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A section of journalists based in Mwingi region, Kitui County narrowly escaped the wrath of enraged sand harvesters on Wednesday morning after the latter attacked them.

The scribes had travelled from Mwingi town to cover a story on illegal sand harvesting in one of the seasonal rivers in Nguutani area of Mwingi West constituency.

The eight journalists had to scamper for safety, escaping unhurt after the armed sand harvesters charged at them in the 10 am ugly incident that left two villagers seriously injured.  

One of the injured men who were among a handful of residents protesting the illegal sand harvesting was rushed to a Matuu Hospital for treatment. 

The loaders turned against them and started hurling stones at the scribes and a handful of other residents who were protesting the illegal business.

What was normal news coverage at the local river in a dramatic twist turned ugly after the youthful sand loaders protested the presence of the media. Armed with shovels, catapults and pangas they charged at the scribes and a few residents who were against the illicit sand harvesting.

“When the youth started attacking us, we had no other option than to run for our dear lives,” one of the journalists told the Mwingi Times.

The sand loaders claimed that the illegal business was their only source of income.  “We support our families out of this business. No one should interfere with our source of livelihood,” the youth protested.

Mwingi Times established that the young men, most of them in their 20s are each paid Sh. 200 after loading a single lorry.

A local lobby condemned the incident and called on the elected leaders from the area to act promptly in ending the sand harvesting menace that has escalated in the recent months despite a ban by the Kitui county government.

Nguutani Professionals Forum led by their chairman, Mr Christopher Nzili,   threatened lead locals in a demonstration in the near future to protest against destructive harvesting and transportation of the  mineral.

“We have raised this matter to our MP and the senator. Sadly nothing has been done so far to bring this nuisance to an end. To our surprise the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) is silent,” he said.

Mwingi Times established that the heavily loaded lorries have led to massive destruction of earth roads in the area. Villagers decried that they have suffered immensely due to dust emanating from the roads as the lorries maneuver through the villages heading to the local streams. Moreover most of the boreholes in the area have dried up forcing residents to buy water. 

Police has been dragged in the sand harvesting row by failing work in collaboration with the County government authorities to end the atrocity.

However the police boss Mr Julius Muu blamed the county government officials for failing to act in effecting the ban.

He said four people were arrested and arraigned in court on Thursday in connection with the Wednesday incident. Police officers are still man- hunting the “violent’ loaders.

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