Tears as Kwanza villagers come to terms with police killings

Wednesday December 19 2018

Kolongolo trading centre in Kwanza, Trans Nzoia

Mourners at the home of Patrick Soita on December 17, 2018. He was shot dead by police at Kolongolo trading centre in Kwanza, Trans Nzoia County on Sunday. The village lost five people in the deadly police shooting. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

WYCLIFF KIPSANG
By WYCLIFF KIPSANG
More by this Author
GERALD BWISA
By GERALD BWISA
More by this Author

Grief and shock have engulfed a village in Kwanza, Trans Nzoia County, which lost five people in a deadly police shooting at Kolongolo market on Sunday.

Residents of Sibanga village were Tuesday yet to come to terms with the brutal killings.

Mr Joseph Walela had a lot of hopes in his 26-year-old son, Mr Morris Walela, who was felled by a police bullet.

When the Nation team met Mr Walela at his home, neighbours were trying to console him.

Morris was anticipating to join the Kenya Defence Forces in 2019.

HUMBLE

“I can’t believe we’ve lost him. He was a humble and disciplined man who made friends with anybody,” Mr Walela said of his last born son. On the fateful day, Morris had accompanied his elder brother to Kolongolo market to buy clothes for the latter’s son, who had just been circumcised.

“We were in the market when we noticed police officers roughing up a man. My brother (Morris) tried to ask the officers why they were harassing the man, who was well known there. One officer threatened to shoot him and, within minutes, my brother lay dead,” said the deceased’s elder brother, Mr Anthony Walela.

Two people died on the spot during the confrontation.

“The government should get to the bottom of this heinous act and deal with rogue police officers who are tarnishing the name of the force by turning their guns on innocent civilians. Police are there to protect us; not to kill us,” added Mr Walela.

The officers from Kolongolo patrol base had been deployed to the market to arrest Mr Dan Juma, a mechanic, who had allegedly assaulted his wife. After the shooting, residents confronted the officers as they attempted to load the bodies in a police vehicle, resulting in more shootings.

BURIAL PLANS

Just a stone's throw from Mr Walela’s homestead, burial arrangements were going on for Mr Joseph Wandera, a charcoal dealer who was shot dead in the scuffle. He left behind eight children.

“Why kill innocent people? We are surprised when the State claims that the officers had been attacked by criminals yet they are the ones who provoked the public,” said Mr Stephen Makokha, the deceased’s brother. “It is sad that the government is killing our people but not the enemy. Where will we run to?” Asked Mr Makokha.

GUNSHOT WOUNDS

A number of people in the village sustained gunshot wounds, and some still have bullets lodged in their bodies. “I’m lucky to be alive after I took cover as bullets flew all over. I only thank God for being alive,” said Mr Samson Cheki, who was shot in the right hand.

A few metres away from Mr Wandera’s homestead is Mr Patrick Soita’s home. Mr Soita, 62, was among those who succumbed to their injuries in hospital on Monday morning.

He had rushed to the market to check what was happening after he heard gunshots.

“We became worried after he failed to come back home. We were later informed that he was among those who had been shot and was in hospital. We’ve lost him. I don’t know how I will take care of our eight children,” said Mrs Florence Soita, his wife.

Although police have put the number of those who died at five, it is feared it could be higher after some of those injured in the shooting succumbed to injuries in hospital.

On Monday morning, the body of a man suspected to have been hit by a stray bullet was found in a nearby thicket.

When the Nation visited Kolongolo, spent bullet cartridges were littered all over the market.

Residents accused the officers of provoking them to get a chance “to kill them in cold blood”. They also accused local police reservists of colluding with the officers to harass them, demanding that they be vetted afresh.