gone to the village to flush out a gang that had invaded miraa farms. He said that in February, the gang had attacked and stabbed a police officer who was on patrol.
“No house that was set on fire, the police were pursuing criminals staying in those hills,” said Mr Lumumba on phone.
Ms Rosemary Nkatha said her child lost school uniforms and books.
Nancy Kinya, a Form Three student said she was afraid that she may not go back to school since her parents lost money.
Pastor Samuel Ndatu of Christ Gospel Mission said they were hosting over 500 people.
“Most of the displaced persons are women and children, they are using cartons, sacks as bedding as the children collect wild fruits in the bush,” he said.