Shock as missing pastor found murdered

Thursday May 18 2017

By RUTH MBULA
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By NYABOGA KIAGE
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Shock engulfed Riensune village in Nyamira County after the decomposing body of an Seventh-day Adventis pastor who went missing about a month ago was found dumped in a thicket near his home.

A herder found a skull dumped in an open field on Thursday at around 8am and immediately raised the alarm, attracting hundreds of locals.

Police mobilised villagers to search for the torso.

After a few hours of searching, the decomposing body was found deep in a thicket about 150 metres from where the skull was found.

The remains had been dumped on a farm belonging to the late Education minister and Kitutu West MP George Sagini.

Farm manager Musa Ombati said they were drawn to the scene by wailing villagers and had not known that the body had been dumped there.

“There is little activity on the farm, which is mostly used by herders to graze livestock,” he said.

GREAT SHOCK

The dead cleric, identified as Pastor Nicholas Kibagendi, still had on his black trousers, brown belt and brown shoes. He was wearing the same clothes on April 20, the day he disappeared.

His elder brother, Ronald Akunga, said the family was in great shock from the death of the pastor, who was known to be friendly and social.

“We have searched for him for the past one month. It is with great grief that we receive the news of his death. His state bothers us the more,” he said.

The 65-year-old man said his brother was dedicated to church work and had served at almost all SDA churches in Borabu constituency, where he lived.

Mr Akunga said the cleric worked as the stewardship director at the Nyamira SDA regional office and was not known to undertake any business besides preaching.

“Out of his good work, he was elevated to serve bigger roles. We do not understand why his killers would murder a good man like him,” he said.

The family vehemently denied reports on social media that the pastor lived a double life and involved himself in questionable deals.

“What is being said on social media about my brother is false,” said Mr Akunga.

UNKNOWN CALLER

The pastor's close friend, Pastor Peter Aricha, praised the late Mr Kibagendi, describing him as a man dedicated to serving God and humanity.

His disappearance attracted the attention of the national Adventist church, with officials calling for anyone with information that could lead to his whereabouts to come forward.

He said they had suspected foul play in his disappearance and news of his body only confirmed their fears.

Pastor Kibagendi is believed to have been lured by an unknown caller from his Kijauri home before he walked out onto the tarmac and disappeared.

Area chief Mike Onsombi said the pastor was last seen making a phone call near Riensune Primary School.

“He was found near the school and we are wondering who are behind the cold murder,” he said.

His widow, Jenniffer Kibagendi, said her husband was in a jovial mood on the day he went missing and had breakfast with the family.

ATTACKED

“We only suspected that something was amiss when his phones went off at noon and he had not returned home," she said.

She said they had been attacked by thugs three times since they moved to the region a decade ago but did not suspect any possible connection between those attacks and the latest incident.

They have five children.

Borabu police boss Anthony Onyango said they are treating the case as a murder.

“Three weeks ago, we started investigations after it was reported to us that the pastor was missing. But we now treat this as a murder case and we promise to bring his perpetrators to book,” he said.

In early April, in the same area, a police officer identified as a Mr Odero went missing before his body was found 10 days later dumped near a river.

The two cases have left residents in shock, but police say the two deaths are not related.

A local leader, Alephaxard Osoro, called on police to ensure the killers are arrested and prosecuted.

“We feel that we are no longer safe. Police should ensure our security,” he said.