Kitui police fired in the air on Wednesday afternoon to disperse a crowd protesting against a court order for the release of a lorry in which charcoal was found.
The vehicle had been kept outside the gate of Kitui police station for at least two months.
Hundred of protesters surrounded it and demanded that the 200 sacks of charcoal it had be offloaded before the owner’s departure to his Kiambu county home.
As more people gathered, some climbed atop the lorry and threw out some of the charcoal while others cheered and shouted “Haki yetu (Our right)”.
Police came out of the station armed with rifles and tear gas canisters, which they fired, to scare the demonstrators.
The people scampered for safety as officers under the command of Kitui Central OCPD Muthuri Mwongera took them on.
As events unfolded, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu arrived in a long convoy of cars at around 4.15 pm. Ngilu confronted Mwongera, arguing that it was wrong for the lorry crew, who were cleared of wrongdoing, to drive away with the charcoal.
“This is wrong, bwana OCPD. Everyone knows we have a total ban on charcoal. We cannot allow anyone to carry charcoal from Kitui county. All charcoal must be offloaded and the lorry should leave Kitui empty.”
Ngilu, who was in the company of Deputy Governor Wathe Nzau, did not accept Mwongera’s explanation about the court’s determination.
Mwongera gave in and said he would not release the lorry to allow the county to appeal the court ruling.
In the determination on Tuesday, Principal Magistrate Johnson Mungutu said there was no basis to charge Stephen Thiru, Francis Njau, John Njenga and Joseph Mwangi who were found with the lorry and the charcoal by county enforcement officers.
Mungutu directed that the lorry and its contents be released to the four and that the Kitui police commander and the DCI boss ensure their security as they leave the county.