Two dead after protests rock Maai Mahiu town (video)

Transport along the Nairobi-Naivasha and Nairobi-Narok highways was paralysed for nearly five hours on Tuesday after sand harvesters staged protests against Kedong Ranch owners when they doubled sand harvesting fees from Sh1,000 to Sh2,000 per lorry.

The demos saw two people killed and several injured.

“We have been suffering because of hiked quarry fees for sand harvesting. Police have been leading this extortion,” a local resident, John Simba, claimed.

Loaders usually pay the private landowners before they are allowed to scoop sand from the ranch and load the commodity into lorries for transport to Nairobi, Nakuru, Narok and other major towns.

But on Monday, the harvesters woke up to new rates, prompting the protests.

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya said the youth erected at least 20 roadblocks and started demanding money from motorists in order to allow them through.

Rift Valley Reginal Police Commander, Marcus Ocholla, said he had to dispatch officers from the General Service Unit, the Anti Stock Theft Unit and others to restore order since the situation was getting out of hand. As a result, he said at least 15 youth were arrested and are in police custody.

“The protesters appeared in large numbers and the officers there had to be given reinforcement,” Mr Ocholla said.

He denied reports that the youth had overpowered police officers after a video circulating online appears to show a group of youth joy riding on a police vehicle.

“The police officer who was driving the vehicle that was filmed carrying tens of protesting youth and shared on social media had to drive the vehicle to the police station because the youth had refused to disembark,” Mr Ocholla explained to the Nation.

Mr Natembeya believes that the youth who were protesting had been ferried from other towns by unknown people, adding that that the matter was still being investigated.

Uneasy calm

However, normalcy has returned to the town after a day of running battles between police and sand harvesters.

A spot check by the Nation on Tuesday evening revealed an uneasy calm in the transit town amid heavy police presence.

Protestors said that a group of individuals normally sit by the gate to collect Sh1,000 each time they want to collect sand.

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