A renewed political supremacy war between Nandi Governor Stephen Sang and the former powerful minister Henry Kosgey landed the county chief in trouble yesterday after he was arrested over the invasion and destruction of property on a tea estate associated with the former minister at the weekend.
Mr Sang had on Saturday led local residents in invading Kibwari Tea Estate in Nandi Hills where they cut and uprooted tea bushes on a contested piece of land as police officers watched.
The governor was Monday summoned to Kapsabet Police Station by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations officers and arrested at midday when he presented himself to record a statement. He was taken to Kisumu Central Police Station where he was being held last evening.
On a day of high drama, the governor first addressed hundreds of supporters and county workers who had gathered outside his office before walking for about 600 metres, escorted by a crowd, to the Kapsabet Police Station where the DCI officers were waiting for him. The officers were said to have been sent from Nairobi.
He was taken in at midday, leaving behind the restless group that waited for his release. An hour later, the governor emerged in the company of the officers who initially tried to restrain him from addressing the crowd.
Upon the supporters’ demand to address them, the officers budged but he was only allowed two minutes. He told the crowd he was being taken to Nandi Hills Police Station. As he made the address, a vehicle was being moved close to where he was standing and soon he was bundled in.
Some of his supporters tried to stop the police from forcing him into the car but were met by a cloud of tear gas after the officers lobbed dozens of canisters and shot in the air to disperse them.
The vehicle sped off as more tear gas was lobbed at boda boda riders who tried to block the road.
The governor’s arrest was a culmination of weeks of a renewed battle that has been shaping up since the beginning of the year between him and Mr Kosgey’s family after the son of the former powerful minister, Allan Kosgey, began traversing the county in what insiders said was testing the ground in readiness for a gubernatorial stake in 2022.
The younger Kosgey has been attending functions in the county since the start of 2019 and although he is yet to declare his interest in the Nandi governor’s seat, those close to him have said he is planning to launch a bid. He has been accompanied by leaders from the region irking the county boss who has been lately facing trouble after another.
The governor has been facing rising opposition in the county and recently linked the waning support to the senior Mr Kosgey whom he accused of sponsoring groups to fight him. Before he was arrested on Monday, he promised supporters that he would not relent in reclaiming public land he said had been grabbed in the past by powerful figures.
“I have received summons today to appear before the DCI and as a law-abiding citizen I will present myself to record a statement. What I want to assure you is as I promised in my manifesto that I will reclaim public property in individuals’ hands I will do so,” he said.
He said he was taking President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cue in the repossession of community land in the hands of individuals adding that the owners of the tea estate had not presented any ownership documents.
On Monday, the younger Kosgey said there was an ongoing court case at the High Court in Eldoret over the piece of land and asked the governor to stop politicising land issues in the county. He said the governor should not direct his anger at the former minister’s family for fear of a political duel in the future.
“We are asking the governor to wait until the court case is heard and determined. Politics should be kept out of multinational tea companies in Nandi. The election in 2022 is still far.” he told the Nation.
On Monday evening, the governor obtained orders against his arrest at the High Court in Eldoret.
Additional reporting by Titus Ominde and Rushdie Oudia