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The Ethnic Tensions Along Kisumu-Kericho Border

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

On the night of October 3, 2023, ethnic violence erupted along the border of Kisumu and Kericho, resulting in the tragic loss of three lives, and arrow injuries to several others. One of those injured was a teacher. The clashes took place in Sondu, a small border town between Kisumu and Kericho counties, disrupting the lives of local residents and raising concerns about the ongoing conflict. The boundary between Kisumu and Kericho counties has been a source of contention for years. In 1992, the border was moved back to Kericho County, despite originally being situated behind the Sondu Police station, which placed it within Kisumu County. These boundary shifts have significantly contributed to the persistent tensions in the region over the years.

John Ochieng, a resident of Sondu, shared his anguish, saying, “I live in Sondu, and the Sondu market is our source of income. For now, we can earn nothing; we are dying of hunger.” The Sondu market is vital for the livelihoods of all residents, not just women, and the violence has severely disrupted their income-generating activities.

The police swiftly initiated an investigation into the recent clashes, revealing that gangs armed with bows and arrows had crossed over from the Kericho county. Cattle theft was also reported during the attacks.

Police Officer Jane Waweru stated, “We have launched an investigation into the recent clashes in Sondu, and our priority is to ensure the safety of the residents in the area.”

Residents of Sondu are calling on the government to intervene and restore peace.

Mary Akoth, a resident of Sondu, also expressed her frustration, “Why can’t our leaders help us? We are being killed like hens. Where is our MCA? Ojienda, where are you? Nyong’o, where are you? We are suffering. Women are suffering the most because we are the ones who feed our children.”

Local leaders, including the Member of County Assembly (MCA), Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda, and Governor Anyang Nyong’o, have been urged to take action to address the clashes and ensure the safety of the affected residents.

Senator Tom Ojienda responded to the calls for help, saying, “We are aware of the situation in Sondu, and we are working closely with local authorities to address the issue and restore peace to the area.”

Kisumu Governor, Anyang Nyong’o echoed the sentiments of the residents, emphasizing the need for immediate intervention.

He said, “We condemn this barbaric behavior, and the criminals must be apprehended, and justice must be served for the affected families.”

He continued, “I am grateful that we talked to the county commissioner this morning, and he is already at the scene. We need a permanent solution to the constant conflict at the border.”

This comes even as the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) expressed concerns over the renewed attack, saying it is affecting the security of their teachers.

Zablon Awange, Executive Secretary of KUPPET Kisumu, reported, “Last night, they viciously attacked Kevin Bondo, an unarmed teacher at Agai Secondary with machetes, pangas, and crude weapons and left him for dead. He is currently admitted and in critical condition at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH).”

Awange emphasized that, as teachers, they demand for security and peace to prevail in the area. He further noted that last month, a former deputy at one of the schools in the area was attacked with arrows, resulting in critical injuries. The victim is still recovering from the attack. Local authorities and law enforcement agencies are working together to ensure that the security situation is under control. Security has been heightened in the area, and authorities have warned that those involved in the clashes will be arrested and charged.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has also called for a peaceful resolution to the disputes. The CEO, Hassan S. Mohamed, stated, “We urge the leadership and the residents of the affected area to embrace peaceful co-existence and harmonious living. Communal disputes should be resolved through dialogue.”

Mohamed continued, “Individuals must not hide behind their respective communities for crimes they have committed individually. We appeal to members of the public to volunteer information on suspected criminals to the police as opposed to taking matters into their own hands, such as killing the suspected criminals.”

As the government, local leaders, and law enforcement agencies work towards restoring peace and stability in the region, the affected residents of Sondu continue to endure the consequences of these clashes. It remains a pressing issue for all parties involved to find a lasting solution to these conflicts and promote peaceful coexistence along the Kisumu-Kericho border.

In the words of John Ochieng, “We hope that this violence comes to an end soon. Our lives and livelihoods are at stake, and we need peace to thrive.” The residents of Sondu, like many others caught in the crossfire of ethnic clashes, hope for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict that has disrupted their lives. It is a call for unity, peace, and government intervention to put an end to the cycle of violence along the Kisumu-Kericho border.

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