|The death toll from Monday’s bloody confrontation between police and Legio Maria adherents at Got Kwer shrine in Migori has reached eight, according to church officials. |
Pope Lawrence Kalul, whose faction is headquartered at the shrine told Journalists that the brutality meted on faithful had led to three more while two minors were still missing.
Migori County commissioner Mr Boaz Cherotich declined to comment on the matter despite the Monday evening reports that five people had succumbed to gunshot wounds.
Police confirmed that five people had died from the clashes while seven others including a female cop sustained serious injuries from the assaults.
Early on today, faithful started making their way out of the shrine using any available means. Those who could not manage to use public transport and motorbike trekked back after word went round that there was an impending wave of fresh attacks.
Migori county police commander Mr Manaseh Musyoka had earlier stated two people died during the confrontation whilee three others succumbed to gunshot wounds at Got Kweru dispensary where they were rushed for first aid.
Tension started when members of a rival faction led by splinter group’s leader pope Raphael Adika led his followers for a prayer session at the headquarters, sparking violent protest from his opponents.
Chanting Legio Opogore (legio Maria church is divided),the irate faction led by Pope Lawrence Kalul snaked their way from Jerusalem Amoyo, to Got Kwer, the climax of the annual pilgrimage. They accused the rival faction of using police to intimidate faithful and breach the peace that has been enjoyed for the past two weeks.
Unknown to Mr Adika and his entourage comprising armed police officers, the rival faction led by pope Lawrence Kalul was armed and lying in wait.
They went berserk, accusing Mr Adika of “using security to disrupt the peaceful coexistence at the hill” which the church considers as their Calvary.
Police had to fire teargas canisters and live bullets to repulse the surging crowd who pelted the convoy with stones. Several people among them a female police officer were injured faithful during long day scuffle.
A saloon car was also torched while several other vehicles including a police van were demolished.
Church’s cardinal Chemalengo Ong’aw accused Mr Adika’s faction of planning to cart away the remains of Melkio Ondetto, the church’s founder to an unclosed location and were met by repulsiveness from their members.
On his part, Mr Adika accused his rivals “of orchestrating the mess and piling the blames on me to brand me a warmonger.” The long protracted antagonism dates back to 1990 after the death of the church’s founder Melkio Ondetto leading to the emergence of two splinter groups.
By Basil okoth