Differences are emerging between the residents and security agents in Matungu Constituency, Kakamega County, following the rise in insecurity which has left more than ten people dead in a span of one month.
Bordering Bungoma County to the north, Mumias West constituency to the South, Busia County to the west and Navakholo Constituency to the East, Matungu has been known to be a quiet, cool place where people go about their daily activities undisturbed.
While residents maintain that the thugs perpetrating the killings are members of a criminal gang known as 42 Brothers, security officials have refuted the claims, saying that the recent series of murders witnessed in the area are not related and are not coordinated by a gang.
In a bid to stem the rising cases of insecurity in the area, Administration Police officers at Ejinja AP camp in Matungu have been transferred with immediate effect.
The Matungu OCS has also been moved in a bid to improve security situation in the constituency.
The security agents say the killings are being investigated independently because some of the cases were linked to crimes of passion while others were retaliations of a group of criminals who murdered their leaders in March.
“We want to dismiss the narrative that the killings we are witnessing in Matungu are coordinated and that there is a gang that is terrorising residents. We are investigating the cases separately after we established that they are not interwoven,” said Matungu Deputy County Commissioner Charles Charo.
Twelve people have been killed in Matungu by a gang of unknown people in the last one month.
The latest incident involves a family from Sayangwe village in Ejinja that was attacked by the gang on Saturday night.
A pregnant woman and her daughter were killed while her husband, identified as Stephen Rapacha, and another daughter, sustained serious injuries.
The baffling attacks have left three school children and a night security guard dead, in what the security officers termed as “a similar murder signature” where the victims are hacked with a sharp object on the head and neck and the attackers leave without stealing anything from their victims.
On April 28, 2019, an attack by the mysterious gang left two students of Makunda Secondary School dead.
One student, Shariff Odongo, died on the spot outside their house in Namasanda village, while his friend died while undergoing treatment in hospital.
Another Form Three student, 22-year-old Lynix Opemi, from Namberekeya Secondary School was murdered in late March and his body found dumped in a culvert at Lung’anyiro along the Mumias-Busia road.
His cousin, Evans Ouma, said the body had been stabbed three times in the neck and the back.
“He parted with other family members at around 9.30pm and went to his house as other members also retired to sleep. We were shocked the next morning when we received the news that his body had been discovered on the road,” said Mr Ouma.
This followed the killing of a woman in Itete in Koyonzo Location.
Two other people, a night security guard at Campsite Resort and another villager were attacked and killed separately on the nights of April 17 and 19 respectively, causing panic among the residents.
The security guard, Mr Mohammed Chikombe, was found murdered and his body moved to a neighbour’s farm. Beer worth Sh59,700 stolen from the restaurant he was guarding.
Late 2018, another watchman guarding the Nabongo Cultural Centre was killed by unknown thugs.
A couple was also attacked and killed in their home in Soweto village on March 28, 2019.
The body of a pregnant woman, identified as Wanjiku Shiundu, was discovered lying in a pool of blood in their house while that of her husband Yusuf Kong’ani was found dumped under the Khalaba bridge along the Mumias-Bungoma road.
Several other people have been left nursing injuries inflicted by machetes and blunt objects used by the marauding gang.
Mr Rashid Isaac from Lairi village was hacked to death by a gang of five men who accosted him while he was returning home from the shops at around 8.30pm.
His wife, Florence Atsieno, said the attackers hit him with a blunt object on the head and cut his neck before dumping him at the edge of their farm.
“I was in the house feeding the children when a neighbour came calling. She informed that my husband had been attacked and injured. I rushed to the scene only to find his lifeless body lying in a pool of blood,” Mrs Atsieno said.
Residents are accusing security agents of failing to contain the situation by not arresting members of the criminal gang which they claim is coordinated and could be funded by a politician.
CHIEFS ON THE SPOT
They are also accusing the local administration of failing to work in harmony with the residents to bring the killings to an end.
“Chiefs and their assistants have become reluctant and not making night patrols as before. The locals are no longer giving information to the authorities for fear of being revealed to the suspects,” said Mr Rashid Nanjira from Lung’anyiro.
According to Mr Nanjira, the attackers are from Matungu and are known by locals who fear giving information to the police “because they don’t treat such information with confidence”.
A resident, Mr Fredrick Atitwa, said they are very worried since when night falls they do not know who the next victim could be.
“With all these killings, we go to bed worried because we don’t know who the next person to be killed is,” said Mr Atitwa.
TRANSFER INCOMPETENT OFFICERS
Matungu MP Justus Murunga and local MCAs have called for the transfer of police officers who have served in the area for more than five years claiming some of them are working in cahoots with the criminals.
“We have held talks with senior security officers in the sub-county and agreed on several issues including transfer of officers who have stayed in the area for more than seven years because we felt they could be colluding with the criminals,” said Mr Murunga.
He proposed that a patrol base be built in each ward as a way of promoting security for the locals.
Regional Criminal Investigation Officer Shem Nyamboki said police have intensified investigations and following up on clues from residents over the activities of the criminal gangs.
“Though we are yet to get full details of what is happening because residents are fearing to volunteer information to us, we are giving the issue serious attention and soon, we will resolve it,” said Mr Nyamboki.
Kakamega Police County Commander Wilkister Vera said one person was arrested in connection with the killings and two others gunned down by the police.
“The officers recovered an axe and a mini Ceska pistol from the suspects which we believe could have been used in some of the attacks,” said Ms Vera.
She said Mr Alfred Abuti, the suspect who arrested, was nabbed at Khaunga market in Mumias East following tip off from members from the public.
“We are pursuing crucial leads to arrest the assailants. We are following some call data to understand the network and soon, we shall have done something,” added the police boss.
She said those perpetrating the murders are jailbirds who have been released from prison where they learned a lot of bad tricks.
On April 18, 2019, security officials from Kakamega County led by the County Commissioner Abdulrizak Jaldesa held a security meeting with residents of Matungu to address the runaway insecurity.
Mr Jaldesa said that the government has put in place adequate measures to ensure that security of Kakamega residents is not compromised and warned that the emerging criminal gangs will be crushed.
“Let us enforce the Nyumba Kumi initiative and increase vigilance against criminal activities in our areas. Provide tip-offs and intelligence reports to the police on any suspicion of dangerous people because we also get affected whenever people we are supposed to protect are killed,” said Mr Jaldesa.
Mr Jaldesa said the security team is changing the manner it handles its night operations after it emerged that the gangs are targeting night security guards in market centres.
“We are appealing to traders to stop hiring elderly men of over 60 years to guard their business premises at night. These people are tired and fall asleep as soon as they sit down. That is why they get ambushed easily,” said Mr Jaldesa.
He said the government will hire youthful teenagers to keep vigil at market and trading centres in collaboration with the police.
“We have deployed enough security officers in areas affected by rising cases of insecurity and they will collaborate with the youths to contain insecurity. Our intention is to have citizens sleep in peace and wake up without missing one of them through gangsters,” Mr Jaldesa added.
He further advised residents to embrace technology such as the use of WhatsApp groups to share information and mobilise action whenever necessary.
A section of leaders from the county have now turned an accusing finger at Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i over the growing insecurity in the county.
Mr Murunga, Woman Rep Elsie Muhanda, Kholera Ward MCA Godliver Omondi and Mr Habil Nanjendo, claimed that Dr Matiang'i was reluctant in curbing the rising cases where villagers are brutally murdered by criminal gangs in the county.
Cases of criminal gangs attacking residents in the night have become rampant in Butere, Khwisero and Matungu sub-counties where residents claim two groups calling themselves 42 brothers and 11 brothers respectively harass, assault and kill villagers.
"We have seen the CS vising other parts of the country when insecurity became a problem. Why has he ignored the situation in Kakamega County including the killings of six night guards at Kilingili?" asked Mr Nanjendo, noting that the Dr Matiang’i has not issued any statement on the sorry state of security in Kakamega.
Mr Murunga asked Dr Matiang'i to resign from the security docket, claiming that the CS is not concerned about the lives of people in some parts of the country.
"Is Matiang'i considering the people of Kakamega lesser citizens in this country? How many people does he want to die for him to get concerned?" he asked.
Ms Muhanda said the CS promised to visit the area after six watchmen were killed at Kilingili but he has not fulfilled his promise.