A Human Rights organization based in the North Rift region has formally requested the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) to conduct a thorough investigation into reported instances of police brutality inflicted upon numerous families currently facing eviction from a contested piece of land where they have resided for over two decades.
The contentious 700-acre farm, situated along the Uasin Gishu and TransNzoia county borders, has been a focal point of dispute involving Jeremiah Cheruiyot, a retired District Officer from the Kanu regime, and Michael Bett Siror, a retired teacher. The estimated market value of the Tunen farm is approximately sh 1.6 billion.
In a statement, Kimutai Kirui, An Eldoret Based Human Rights activist, urged IPOA to deploy a team of investigators to assess the situation comprehensively. Kirui emphasized the need to identify and prosecute the police officers responsible for the eviction and property destruction at Tunen farm.
Kirui particularly condemned the Officer Commanding Kachibora police station for imposing a purported curfew on the disputed farm. He questioned the source of authority behind the curfew declaration, considering the significant value of the property and the numerous settlers affected.
The human rights defender expressed concern over a recent eviction incident, wherein a group, accompanied by police officers, wielding crude weapons, including bows and arrows, demolished homes and facilities in an effort to forcibly remove families from the property.
“We seek clarification on the OCS Kachibora police station’s jurisdiction to enforce a curfew on a farm hosting hundreds of settlers,” stated Kirui.
According to Kirui, the affected families have endured continuous brutality and forced evictions at the hands of the police officers during the declared curfew, causing ongoing distress since the previous year.
Josepha Barno, representing victims of police brutality, lamented the lack of assistance, attributing it to alleged compromise by police officers at Kachibora police station, who are said to be influenced by the retired teacher claiming ownership of the multi-billion shilling property.
Jeremiah Cheruiyot, another victim, expressed fear for their lives and property due to threats posed by armed youths patrolling the farm during daylight hours. Despite reporting these threats to the police, Cheruiyot claimed that no records existed to indicate proper investigation by relevant authorities, leaving the affected families living in constant fear.
In response to the allegations, Officer Commanding Kachibora Police Station (OCPD) Dullo Okumu defended his officers, refuting claims of compromise. Okumu also denied the assertion that a curfew had been declared on the expansive parcel of land. He challenged the settlers to provide evidence substantiating their claims rather than tarnishing the reputation of the police in the area.
Acknowledging the prolonged dispute over the agricultural land, Okumu stated that his officers’ primary role was to safeguard the lives and property of the individuals residing on the farm. He clarified that police intervention occurred only in response to distress calls reporting imminent danger from aggressors. Okumu disclosed that six suspects linked to property destruction had been arrested, leaving the matter to be addressed by the court.