How a fight between pupils led to 14 houses being torched

Several families have been left homeless in Elgeyo Marakwet County after a mob burnt down their houses, accusing the members of practising witchcraft.

The families are now living in the cold after 14 houses were burnt down in Korongoi village, Kapcherop division in Marakwet West sub-county.

While confirming the incident, Kapcherop Division Deputy County Commissioner Abdulrahman Karnen warned against reprisal attacks, noting that the matter was under investigation.

“The suspects behind the arson attack are still at large, but we are determined to arrest and charge them,” Mr Karnen said, adding that the affected families were reluctant to volunteer information to the police for fear of further attacks.

According to Nelson Chemitei, whose house was also destroyed, the trouble started when one pupil tore up a fellow learner’s exercise book at a local primary school – an act translated as witchcraft and snowballed into a conflict with villagers.

More than 30 people, armed with machetes and crude weapons, then ambushed the family members at night accusing them of sorcery.

“We were shocked when the family members linked the ripping of the notebook to witchcraft. The boy is said to have torn the notebook before burning it, an act that offended family members who concluded that it was witchcraft which led to the attack and burning of our houses,” said Mr Chemitei.

The arsonists torched houses belonging to extended family members of Johana Chemitei and his brother William Chemitei.

“The attackers first stormed the homesteads and started torching the thatched houses and within minutes they were reduced to ashes as the occupants scampered for safety,” Mr Chemitei explained.

Harrison Kibet, 21, who was absent during the arson attack, said he had yet to trace his missing parents.

“I do not know where my parents went after they fled after the attack. I have been trying to call them but their phones are switched off,” said a distraught Mr Kibet, whose house was also torched.

Other properties destroyed in the arson attack include those of Mr Chemitei’s seven sons.

The displaced KCPE and KCSE candidates have since been hosted by well-wishers in the village to enable them to sit for the national exams.

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