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Trail of death as gunmen run wild

Wednesday May 6 2009

Members of the public at the scene where a police officer was shot dead by armed gangsters. Photo/PETERSON GITHAIGA

Members of the public at the scene where a police officer was shot dead by armed gangsters. Photo/PETERSON GITHAIGA 

By Dominic Wabala and Fred Mukinda

A spate of unresolved killings in Nairobi and its environs over the past two months has raised the alarm over the level of gun crimes in Kenya's capital city. From March, over 26 people have been shot and killed in circumstances that suggest planned murder rather than opportunistic crimes or robberies gone wrong.

The number could be much higher given that the Nation figures are based only on reports of high-profile killings. The trend is even more alarming because in most of the cases, police appear to be unable to arrest or prosecute any suspects. Those who have been felled by the gunmen’s bullets include politicians, businessmen, professionals, NGO leaders and public servants.

“Police seem to have failures that they can’t overcome’’ said security expert Capt (Rtd) Simiyu Werunga. He added: “As much as they are trying, it is evident that police are incapable of assuring citizens of their security. They are few in number compared to the population, but instead of patrolling, they still misdirect their resources to insignificant duties like the recent car chase of a young man who wants to marry his girlfriend.”

In nearly all the cases, the victims were trailed and shot execution-style, with the killers getting away without attempting to steal cars or valuables from the victims. Police investigations seem to have got nowhere as there have been very few reports of arrests, leave alone prosecutions.

The lack of arrests applies to other killings under different circumstances such as carjackings and robberies during the same period. The latest killing occurred on Monday night when well-known Nairobi politician and businessman, Simon Rayboy Mwangi, was murdered at Nairobi's Dagoretti Corner.

Mr Mwangi, popularly known as ‘Kamahuha’, was shot five times in the head at point blank range after his car was blocked by a minibus with concealed registration plates. The Kanu politician was driving his Toyota Prado vehicle to his home in Karen when he was attacked.

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A witnessed to the 10.30pm incident, who sought anonymity, told Nation that a matatu (public minivan) overtook and blocked the Prado near the Meteorological department’s headquarters, first deflating the tyres with a burst of gunfire and then shooting Mr Mwangi as he jumped out of his car. The thugs did not steal anything from him.

Kanu stalwart

Mr Mwangi was a Kanu stalwart in Nairobi and had vied for the Embakasi parliamentary seat on the party’s ticket severally. His killers are still at large but Lang’ata police boss Patrick Mang’oli said detectives were following crucial leads. The motive of the murder is yet to be established, said Mr Mang’oli.

In another killing last weekend, a senior manager at Thika Coffee Mills, Mr Eric Kathanga, was shot dead on May Day in Nairobi’s Parklands area. Six days later, police are yet to arrest anybody in connection with the murder. Detectives close to the investigation have ruled out an ordinary robbery as the motive since the killers fled without taking anything from the victim.

His mobile phone and wallet were found intact when police took away the body. Mr Kathanga was shot at around 1am as he drove on Kolobot Road near Stima Plaza. According to his elder brother, Mr Peter Kathanga, the killers trailed him from K1 club where he had held a meeting with family members.

They blocked his car and two of the gangsters alighted and shot him in the chest, killing him on the spot. One of the gangsters was carrying an AK-47 assault rifle while the accomplice was armed with a pistol, according to a witness who spoke to the police.

Another victim, Mr Mburu Njoroge, was shot last Sunday by gunmen who stormed the Thika Tourist Hotel in the town. Mr Njoroge, who lived in the Ngong suburbs in the outskirts of Nairobi, had arrived at the hotel together with relatives. He had stopped in the town for breakfast while on his way to a funeral in Kandara when the attackers confronted him.

Police have not arrested anybody for the killing, but detectives believe the killers had trailed him from Ngong. Immediately after the 5am shooting, the killers, who were armed with pistols and rifles, took off in a car that was waiting outside. The victim was a businessman who owned a medical supply firm.

A senior Ministry of Roads engineer, Wilson Juma Abura, was shot dead on April 7, while walking on Baricho Road near the Nakumatt Mega. He was confronted by two men shortly after he had left a nearby gym at around 8pm. Mr Abura had placed his gym bag in his car when one of the attackers shot him several times.

Detectives said the killing was not ordinary robbery because the killers fled without taking anything from him. There were no reports of arrests by Wednesday. Earlier on March 3, Oscar foundation directors Kamau King’ara and Paul Oulu were shot dead on University Way near the University of Nairobi.

Investigations into the twin murders have almost ground to a halt, the Nation has learnt. Detectives investigating the case claim that there is lack of cooperation by witnesses, singling out university students. The two were confronted as they were held in a traffic jam on the road.

Moments earlier, they had met a group of students at the university, after a day of street protests that had been called by their organisation. However, human rights activists were quick to accuse police officers of executing the two. Police also labelled the Foundation a wing of the outlawed Mungiki sect.

A day before Mr Mwangi was killed, an employee of Thika Coffee Mills, Mr Eric Ngungi Kathanga, was shot dead by gunmen in Ngara area near Stima Plaza. Mr Kathanga had reportedly been with friends until late into the night and was driving home at about 1.30am when he was blocked by a car that had apparently been following him. He was shot dead at point blank range and the killers fled without stealing anything from him.

A former University of Nairobi student activist, Mr Kathanga was also a budding politician and son of a prominent personality and former chairman of the Cooperative Bank, Mr Bernard Kathanga.

Unknown assailants

The previous night, on May 2, father of three Evans Mburu Njoroge, was shot dead by unknown assailants, as was City Council of Nairobi employee Wilfred Njau Ndungu. On April 30 it was the turn of 59-year old Paul Njoroge Muita to fall to gunmen in the city.

Joseph Kinuthia Waichau, 33, the Thika branch manager of the Kiambu Teachers Sacco, was murdered in Nairobi on April 21, three days after Mr Calvin Nyabuti, a son of former Nakuru Town MP Reuben Oyondi and nephew of former Butere MP Martin Shikuku, was beaten to death by thugs.

A similar fate around the same time befell 23-year old Edwin Roy Kimani Muthoni. On April 17 Mr John Kimani Maina, a director of Kimman Exports, was shot dead in a carjacking incident near the Kobil petrol station on Haile Selassie Avenue. That was around the same time Lt Peter Muchia Mungai of the United Nations offices in Nairobi was accosted and shot dead near his Gachie residence. The gangsters did not take anything from the father of five.

In March, a CID officer Henry Anunda and his son Josephat, a former University of Nairobi engineering student, were killed. Their bodies were found in a coffee plantation in Kiamumbi area in Kahawa West. Although police have blamed the outlawed Mungiki sect for the killing, no arrests have been made.

Police have also established that the two might have been held hostage and forced to withdraw a large sum of money from an ATM and then murdered with the officer’s own gun. One prominent case where there have been arrests is that of Senior Resident Magistrate Rogers Fundi Cheminingwa, who was killed near a bar on North Airport road about 20 meters away from crime-infested Mukuru slums.

Four people, including a military officer, have appeared in court charged with the murder. On April 1 Kenya Institute of Mass Communication lecturer David Kamau was killed by suspected carjackers as he was being driven to his King’eero home in a taxi. Investigations have not led to any arrests.

On March 28, an employee of Soin Insurance Brokers Ms Celine Ochieng died of gunshot wounds at Kenyatta National Hospital where she had been taken after being shot by armed gangsters in a carjacking incident on Jogoo Road.