Kisii residents pay with life and limb in Simba Arati, Silvanus Osoro row

Simba Arati and Silvanus Osoro

People have been maimed and others killed in the political battle for supremacy between Governor Simba Arati and South Murigango MP Silvanus Osoro.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

It is often said that when two bulls fight it is the grass that suffers. In Kisii County, this English translation of a Kiswahili proverb rings true for the bitter rivalry between two political heavyweights that has morphed into ugly and deadly violence.

People have been maimed and others killed in the political battle for supremacy between Governor Simba Arati and South Murigango MP Silvanus Osoro.

Mr Osoro has denied claims that he is the principal instigator of the violence. The lawmaker, who is serving his second term, has been accused of seeking to violently wrest political control of the region from Governor Arati since August last year, when the Kenya Kwanza government came into power.

Security officers have been accused of being partisan in the tussle amid claims that Mr Osoro uses his closeness with the Kenya Kwanza administration to intimidate them with those that dare refuse to bend to his will being transferred.

The latest victim is Nyamarambe Sub-county Police Commander Samson Rukunga, who was handed a sudden transfer to Nairobi following an incident last week in which two rival groups clashed at a funeral in South Mugirango, leaving scores injured. The officer handed over his former office in South Mugirango constituency on Sunday following a notice of less than 24 hours.

“It is true I have been transferred. I am headed to Nairobi, as we speak,” Mr Rukunga told Nation on phone. Sources claimed that the senior officer was forced to go on transfer after he resisted pressure to allow the violence.

Mr Rukunga said he suffered head injuries after he was pelted with stones by goons who had been ferried to disrupt the funeral. Mr Osoro has denied being behind any violence, saying, those accusing him are guns for hire.

“The owners of violence in Kisii are known. From Kibra to a burial where they tried to attack the then-Deputy President, to attacks on other candidates during campaigns,” Mr Osoro told Nation.

Mr Arati’s and Mr Osoro’s rivalry began more than a year preceding the 2022 General Election. Mr Osoro was leading the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) team in Kisii while Mr Arati led the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) brigade.

In the end, Mr Arati’s team almost completely vanquished UDA in the county. Mr Osoro retreated to defend his South Mugirango seat.

At one time, the two met during the burial of then Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi’s father in Bomachoge and a confrontation ensued in which Mr Arati kicked Mr Osoro, sending him sprawling to the ground.

Last week, the tussle took an ugly turn after a violent clash between their supporters left scores of mourners and police officers with serious injuries.

Mr Osoro arrived at the burial of Mzee Dishon Ayiema, the father of Boikanga MCA Paul Okombo, at Riasobera Primary School grounds riding on a motorcycle and sat on the grass with a group of youths.

No sooner had Governor Arati rose to speak than the youthful MP shot up with armed youths in tow, demanding to address the mourners.

A confrontation ensued with Mr Osoro’s youths drawing their bows and arrows aiming their weapons at the governor.

All hell broke loose and mourners scattered as they were pelted with stones. Mr Osoro was upset after mourners criticised the government for pushing the Finance Bill, 2023, which seeks to introduce new taxes. A few days later, Mr Osoro took to Facebook to apologise to the bereaved family for disrupting the funeral.

“ I wish I could stop the angry crowd from stopping the governor from addressing mourners. It was overwhelming, such unfortunate events should not be encouraged in such times. Apologies,” said Mr Osoro.

After Mr Arati was elected governor, protests broke out calling on him to vacate his seat. Goons started attacking motorcycle riders wearing reflectors donated by Mr Arati. The ensuing violence paralysed business in Kisii town and a young man was brutally murdered.

In yet another incident, armed goons attacked doctors at Nduru Level Four Hospital in South Mugirango.

This led to the medics downing their tools and the subsequent closure of the facility for over a month. Mr Osoro organised demonstrations, pushing for the reopening of the hospital.