Two dead, many injured in Busia as 'jobless' gang unleashes terror in revenge attacks

Busia town

A road in Busia town’s Marachi estate is blocked with stones after rowdy youth went on the rampage in the town on February 23, 2023.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

A move by Kenya Power officials to cut off electricity to an estate in Busia Town on Tuesday, angering a gang in the area, has snowballed into a series of events that have left two people dead.

The two victims, who the police refused to name, are alleged to have been shot dead by anti-riot police who also left scores of youth injured.

The series of events began on Tuesday when an officer from Kenya Power Company (KPC) disconnected electricity in Marachi estate amid claims of illegal connections. Friday marked four days of running battles between the police and members of the "Jobless Group" of Marachi Estate as businesses remained closed and roads barricaded with rocks and electricity poles.

The chaos has crippled business activities at the border town.

Rowdy youth are said to have attacked a KPC officer and injured him seriously. The group then attacked police who had come to quell the situation and repulsed back to the police station.

This prompted Busia Police Commander Joe Lekuta to reinforce his team that stormed the estate, allegedly harassing and assaulting anybody in sight.

They have been flushing out residents from their houses in search of the rowdy youth accused of causing insecurity in the area. 

More than ten people were arraigned on Friday and charged with malicious property damage, stealing, assaulting police officers, taking part in riot and destroying police property. 

The group team leader, Francis Amolo alias Aketch, was released on Sh800,000 bond with a surety of a similar amount while the other accused persons were released on bonds ranging between Sh200,000 and Sh500,000.

"Skirmishes broke out and security officers intervened and cooled down the situation but on Tuesday, while the county government was on a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a daycare centre at St Joseph's Primary School, rowdy youth from Marachi stormed and chased away the contractor escalating the chaos that has entered into the fourth day today," said Busia County Commissioner Mwachaunga Chaunga.

He said police were making moves to arrest leaders of the g and arraign them. 

"But going forward, we want to engage the youth so that we can understand their concerns. We want people who have concerns with the county or national government to visit our offices for redress, this shall promote peace in this town. If the youth have other grievances with the county government, we shall address their concerns for the sake of peace," he added.

However, locals are accusing the law enforcement officers of using excessive force, destroying property and looting from business premises. 

They accused the police of being used by politicians to intimidate the members of the Jobless Group and the entire Marachi Estate because of unfulfilled pre-election promises. 

"They are using the opportunity to destroy property, injure us and loot from us. They stormed into my salon took away a blow dryer and destroyed other equipment. I don't know how I will pick up again in my business," lamented Ms Everline Akinyi.

Ms Rajab Wanjiru runs a butchery in the estate and claims that police officers raided her business premises on Wednesday and took Sh3600 from her.

"They also took away 15kg of meat after breaking into my fridge. This is a big loss," she said. 

Bodaboda operators in the area are also crying foul claiming they are not able to get their daily earnings due to the ongoing skirmishes.

"Police are chasing every youth they meet. We are asking them to come for those they feel are the culprits and leave other people to run their businesses. We want normal life to resume because we depend on daily earnings to fend for our families," said David Ochieng, a bodaboda operator. 

Jobless Youth group’s chairman William Onyango alias Mbona, accused some powerful individuals at the county government of grabbing kiosks meant for traders whose stalls were recently demolished by the devolved unit.

The youth feel that Governor Paul Otuoma’s administration was allocating business spaces to tycoons and his business friends and leaving the common traders who formerly occupied the spaces out.

"The whole game is politics. Mr Otuoma is not honouring his pre-election agreements and now using the police to intimidate us. He has turned against the people who assisted him to win the seat," said Mr Onyango. 

Speaking when he hosted President William Ruto in Busia in August, last year, Governor Otuoma said members of the Jobless Group were demanding all benefits at the expense of other residents in the county.

“Youth are so many in Busia and there is no way we can heap all benefits to one group. These people are bad - they are breaking into business premises demanding money and even attacking and killing innocent people. This cannot be tolerated,” he said