Seven killed in Kisii every month in land-related rows

Kisii County Police Commander Francis Kooli

Kisii County Police Commander Francis Kooli who says the trend of killings resulting from land disputes is alarming and warned that the law will eventually catch up with the perpetrators.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Authorities in Kisii County have sounded the alarm at the number of people killed every month in land-related disputes.

Statistics released by the authorities show that at least seven people are killed every month in the region, bringing to 126 the number of people who have lost their lives in the past 17 months.

Police say the numbers represent cases reported between January 1, 2021 and May 2022. The incidents have left security officers in the county scratching their heads, with calls to residents to resolve their land disputes peacefully.

Since the Constitution made capital offenses bailable, offenders seem to have become more emboldened. Killing someone on the flimsiest grounds has become normal because people no longer fear being incarcerated while the hearing of their murder cases progresses.

Killings likely higher

Police say the killings are likely to be higher because the statistics they have are reported cases only.

Most of these land-related murders involve close family members. Shrinking land sizes caused by population pressure is partly to blame for the land conflicts.

Lack of dialogue and unresolved land disputes that take years in court have compounded the situation.

“Land is a very emotive issue in Kisii. People tend to take the law into their own hands instead of waiting for justice to take its course,” said Kisii County Police Commander Francis Kooli.

Kisii is one of nine counties that host more than 30 per cent of Kenya’s population, making them the most congested places in the country.

The population densities are based on the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics projections, which put the overall countrywide population at 47 million.


Kisii is among the top four most congested counties, with the rest being Nairobi, Mombasa and Vihiga. They have more than 1,000 people per square kilometre.

Close to 7,000 people share a square kilometre in Nairobi, followed by Mombasa (5,600).

Vihiga, with an estimated population of 637,877, hosts 1,202 people per square kilometre.

Kisii comes fourth, with its 1,375,973 residents and 1,044 people per square kilometre, according to official data released recently.

“Nyamache sub-county leads with 18 deaths, followed by Kenyenya with 17, Kitutu Central and Masaba South with 15 each and Kisii South with 13 cases,” said Mr Kooli.

Sameta has recorded 11 cases, Kisii Central 10, Gucha South 10, Etago 7, Gucha and Marani 5 each.

Trend alarming

Mr Kooli noted that the trend is alarming and warned that the law will eventually catch up with the perpetrators.

At least 44 cases are under investigation, 10 pending arrests of known accused persons and 72 pending in court.

Among the latest incidents is that of a man whose body was found floating in the River Gucha in Kiogoro division.

The man, Geoffrey Maiko, was a member of the community policing committee. His body was found with his hands tied up on his back.

Mr Thaddeus Magero, a brother of Mr Maiko, said they found his body five days earlier and did not know who killed him.

Mr Thomas Okari, a Bombaba Borabu ward rep hopeful under ODM, was killed last month in cold blood. The ward is in Bomachoge Borabu constituency.

He had travelled home from Nairobi to prepare for the party primaries.

But what happened next left many people in Kisii County in general and Bomachoge Borabu in particular dumbfounded.

Stabbed, bled to death

Unknown assailants entered his house at night and stabbed him with sharp objects. He bled to death.

The other cases involved four elderly women lynched by people known to them on allegations of being involved in witchcraft.

In October last year, the women – Rael Sigara Onkware, Agnes Moraa Ototo, Jemimah Nyang’ate Mironga and Sindege Mayaka – were killed in Mbanda sub-location, Marani sub-county in Kisii County over alleged witchcraft.

Nine suspects – Amos Nyakundi, Chrispine Ogeto, Brian Mecha, Ronald Ombati, Jusine Morara, Hesborn Ong’ondi, Nelson Chogoro, Justine Akiya and Peter Angwenyi – have since been charged with murder. They denied killing the women.

Peaceful protests

Human rights activists and members of civil society organisations from Kilifi and Kisii counties staged peaceful protests in Kisii town two weeks ago to push for action against perpetrators of such murders.

Ms Esnas Nyaramba explained that long-term enmity arises when family members are involved.

“The killings have led to conflicts between the perpetrators and the families of the victims, creating fear and anxiety. Lack of dialogue is to blame,” said Ms Nyaramba.

Lenient penalties

She said lenient penalties in some cases had helped to encourage perpetrators.

“We want tough penalties which will act as a deterrent to people with intentions to commit the crime,” she said.

Poor investigations, interference in cases by interested parties, killings, weakening evidence and threatening victims have also helped obstruct justice and encouraged murderers.

Ms Nyaramba noted that in some cases, chiefs and clan elders help settle murder, rape and defilement cases out of court, denying victims justice.