A 34-year-old man died after being shot during violent protests in Brooke area, Kericho County, over the management of tea estates in the area.

Wesley Kipkurui Siele succumbed to gunshot wounds he sustained during a clash between locals and police on May 23.

He was among a group of villagers who had attacked tea farms and destroyed nine tea-plucking machines before police arrived and engaged them in running battles.

The family said after Siele was shot, he was rushed to Kericho County Referal Hospital where he succumbed hours later.

Officials said he had bled profusely after being shot in the stomach.

Police visited the hospital and confirmed the same and declared an investigation had been launched.

This comes amid investigations into those behind the skirmishes in the area that have seen major tea estates suspend operations over insecurity.

Local leadership in both Bomet and Kericho Counties met separately to deliberate on the issue which escalated to local shopping centres where rioters attacked and looted property.

Ekaterra Tea Plc Tuesday suspended operations in the South Rift region over insecurity.

All 16,000 employees of the multinational tea company will not report to work until the security situation is addressed by the government and other stakeholders, the company said.

Large tea producers operating in Kericho, Bomet, Nyamira and Nandi counties will also scale down their operations until adequate security measures are in place.

This is in solidarity with Ekaterra, officials said.

The Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) - the umbrella body for multinational and local private tea companies - appealed to President William Ruto to intervene and restore order in the region.

Officials say political leaders and some businessmen are behind the chaos that have led to torching of nine green leaf plucking machines and trucks.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki on Wednesday, May 24 said the leaders had been linked to acts of violence, looting and destruction of property, and will be required to record statements before their respective County Security and Intelligence Committees.

Kindiki warned protests posed a clear, present and imminent danger to public order and warned that these criminal acts that will not be allowed.

Eleven suspects have so far been arrested and will be arraigned to face justice.

“To avert a repeat of these acts of lawlessness, security agencies shall enforce the law firmly and decisively and shall apprehend all criminals without fear, favour, ill will or affection. Anyone found culpable will be prosecuted in accordance with the law,” the CS said.

Parts of Kericho and Bomet Counties have in the last few weeks witnessed wrangles and conflicts in the tea estates as a result of disagreement on the use of tea-picking machines and related issues.

Kindiki said nine green leaf plucking machines and trucks at Ekaterra Company in Kericho County had been torched.

He added that five police officers, a journalist and another resident were also injured during the violent and unlawful protests.

“Motor vehicles, including one for the police and private tractors, have also been damaged in unlawful acts of wanton destruction of property,” he said.

The acts of violence in Kericho County in the last two days follow similar violent protests witnessed in the neighboring Bomet County a week ago, where six police officers were attacked and seriously injured by youths who were illegally harvesting tea at James Finlay tea Company farm.

“On the basis of what has now become a pattern of violence and destruction of property in Kericho and Bomet Counties in the last few days and in previous months, the National Police Service has rightfully and lawfully determined that the protests pose a clear, present and imminent danger to public order,” he added.

Kindiki said the unfolding situation in the two counties portends grave danger to the rule of law, peace and stability.

He further directed that the violence, looting, burning and destruction of public and private property, disruption of daily activities and assaulting security officers must cease.

“These political and business leaders will be required to record statements before the respective County Security and Intelligence Committees in the coming days. No one will be spared,” he added.

Kindiki said they encourage and offer to facilitate a peaceful resolution of any disputes between tea farm owners, workers and the respective County Governments in an environment of law, order and tranquillity.