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Meru residents raid chief's home over Covid-19 stipend

Thursday May 14 2020

Hundreds of Antu Ambui Location residents in Igembe North who raided the home of their area chief on May 13, 2020.

Hundreds of Antu Ambui Location residents in Igembe North who raided the home of their area chief on May 13, 2020. PHOTO | CHARLES WANYORO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CHARLES WANYORO
By CHARLES WANYORO
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Hundreds of residents of Antu Ambui Location, Igembe North in Meru County raided the home of their area chief on grounds that he was biased when deciding who would receive a State stipend meant to cushion the most vulnerable from effects of Covid-19.

The demonstrators marched to the miraa farm belonging to chief Gerald Kithia on Wednesday afternoon.

They destroyed the fence and slashed some miraa bushes before being repulsed by police.

Some of his neighbours struggled to fight off hundreds of locals before police from Laare police station arrived to provide security.

However, the officers were outnumbered and could not match the demonstrators, many of whom carried rocks, sticks and the machetes.

A cameraman films the damaged gate of a miraa
A cameraman films the damaged gate of a miraa farm belonging to the chief. PHOTO | CHARLES WANYORO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Police were forced to fire in the air several times but members of public kept approaching, saying they were entitled to the money and knew that the government would not shoot them.

It took the intervention of GSU officers based as Kinisa to quell the riots that took about three hours.

DESTRUCTION

By the time the fracas was over, a section of demonstrators had damaged the gate to Mr Kithia's miraa farm, stole the poles and destroyed some bushes, as well as harvesting the mature ones.

Mr Kithia said word had gone out that residents of nearby Ntunene Location had twice received the Covid-19 money yet those in his location had not got any.

“My farm borders Ntunene so people pass by here when going to withdraw the money and they incite my people saying they have an ineffective chief. If it were not for police, my house would have been razed and I would have probably been killed,” said Mr Kithia.

One of the demonstrators, Ms Lucy Nchooro, said people from the neighbouring Location kept taunting them that that they would not get the money.

However, the chief said he had done his duty by forwarding names of the most needy and vulnerable as asked by the national government, but that money had not yet been released.

Assistant chief Ronano Muchiri said they were shocked to see the huge crowd that was chanting slogans, approach the home seeking to set it on fire.

INCITEMENT CLAIMS

However, upon interviewing the people, he said they learnt that they had been incited into holding the demos.

“There are some people who told us that they were called and told to go and riot at the home of the chief. The way they came here, they were arranged and pushed to come here. If it was about the money, they would have gone to the office. This issue is about incitement, we don’t store money in the office,” he said.

He said chiefs were currently in fear citing intimidation they constantly received from residents.

“We have given back the government motor bikes so that they are not razed. For the whole of this week, we have not been working,” he said.

This is not the first such incident in the region. Just last week, motorbikes belonging to two chiefs were razed down over claims that they had listed undeserving people to receive the money.

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