Chaotic scenes ensued at Mahoo ward in Taveta during the burial of area Member of County Assembly (MCA) Ronald Sagurani after police halted the setting up of tents citing gross violation of Covid-19 protocols.
The tents were being set up to accommodate a large number of mourners and other leaders expected to attend the event.
However, the police ordered the event to be held at the MCAs home with a limited number of mourners present.
The burial ceremony was later conducted under a tightly controlled environment that saw hundreds of eager local residents barred from accessing the venue. Only family members, selected political leaders and government officials were allowed to access the late Sagurani’s home at Mrashia village.
Top leaders who attended the burial include Deputy President William Ruto, MPs Naomi Shaban (Taveta), Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu), Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) Jones Mlowa (Voi) and Andrew Mwadime (Mwatate) were also present. Others are John Njuguna popularly known as Kawanjiku of Kiamba, Danson Mwashako of Wundanyi and Senator Johnes Mwaruma.
While addressing the mourners, the Deputy President apologized for the chaos, noting that he had decided to attend the burial because the late MCA was his friend.
He termed as shameful the scenes witnessed earlier where police and the public had engaged in a fiery tiff.
“That was shameful and should not have happened. We came to bury a leader who was a friend and a member of the Jubilee party,” Ruto said.
The protocol was so strict that several MCAs found themselves in unfamiliar waters of having to introduce themselves and plead with security personnel to access the burial site. Others, unwilling to engage the mean-looking officers, quietly joined the mourners outside and followed the proceedings through the public address system.
The burial event would turn political with several leaders allied to the Deputy President citing the police’s decision to bar crowding as yet another example of a relentless campaign by the government to intimidate and muzzle Ruto.
Taita-Taveta Women Representative Lyida Haika said it was disgraceful how the late Sagurani was being buried without proper honors. She further claimed that had Ruto not attended, the burial would have gone on without a hitch.
However, Taveta MP Naomi Shaban noted that the Covid-19 protocols had necessitated the police take the steps to disallow thousands of local residents who wanted to attend the burial.
She disclosed that despite efforts by the government to contain the pandemic, it was still a danger to everyone, especially in large gatherings.
“Covid-19 remains a threat and some of these drastic steps taken are in response to that threat,” she said.
A senior security official in the region who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals echoed Shaban’s view stating that the enforcement of health protocols had nothing to do with leaders present.
He disclosed that enforcement had become a priority owing to the surging Covid-19 figures reported recently in the region.
“Crowds and large gatherings are outlawed. It’s a mockery to have crowds jam the burial of a leader who succumbed to the virus we are trying to fight,” said the officer.
The official added that several burials have recently been held in the region with a limited attendance and there was no outrage from the leaders.
The outrage here might be because we did not allow crowds to attend. Politicians feel slighted that there are no people,” he said.
Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa said that although Covid-19 was a threat, the law banning public gatherings should be applied uniformly. She cited the burial of Senator Moses Kajwang’s father in Homabay where crowds are allowed to attend.
“We need the law to apply to all events that attract people,” she said.
In his speech, Ruto said that attempts to belittle him were futile. He termed his quest for presidency as unstoppable stating that he was a man on a mission to transform Kenya’s economy where the lowly and the downtrodden would have financial ability to promote their trades and business.
“I don’t have the luxury to surrender. We are on a mission to transform this country,” he said.
The DP further said that Kenya was not ready to have leaders sharing positions while the agenda of the common person went unaddressed.
He said there was no urgency to change the constitution while several economic challenges had no solution.
He stated that his plan was to have a government that was responsive to the needs of the people who are engaged in small business.
“Our goal is to transform the lives of the small business people and other Kenyans to better their lives,” he said.
The Deputy President also had a brief stop outside the burial venue to address hundreds of supporters who were waiting for him outside.