Victims of Matungu killers yet to find justice


By SHABAN MAKOKHA
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Calm has returned to Matungu, Kakamega County, after chilling killings that occurred early this year, but questions still linger over who the perpetrators are and their motive.

The calm had been shattered from March by deadly attacks linked to a criminal gang locally known as 42 Brothers.

In the next three months, the gang turned villages in the usually quiet village into killing fields as it raided homes at night and hacked villagers to death.

Between March and June, the attacks had claimed 20 lives and left scores with injuries inflicted by machetes and blunt objects.

The government was forced to deploy the General Service Unit (GSU) to tackle the insecurity that had claimed 13 lives in one month.

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In May, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai toured the village and announced a major security operation to flush out the gang.

Dr Matiang’i said the operation would go on until all the suspects would get arrested.

Several politicians were arrested among them Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, Matungu MP Justus Murunga and Mayoni MCA Libinus Oduor. They were accused of funding the gang.

But the politicians were released without charges after Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said there was no evidence linking them to the killings.

Fourteen other suspects were later set free also for lack of evidence.

In the wake of the attacks, residents pointed an accusing finger at the 42 Brothers while security officials maintained that the killings were isolated incidents perpetrated by criminals.

According to villagers, the attacks had a similar pattern. Victims were hacked to death with sharp objects and the attackers usually left the scene without stealing any valuables.

But security officials maintained that the killings were revenge attacks orchestrated by criminal gangs.

One of the bizarre killings involved a family from Sayangwe village in Ejinja on June 5.

Petronilla Mungayi, who was pregnant, and her three-year-old daughter, Sharleen Okhasia, were hacked to death.

Her husband, Mr Stephen Rapacha, and their nine-year-old daughter sustained serious injuries.

Recalling the incident, Mr Rapacha said five men who had covered their faces with hoods broke into his house and attacked him and his family.

“They demanded money before descending on me, my wife and daughter with knives, clubs and metal bars,” he narrated tearfully.

On April 28, the gang killed two students from Makunda Secondary.

A Form Three student from Namberekeya Secondary was killed in March. The body of Lynix Opemi was found dumped in a culvert at Lung’anyiro on the Mumias-Busia Road.

On April 17, a guard was killed at Campsite Resort. Mohammed Chikombe’s body was found dumped at a neighbour’s farm.

Two days later, another man was killed at Lairi village. Rashid Isaac was hacked to death by a gang of five men as he returned home at 8.30pm.

His wife Florence Atsieno said the attackers hit him with a blunt object on the head and cut his neck before dumping his body near a farm.

A couple was killed in their home at Soweto village on March 28.

The body of a pregnant woman identified as Wanjiku Shiundu was found in a pool of blood in her house; while her husband Yusuf Kong’ani was killed and his body dumped under Khalaba bridge on the Mumias-Bungoma Road.

Residents accused security agents of failing to contain the situation by ensuring the suspects were arrested and prosecuted.

They also accused administration officials of failing to work with them to end the killings.

The government later transferred administration police officers at Ejinja AP Camp following complaints by residents.

Dr Matiang’i promised to construct a new police divisional headquarters in Matungu. The construction is ongoing.

In June, several officers serving in Kakamega were transferred in a major shake-up announced by Dr Matiang’i.


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