Nyeri village where residents duck bullets daily - Daily Nation

In line of fire: In Nyaribo Village, Nyeri, residents duck bullets daily

Monday December 11 2017

Nyaribo bullets

Benson Mururi, a resident of Nyaribo Village in Nyeri, displays bullets he collected in his farms. The bullets are fired from Kenya Police College at Kiganjo during training. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By NICHOLAS KOMU
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For the last 43 years, residents of Nyaribo Village in Nyeri have been forced to adapt to a daily routine that requires them to take cover from live bullets flying over their heads and homes.

Nyaribo is not a war zone, neither is it in conflict.

10AM DAILY

The bullets that the locals have been ducking daily are fired from guns of police recruits in the neighbouring Kenya Police College at Kiganjo.

“At 10am daily, we have to take cover because that is when the gunshots start ringing,” says Pauline Muthoni as she walks out of her farm.

She was weeding and taking care to her crops but she fears for her life.

“You do not want to be outside when it starts because a bullet could hit you.”

From a distance, bursts of rifles being fired at the police college can be heard.

Occasionally, whizzes can be heard as bullets fly over Muthoni’s home.

This has become the norm and Muthoni says she is lucky not to have been hit by a bullet over the last four decades.

HOUSES

However, her house has not been as lucky.

She has had to replace its tin roof several times because bullet holes leak water into the house when it rains.

Walls and trusses of her wooden house have marks of the stray bullets— proof of the danger Muthoni lives in.

Nyaribo bullets

Some of the bullets that hit homesteads in Nyaribo, Nyeri County. Residents have lamented over stray bullets landing in their homes after being fired by recruits from Kenya Police College, Kiganjo. PHOTO | NICOLAS KOMU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Across the road, Salome Wanjiku, a guard at the rarely used Nyaribo Airstrip, has a different story to tell.

She was hit by a live bullet on her left wrist three days ago.

Wanjiku says she was patrolling the airstrip when the stray bullet, believed to have been fired from a recruit’s rifle, grazed her hand.

“At first, I thought it was a stone that hit me and then I checked and saw the bullet,” she says.

KILLED

She reported the matter a few minutes later at the Kiganjo Police Station under occurrence book number 15/04/12/2017.

She also handed over the round that had caught her hand to the police before seeking medical attention at the Nyeri County Referral Hospital.

Officers from the police training facility visited and marked out the scene of the incident.

The security guard is, however, not the first causality of stray bullets from the college as residents say two other people have been shot.

According to Mugumo Nderitu, a passer-by was killed by a bullet near the airstrip in 1984.

A woman’s leg also stopped a bullet shot from the police college in 1974.

SCHOOL

“Most of us have lost count of how many times we come close to being shot,” Nderitu says.

With the college located barely two kilometers from Nyaribo Centre, thousands of civilians have been put in direct line of deadly fire.

Children are the most vulnerable and the fact that none has been hit is a miracle to the locals.

Nyaribo bullets

Julia Wanjiru displays bullets she collected in her homestead in Nyaribo, Nyeri County on December 7, 2017. School children are at bigger risk of being hit by the rounds. PHOTO | NICHOLAS KOMU | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

Oblivious of the risk that skulks at the market, the burst of 7.62mm by 51mm calibre rounds is just part of the village ambience to small children.

The local school, Nyaribo Primary School, sits in direct line of fire from the college and parents say bullets have been collected in the compound in the past.

“If things do not change, it will only be a matter of time before a child is shot,” Nderitu says.

GLASS HIT

“They do not know how risky playing outside is and we cannot keep them locked up. Besides, they have to go to school.”

Some Nyaribo residents have nowhere to hide from gunfire as some rounds find their way into the houses either through gaps in wooden walls or through the roof.

When the bullets are not going through electronics, there are tearing through cutlery in the kitchens.

Reports indicate a resident recently watched as a bullet went through his glass of water inside his house.

“We have run out of places to hide. These bullets are even coming into our houses,” Julia Wanjiru, a resident, says.

Besides the residents, the stray bullets are a threat to motorists and tourists who use the airstrip and the Kimathi-Chaka road.

QUARRY

The road under construction is expected to be opened soon for public transport, exposing more people to the bullet danger.

Even though the airstrip is not in commercial operation, dignitaries use it for their private flights.

Quarry workers in the area have also borne the brunt of stray ammunition, which forces them to abandon work during the recruits’ shooting sessions.

So grave is the situation that one of the quarries has been named Ka Rithaathi, a Kikuyu name meaning “quarry of bullets”.

Residents of the fast growing town now accuse the police of complacency in addressing the matter.

According to the locals, no action is ever taken despite the countless reports they have made to the college.

'NOT AWARE'

A few years ago, the range council of the college visited the settlement and promised the locals that things would change for the better.

Nothing has changed, residents say.

“These are people’s lives at stake and despite our constant complaints, the bullets are still flying into our homes. When we report, they just collect the bullets and sweep the matter under the carpet,” Nderitu laments.

Police, he claims, collect the spent rounds to clear evidence of the destruction caused by the bullets.

“Our concerns are falling on deaf ears. We have no problem with the college being here but they should keep their business and bullets to themselves,” Nderitu says.

Contacted over the issue, Police Spokesman Charles Owino denied knowledge of the situation.

"I have not received such a matter. I am not aware," he said.