What you need to know:
- Senior Private Alphonse Rotich (No. 156382) of 21 KA, Nanyuki, currently based in Damasa, was arrested along with Private Peter Kibet (No. 154671) of 17 KA, based in Modika Garrissa, following the incident.
- Rotich, who was on weekend leave, arrived at the trading centre around 10pm and joined his colleague (Kibet) who was on leave and had been drinking at the bar.
- After having a few drinks, Rotich ordered the waiters and the night guard to lock the bar entrance at around midnight before he ordered several rounds of drinks for the revellers.
A rusty iron gate and loud music filtering into nearby shops greet you at the entrance to the Daima Inn bar, where two Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers were arrested for allegedly detonating hand grenades on Friday.
Tucked away in a corner on the Siongiroi-Chebole road in Bomet County, two pins are the only evidence of the grenades that went off on November 10, 2023.
A bar attendant, responding to a loud knock from our team, arrives at the entrance and stares at us before letting us in.
"We can't open the door to people we don't know following the security scare caused by KDF soldiers," the bartender tells us, as he looks at the laptops and cameras in our bags.
The bar, whose walls are made of timber, has simple tables and chairs.
Outside, an iron-walled pit latrine stands. The bar has two detached rooms that serve as private drinking areas for customers who are uncomfortable with loud music.
While a police report states that two hand grenades were detonated, independent investigations show that three were actually used by the suspects during the terrifying incident.
"There was a security scare at Chebole trading centre where hand grenades were detonated by soldiers who were off duty for reasons yet to be established. The matter has been forwarded to the military police for action," says Dr Ahmed Omar, the Bomet County Commissioner.
Dr Omar said that this was an isolated case and there was no cause for alarm. Security has been beefed up at the trading centre.
The incident was reported to the police by Mr Noah Kimutai, the chairman of the local business community.
"There was a loud bang when I went to the trading centre at 5am to open my business for the day. The early risers ran away from the direction of the explosion. We later informed the police," said Mr Kimutai.
"Police stormed the bar and arrested the revellers, two of whom were later found to be soldiers," he says.
Senior Private Alphonse Rotich (No. 156382) of 21 KA, Nanyuki, currently based in Damasa, was arrested along with Private Peter Kibet (No. 154671) of 17 KA, based in Modika Garrissa, following the incident.
Rotich, who was on weekend leave, arrived at the trading centre around 10pm and joined his colleague (Kibet) who was on leave and had been drinking at the bar.
"He (Rotich) walked into the club, handed a black handbag to the lady at the counter and joined the revellers in a drinking spree," said a bar attendant.
After having a few drinks, Rotich ordered the waiters and the night guard to lock the bar entrance at around midnight before he ordered several rounds of drinks for the revellers.
The soldier is said to have paid Sh7,050 bill after he was arrested.
Rotich is said to have stepped out three times before returning to the bar to order more drinks. It was during these intervals that the officer is believed to have detonated the grenades.
It is alleged that the officer detonated the first grenade by the road at around 1:00am. A second explosion was heard at around 3:00am while the third was detonated outside the bar at around 5:10am.
"Six officers from Mutarakwa police station responded to the distress call from the business community and arrested the soldiers," said an administrator.
Apart from the two soldiers and the bartender, there were five other people in the bar. The night guard was on the veranda of the bar.
"The soldier carrying the explosives initially resisted arrest, but he was overpowered by the policemen," said an eyewitness.
After being interogated by officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the National Security Intelligence Services from Sotik and Bomet County headquarters, the soldier led the officers back to the bar where a bag containing four explosives and personal items was recovered.
"Inside the bag, four NF24 48mm sound grenades were recovered among other personal effects," said a police report on the incident.
The KDF's military police unit, which handles such incidents involving soldiers have taken over the matter.
"The soldiers were taken to KDF headquarters in Nairobi where they are expected to face a court-martial," says a senior DCI officer.
Questions have been raised on how the soldier, who was said to be training at Gilgil, was able to leave the camp, and travel in a public service vehicle through three counties to Bomet with the explosives undetected.
"It appears that the soldier had picked the grenade from the training camp before travelling to his rural home after being issued with a pass (permission to leave for the weekend)," says Mr David Soi, a former military officer.
The incident is the third in the trading centre involving soldiers. In 2021 two soldiers beat up and injured civilians. The soldiers were arrested and handed over to military police.
The soldiers are said to have reached an out-of-court settlement with the victims. In another incident, a soldier also beat up and seriously injured locals. The soldier recently died by suicide.
"There is need to instil discipline among soldiers and stop them from engaging in activities that tarnish the name of the military. It is unfortunate that most of the suspects are young officers," says Mary Bett, a local resident.
For the past three nights, residents have been avoiding Chebole centre.