Witu residents in Lamu protest against newly posted chief

Witu demonstrators on Friday February 9, 2018. They have asked the government to remove a newly posted chief in the area saying he isn't a native. They locked up the chief's office. PHOTO: NATASHA NEMA.

Lamu, KENYA: Over 300 residents of Witu and its environs on Friday staged a major demonstration to push the government to immediately remove a newly posted chief in the area.

Businesses in the town were interrupted for over an hour as the angry residents danced and cried as they conducted the demos along the streets of Witu.

The protesters most of whom carried branches and placards that creamed messages: Chifu Wa Witu ni Haki ya Watu Wa Witu (The position of Witu Chief is reserved for the People of Witu) and Macharia Must Go, started the demonstrations at the Witu Mosque and matched to the Assistant County Commissioner’s office where they presented a petition demanding the removal of the chief, Simon Macharia.

Mr. Macharia who is the former assistant chief for Soroko sub-location was promoted early February to be the senior chief of Witu in Lamu West.

But the angry residents complained that Macharia is an ‘outsider’ and cannot lead them.

The angry demonstrator went ahead and locked the chief’s office in Witu town and threatened to remove him forcefully if he is spotted going about his duties from now henceforth.

“We won’t allow someone who is not a native of Witu to rule us. We rejected him since his appointment last month. We have aired our grievances to the responsible offices but they are taking us in circles. Macharia must go or we send him by force,” said one of the demonstrators Mr. Mohamed Athman.

Another resident Mr. Omar Fuad said they will not allow the government to impose a chief from a different community and who is not a native of Witu on them.

“We have very many candidates who applied and qualify for the job within Witu. Why did the government decide to pick a foreigner? The government is trying to play smart with us having previously imposed the same individual to serve at Soroko as an assistant chief. We have our people whom we trust in holding such positions in Witu and not otherwise,” said Mr. Omar.

The demonstrators insisted for the position to be given to one of their own who knows the culture and heritage of Witu town and who is also conversant with the challenges that the locals face in the area.

They said they were ready to proceed with the demonstrations on a daily basis until Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i comes to their aid and give a way forward on the matter.

Addressing the protesters outside his office, however, Witu assistant county commissioner Kibet Koech urged the residents to be calm as the government looks into their concerns.

“Let us be calm. I have heard your complaints. I would like you to choose representatives who will be officially forwarding your complaints to the Lamu county commissioner for action as from next week. Let us observe peace and maintain order,” said Mr Koech.