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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Shock as Guv Obado goons torch church farm

Residents of Rapogi trading centre were shocked when Migori county government sent its inspectorate officers accompanied by five heavily armed police officers  invaded a disputed Catholic mission’s farm near Rapogi market.
The workers brought in tractors that ploughed down cane crops, while the hired goons set ablaze six acres of mature cane. It came at a time when the Catholic mission had contracted the Sony Sugar Company to plough the 21.6 acres of mature cane and had completed ridges ready for cane plantation.
The Catholic farms with one at Kitere and another at Macalder mines, are claimed by both the county government and the catholic mission’s diocese in Homa-Bay. Residents felt the county should have applied civil methods such as seeking legal redress in court instead of force and involving armed policemen.
The mission reported that it was moving to the court to file a suit against Migori county government headed by Governor Okoth Obado to seek for compensation.
Residents blamed the provincial administration in Uriri subcounty for taking sides on the matter. They said this not only amounted to a breach of peace but was also arrant impunity. Even if the county claims the right ownership of the disputed land, the residents said, other peaceful means could have been used to resolve the dispute without resorting to the use of force.
Our sources said that prior to the raid, Obado had visited the bishop’s office at Homa-Bay Diocese and told the bishop that his county government had  development plans to carry out on the disputed farm. The bishop according to sources politely asked the governor to give them time as they consult and to return after some days. The governor did not return and concerted efforts by the bishop to reach him by phone did not bear fruits as he refused to pick the bishop’s call.
Uriri subcounty commissioner George  Lagat said he had asked both parties to go to his office armed with all relevant documents in connection with the farm’s ownership to resolve the matter amicably, but no party turned out at his office.
The incident has irked many Catholics who view it as a misuse of powers by the governor. The incident, they say, could have a serious repercussion and deny the governor votes to retain his position at the 2017 general elections.
The farm in dispute is in two parts. One part is located at the mission for the purpose of teaching agriclture at the nearby St Joseph Rapogi High Schjool in 1948 and the other part was sold to the Catholic Mission by two elders under the brokerage of the then chief of the area Cyrian Jobando. These were the days and time lf the African District Council of South Nyanza with its offices at Kisii town, which later in 1962 moved offices at Homa-Bay when the original was transformed to the ADC when the former South Nyanza ADC was split into two, one for the Kisii and the other for the Luo.
Local politicians have unreservedly condemned the county government for trying to resolve the dispute by the use of force while there were many options of having the matter resolved amicably.
Nyatike MP Edick Omondi Anyanga termed the county action as primitive and provovative and called upon the government to intervene and ensure the matter is resolved peacefully and amicably without use of force.
An area politician John Awiti criticised Obado and called for his impeachment. He said the governor hails from within the Rapogi area and knew pretty well the history of Rapogi Catholic Mission’s farm and could have used a better approach instead of force. He advised the Catholics in the area not to elect the governor back into office for having displayed excessive arrogance.
It was reported that that Catholic Diocese of Homa-Bay has moved to the High Court and filed a case under certificate of urgency.