Bodies of three men were on Sunday morning found at a military farm in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu County, following a suspected fatal beating by guards on Saturday night.
A fourth person succumbed to his injuries while receiving medical attention at an Eldoret hospital later on Sunday morning, while four others are still hospitalised with injuries.
The farm in question belongs to the Kenya Defence Forces Recruits Training School (RTS) in Kamagut. A survivor was spotted by locals at the maize farm around midday and was rushed to hospital.
According to Turbo Deputy County Commissioner Charles Ijiha, the men, aged between 18 and 25, had gone to collect maize remains after a harvest when they were attacked by farm guards on Saturday evening. The guards are said to be locals.
“This morning I received a call from the area chief that some bodies had been discovered. The locals also claimed that victims had gone to collect maize remains and we were attacked by farm guards,” Mr Ijiha said.
Locals suspect that the victims were murdered elsewhere and dumped in different parts of the military land. Locals say the victims were unemployed and were forced to scavenge for crop remains on the farm during hard economic times.
On Sunday, a team from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation was at the scene to gather evidence of what happened. This came as a multi-agency team of KDF soldiers, police and 20 community members launched a search of the farm for any other survivors or victims.
“We have talked to KDF leadership and we now have a team to search the farm if there are any survivors or victims,” said Mr Ijiha, the Turbo Deputy County Commissioner.
"The three bodies of the young men were recovered on Sunday morning, while four people were rushed to various health facilities in Eldoret town. Another succumbed to his injuries at a health facility in Eldoret," the administrator said.
He said investigations have been launched to establish what happened.
Some locals claimed that animosity between the farm guards and some locals had been building up in the area for the past month as some of the youths had tried to invade the farm.
Mr Benjamin Lagat, the father of one of the victims, was overwhelmed with grief and said he was saddened by the incident.
"I checked his body and he had no visible injuries except that one of his eyes appeared to be swollen. We were shocked by this incident because my son was hardworking and innocent," he said.
Mr Paul Tirop explained that they found bodies in different parts of the farm on Sunday morning.
“When I arrived at the scene, I discovered three bodies. We suspect they were murdered elsewhere and dumped on the military land,” he stated.
Mr Tirop appealed to President William Ruto to intervene and ensure that the families get justice.
"The locals, even children, usually go to the farm to collect the remains of the maize harvested by the combine harvester. This is the first time we are losing lives as a result of them going to the farm to collect maize remains," said the local.
Local leaders led by Kesses MP Julius Rutto and MCAs Gilbert Lagat of Kiplombe and Samuel Sawe (Kamagut) condemned the incident and called for a thorough investigation and for those involved to be brought to justice.
Mr Rutto said the law provides that civilians should be tried in civilian courts.
"Even if it was a case of trespass, what was wrong with arresting them and taking them to the police for prosecution? There are laws that prescribe how such cases should be handled.
"We want to tell the government that we did not expect this to happen to the people who elected this government. We want to ask the military to tell us what happened," the lawmaker said.
Mr Rutto said they would present a petition to the National Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence to express their dissatisfaction.
Mr Kipchumba demanded justice for the victims and their families, noting that they were shocked by the incident.
"This time we want to know who was involved. We need to know the names of those who were involved in this act," the ward representative said.
Another local, Ms Sally Marer, said the current economic situation had driven the youths to enter the military farm and called on the government to support them.
"Those who died because they went out to fend for themselves. They don't have jobs and we want to tell the government to provide jobs for these unemployed youth," Ms Marer said.
Some locals also claimed that their livestock had been confiscated by the military while grazing on their land.
"If your cattle graze on their land, the owners are fined Sh2,000 for each cow. What we want is more jobs for our people, not hostility between locals and the military," said Mr Sawe, MCA Kamagut.
In 2021, two people were killed in Chebarus after KDF soldiers clashed with locals over the ownership of 9,000 acres of land.