Tension in Keroka as Kisii and Nyamira feud over boundary

Kisii-Sotik road

Police officers deployed to quell chaos that rendered the busy Kisii-Sotik road impassable for several hours on Sunday.

Photo credit: Pool

Tension is high in Keroka town following a fresh border dispute between Kisii and Nyamira counties.

Dozens of police officers were on Sunday deployed to the area after chaos erupted, making the busy Kisii-Sotik road impassable for several hours.

Trouble began after a contingent of armed police backed by personnel from the Nyamira County Enforcement Department stormed the market on Sunday morning and demolished structures belonging to traders.

The action was reportedly triggered by the recent distribution of umbrellas to traders on the 'Kisii side' by their Governor Simba Arati, ostensibly to protect them from the extreme weather conditions currently being experienced in the region.

 The umbrellas were distributed to traders on Friday, excluding those operating on the 'Nyamira side'.

 The branded umbrellas, which are orange in colour, are said to be promoting the agenda of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

They also have photos, names and the designation of Governor Arati printed on them. Arati is the deputy national chairman of the ODM, while his Nyamira counterpart, Amos Nyaribo, is the leader of the United Progressive Alliance party.

Police lobbed teargas canisters at traders from the 'Kisii side' in the Sunday morning melee to disperse them and prevent retaliatory attacks.

Keroka town

Keroka town on Friday after Kisii  Governor Simba Arati distributed umbrellas to traders. The umbrellas have been issued to traders across the county. 

Photo credit: Pool

Keroka is shared by both Kisii and Nyamira, but the two counties have contested its boundaries since the start of devolution.

This is due to the massive revenue collected from the town with Nyamira accusing Kisii of trespass.

Tension has been brewing in the town, following a recent ruling by the Land and Environment Court in Nyamira. The two counties have different interpretations of the court ruling.

Land and Environment Court Judge Kamau Mugo, while reading out the ruling said that the National Lands Commission and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had already, as per a previous court order, erected beacons that clearly show the boundary between the two counties in the contested area.

"You don't need rocket science to know where the boundary between Nyamira County and Kisii County is," Judge Mugo opined.

 Nyamira maintains that most of Keroka town belongs to them and that Governor Arati had no mandate to give traders umbrellas.

 Governor Nyaribo recently said, "I agree with the judgement and think it is going to enhance peace in Keroka and it is a precedence which would be followed in case of any future engagement of a matter such as this."

 Kisii on the other side holds that the judge was not very clear in his directions and asked the parties to observe an earlier agreement on the disputed border.

 Kisii County Government through its legal team said it was not satisfied with the court’s decision and intended to appeal.

In particular, the advocates were unhappy with the High Court’s claim to having jurisdiction over the determination of the boundary.

 The advocates explained that as per the Urban Areas and Cities Act, it is the Cabinet Secretary that is responsible for the selection of an ad hoc committee consisting of representatives of both counties, the national government and the IEBC.

 "That is the procedure laid out in law and when that is done is when we say that the test of legality has been satisfied," said advocate Ochieng Oginga.

 He went on: "On one hand the court has rightfully held that the joint administration of Keroka town ought to be resolved through mediation by the Intergovernmental Relations Committee but on the other hand the court is saying that it had jurisdiction to determine the boundary concerning the town".

 “The parties cannot handpick persons outside the legal provisions and purport to demarcate boundaries," the counsel emphasised.


Police officers deployed to quell chaos that rendered the busy Kisii-Sotik road impassable for several hours on Sunday.

Photo credit: Pool

On Saturday, security teams from both counties held a meeting to deliberate on the boundary tussle.

This follows the deployment of enforcement officers from Kisii in the disputed stretch.

The security heads committed to enforcing law and order and advised the two parties to restrict themselves to the court directives. The security team also asked those who felt aggrieved to follow the legal procedure to address their grievances.

A trader from the town decried a poor working environment, saying it has been chaos throughout, a situation perpetrated by both counties.

Judge Mugo in his ruling ordered revenue collectors from either Kisii or Nyamira counties to stick to their territories which are "well known" as they go about their duties in Keroka town. 

Further, the judge decried possible double taxation of traders by the two counties, saying that it would be a gross violation of their rights.


Keroka town on Friday after Kisii  Governor Simba Arati distributed umbrellas to traders. 

Photo credit: Pool

"A declaration is hereby issued that forcing the residents of Keroka town to pay rates, rents or any other dues to both Kisii and Nyamira counties is a gross violation of the affected traders' property rights," said Judge Mugo.

He went on: "No two counties can collect revenue from a particular person. Whoever is on the ground doing that, can you run away before the law catches up with you!"

The judge asked the revenue collectors who might have collected revenue from a foreign territory to consider refunding the money. 

The judge issued another mandatory order compelling the two counties to each table before their respective county assemblies a report on "how they have utilised the money held in a joint account that they opened for revenue collection in Keroka since 2013".

The accountability part before the two assemblies, the judge ordered, must be completed within 90 days. 

Despite the declaration, the judge noted that the applicant had failed to prove to the court that double taxation of traders by the two counties was going on in Keroka.

"I must say that the parties in court failed to prove that they have been forced to pay to both counties. Even though the petitioner has not succeeded in showing that as a person he was vexed twice by the revenue collectors, what he did by coming to court is an action that has helped the people of Keroka, Nyamira and Kisii counties," he explained. 

The court further directed that anyone who might be aggrieved with the service delivery agreement entered between the two counties in respect to Keroka town on May 21, 2014, under Section 118 of the County Governments Act should first go to mediation, arbitration or resolution under the Inter-Governments Relations Act No. 20 of 2012.

The petition was presented to court on April 14, 2023, by Rigoma Ward MCA Nyambega Gisesa, who sought to know whether the commercial town is in Kisii or Nyamira County.