It’s the rainy season in Tharaka-Nithi County, and in many homesteads it’s a beehive of activities as farmers plant food crops. But this is not the case in Kamaindi village where a chief was killed by a mob last week. Many people in Kamaindi have fled their homes and business at all trading centres remained closed since Wednesday.
A spot check by the Nation found that livestock were left unattended in their sheds and chicken and dogs wandering in some compounds.
Armed police officers and journalists carrying cameras could be seen moving from one part of the village to another.
At the nearby Mbaria market, which is on Mate road at the Embu-Tharaka-Nithi border only two administration police officers and a county revenue officer manning the cess-collection point were present.
At Murigi and Ntumbara primary schools, many pupils who fled with their parents were skipped school.
On Tuesday, Josphat Mayau Mukengu, the chief of Kamaindi Location, was killed by a mob at his brother’s home.
The chief had been sent by Igambang’ombe Deputy County Commissioner Fred Masinjila to solve a dispute between his brother, Mr Gikware Mukengu, and a villager whose goats had encroached on the former’s land.
On Wednesday, Chuka OCS Joseph Kinyua was hacked to death with an axe in Ugweri, Runyenjes Constituency, by a suspect in the chief's murder, who he was pursuing in Embu County.
The two incidents have left many people wondering what might have driven the villagers to act so brutally, and whether it might have been a planned execution.
Kamaindi, which means “a place of many bones”, in the local language, is a semi-arid area bordering Embu East Sub-County in Embu County, and is inhabited by speakers of Tharaka and Mbeere languages.
Most of the locals earn their livelihood from small-scale farming and rearing livestock.
Fearing brutal reprisals by the government most residents of Kamaindi fled their homes with their children on Wednesday night.
A resident, who spoke to Nation in Kathwana, said he will return to Kamaindi after the conflict is settled.
"I cannot risk going back there with my family," said the resident who sought anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Meanwhile, Tharaka Nithi Deputy Governor Nyamu Kagwima asked the county security team to ensure that innocent residents are not tortured during the operation.
He asked the county commissioner, Beverly Opwora, to assure residents that the operation would be done in a humane way and that they should feel safe in their homes.
"All activities have been paralysed in almost the entire location. Security bosses need to assure villagers of their security so that they can return to their homes and continue with their normal activities," said Mr Kagwima.