Fight over Keroka town a disgrace to Omogusii

Written by on 6 March 2024

Keroka town is a key economic hub that hosts people from Nyamira and Kisii counties. It is also a pivotal political hub for national politicians. If a political rally has not been held in Keroka, then you have not reached out to the Omogusii.

Control over the town provides access to key infrastructure such as roads, markets and educational institutions. As a result, the town has become a focal point of competition between the Omogusii communities from both counties.

The issue of who controls the larger part of the oldest Gusii town has seen a long-standing border dispute between Nyamira and Kisii. This conflict is not only a source of tension among the locals but also reflects poorly on the leadership. The conflict started in 2014 when the two counties disagreed on the boundaries of collection of levies.

Over the years, various attempts have been made to resolve the border dispute, including mediations and legal proceedings. However, these efforts have been unsuccessful.

Pioneer governors James Ongwae (Kisii) and the Late John Nyagarama (Nyamira) sought to solve the dispute by bringing together stakeholders from the two counties to find an amicable way of addressing the standoff.

The two governors later had a gentleman agreement to demarcate areas of collection of revenue. The issue was settled but resurfaced recently when their successors, Amos Nyaribo and Simba Arati, took over.
Talks were held but the governors could not agree on the way forward. In April 2023, Gesima MCA Nyambega Gisesa went to court seeking clarification on the boundary.

In a ruling delivered on February 14, 2024, the Environment and Land Court resolved the dispute, ruling that the larger portion of the town falls in Nyamira.

While delivering the judgment, Justice Mugo Kamau emphasized the need for clarity and adherence to demarcated boundaries.

He cited reports from a multi-agency team, including surveyors, IEBC representatives and the National Land Commission, which identified boundary beacons and established the true boundaries between the two counties.

After this ruling the Governor of Kisii dispatched county askaris ostensibly to “protect” the territory of Kisii county and ensure revenue is collected.

The askaris caused a furore in the town making Nyamira county to retaliate. Traders were caught in the ensuing melee.

This standoff needs to be condemned. The community that makes the twin counties of Nyamira and Kisii are sons and daughters of the Omogusii.

It’s a national shame that people who belong to the same father and mother are embroiled in a tussle for a town that has existed since the colonial times and people have always lived in harmony and tranquility.
Keroka on the Kisii and Nyamira sides has the same communities living there. The two neighbouring constituencies are named Masaba. In Kisii there is the Omogetutu clan same as Nyamira. This is a conflict that our ancestors and pioneer Gusii leaders will not allow to happen.

The two constituencies have been devoid of conflict since the times of Andrew Omanga, James Nyamweya, George Anyona, Hezron Manduku, Sam Ongeri and Timothy Bosire.

What is happening in Keroka now is political immaturity that we must condenm. Luos of Migori have never had issues with their Homa Bay neighbours. The Bukusu of Bungoma have never had issues with their counterparts of Trans Nzoia.

The Samia of Busia have never had problems with their brothers from Bugwe in Uganda. Why are the Omogusii, people who speak the same language, warring in Keroka?

Governors Arati and Nyaribo, MPs and MCAs should respect the declaration of the court and seek an amicable way of quelling the looming conflict in Keroka.

In 2024 people sit and agree. People dialogue. The scenes on national and local media about Keroka are a shame for the Omogusii.
—The writer is president emeritus, Football Kenya Federation

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