Probe launched on Migori tear gas attacks in campaign rallies

Ochillo Ayacko

An unidentified man  hurled two teargas canisters at a political rally that was being addressed by Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko on December 18, 2021 in Suna West Ward.

Photo credit: Ian Byron | Nation Media Group

Police in Migori have launched investigations following recent attacks targeting campaign rallies.

The attacks have sparked fear among residents in a region that has been rocked by deadly campaign violence in the past.

The latest incident involved Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko who was attacked while addressing a rally at a private home in Ragana Ward in Suna West Sub-county on Saturday.

Unknown assailants hurled a tear gas canister at the crowd, disrupting the meeting as Mr Ayacko was addressing the gathering. Last month, Migori County Secretary Christopher Rusana was similarly attacked while launching his bid to succeed Governor Okoth Obado.

Human shield

During Saturday’s incident, the attackers struck shortly after Senator Ayacko had taken to the podium to address the gathering.

Two tear gas canisters were hurled at the crowd, forcing those in attendance to scamper to safety. There were no police officers at the meeting but Mr Ayacko’s bodyguards swiftly formed a human shield around the senator for over ten minutes before calm was restored.

The attackers escaped on a motorcycle during the commotion, as those present watched in shock.

Teargas, gunshots mar Senator Ochillo Ayacko’s rally in Migori

“This is an extreme provocation that I cannot entertain going forward. It is an indication that my opponents have started feeling jittery and are acting out of cowardice to try and derail our campaigns,” said Dr Ayacko.

He blamed the attack on his competitors, who he accused of resorting to thuggery and hooliganism to scuttle his gubernatorial bid.

“They are instigating violence to create the impression that we are warmongers. It is good they are sending early signals and we have noted this. I urge all my supporters to exercise restraint going forward as no amount of intimidation will stop our quest to succeed Governor Okoth Obado,” said Senator Ayacko.

County Police Commander Mark Wanjala said detectives were following crucial leads to establish how civilians managed to get the tear gas canisters.

“We have taken the canister recovered from the scene for analysis. We have a suspect who we are pursuing to help with further investigations,” said Mr Wanjala.

“Politicians should also inform us in good time on their planned activities so that we can deploy adequate security at their venues,” the police chief said.

Residents have raised concerns that the attacks could lead to more chaos as the elections approach.

“Our politicians must stop the sideshows and compete based on ideology. The issue of tear gassing aspirants should be thoroughly investigated because some may be using it to seek unnecessary sympathy,” said Mr Samuel Migore, a resident of Suna West.

Migori County Civil Society Organisation Forum chairman Dr Tobias Ogolla urged politicians to exercise restraint and stop hiring youths to stoke violence.

Fuelling tensions

“They should stop fuelling tensions and focus on their campaigns. That way, voters will have an opportunity to pick the best candidates,” said Mr Ogolla.

Observers have linked the attacks to vile schemes by some politicians, who are using hired goons to disrupt meetings organised by their competitors.

The youths usually present themselves as part of the security detail of the politicians but are usually planted by the rival camps to stoke violence at the meetings in a bid to discredit the same politicians they work for.

On November 26, Mr Rusana was attacked while launching his governorship bid a kilometre away from where Mr Ayacko had convened his rally on Saturday.

Elders and opinion leaders drawn from Suna East and Suna West constituencies who had gathered to endorse Mr Rusana’s bid fled the scene during the incident but police officers intervened and restored calm.

“The targeted attack has proved that people who keep saying I have no support base have panicked.”

“By lobbing tear gas canisters at my function, it shows that we are strong and nothing will stop our march to form the next government,” said Mr Rusana while condemning the attack.