There were dramatic scenes at Malinya Stadium in Ikolomani Constituency, Kakamega County on Saturday evening after bullfighting enthusiasts turned on police officers, injuring at least nine of them and damaging three police vehicles.
The nine officers, who sustained various injuries, were part of a contingent of 60 drawn from three neighbouring sub-counties who had arrived at the stadium at around 6.30pm upon learning that residents had gathered to hold a bullfighting event. Currently, such social gatherings have been banned in order to tame the spread of Covid-19.
According to a police report, about 500 people had crowded at the stadium for the cultural event. Armed with stones and clubs, they descended on the officers, injuring several of them.
Several locals from various parts of the county who had attended the event were also injured in the running battles that saw civilians overwhelm the police.
Kakamega County Police Commander Hassan Barua confirmed that at least nine police officers suffered various injuries in the chaos.
The officers were drawn from Mumias West, Kakamega North and Kakamega South and had been called in to prevent the bullfighting from taking place.
Bullfighting is a cultural spectacle that is popularly practiced among the Idakho and Isukha tribes in Kakamega County.
According to Mr Barua, the rowdy mob was incited by the bull owners and organisers of the event.
He said efforts by the officers to charge at the surging crowd became futile, prompting them to use tear gas, blanks and balls to fire at the charged multitude.
The crowd became more rowdy, overwhelmed the police officers and chased them back to the police station at Malinya.
“The officers charged to disperse the surging rowdy crowd using 70 teargas canister, 100 rounds of 7.62mm blanks and 70 rounds of 7.62mm ball which were fired after the crowd became more rowdy and followed the officers towards the station as they were withdrawing back to the station,” states the police report.
"As a result, nine officers sustained various injuries and three police vehicles were damaged," said Mr Barua.
Police named Mr Geoffrey Matioli and Mr Petro Njomu as the bull owners and organisers of the event who incited the public to attack the officers.
Mr Barua confirmed that all the injured officers were treated at Shibwe Level Four Hospital and discharged.
"So far, there are no arrests made but we are pursuing the owners of the bulls because they are known and we shall arrest them," vowed Mr Barua.
The county police chief regretted that the fans of the bullfighting event are aware of the Ministry of Health Covid-19 protocols but were defying them deliberately.
"I assure them that their gathering is illegal and at no point shall we allow it to take place," he said.
Kakamega County Bullfighting Association coordinator Bonventure Munanga condemned the police for “interfering” with their event which normally takes less than an hour.
According to Mr Munanga, police erected road blocks on all routes leading to Malinya Stadium and blocked the bulls expected to contest from reaching the playgrounds, a move that angered people who had travelled from all regions to witness the fight, prompting them to confront the officers.
He further argued that the cultural event should be allowed to take place since market centres, learning institutions and places of worship have also been reopened opened.
But Mr Barua noted that bullfighting is conducted with no regard to the Covid-19 restrictions and, if allowed, it would become a super spreader of the virus.
"The participants don't put on face masks, they don't wash their hands nor observe social distancing. In fact, they crowd so closely endangering their lives. There's no way we can allow it to take place," he insisted.
The organisers of the bullfighting sport say they are ready to sensitise their fans about the Covid-19 control regulations during the matches.