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Matungu killings: People too scared to name perpetrators

Saturday May 11 2019


Mr Ibrahim Wesonga gets treatment after being attacked by 42 Brothers, a criminal gang in Kakamega. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Religious leaders, boda boda riders, villagers, wounded victims and residents of Matungu all whisper his name.

In hushed tones, chiefs and Nyumba Kumi leaders all point fingers at him.

But the fear of being targeted, having seen first-hand the brutality of the gangs that have sprouted and grown out of his generosity, mute all the courage in them to voice his name on the record.

Not even Western regional police boss Rashid Yakub would reveal his name or any other names of politicians and leaders in the area believed to be the financiers of the criminal gangs terrorising poor residents of Matungu in Kakamega County.

Given a notebook, some of the courageous chiefs will write down his name and say nothing afterwards. Many simply shake their heads and hold their breath.



Investigations by the Nation revealed that as at now, no one is willing to come out in public to name him, and this has emboldened the merchants who continue to slaughter villagers with impunity, the latest cases being early this week.

The names Yakub, the man who chairs the western security committee, is willing to give include “Yondo” and “Sagana” who are well known in the area and have been linked to various criminal activities in Kakamega County and its environs.

One is a jailbird and the other has perfected the art of falling through the cracks when under the radar of policemen.

Some locals revealed that the key benefactor of the gangs has a deep network of youths he uses at political functions across the western region and who, when left idle, uses their time and skills to wreak havoc.


But they do not know how he benefits by causing terror in his own backyard.

Villagers believe that police would greatly benefit from talking to him. At least two dozen people the Nation interviewed in the killing fields of Matungu whispered his name, saying he enjoys a rapport with local boys and boda boda riders and has a way with them that many politicians and law enforcers could only dream of.

And the jobless young men love and follow him for a reason: If he is not fuelling boda boda motorcycles and giving them Sh500 each to pay the owners of the cycles, he is talking to police and bailing out crime suspects.

On the murders, locals say they suspect the man behind the bloodshed in Matungu might be out to teach his enemies lessons on who is in charge.

The man, who comes from a controversial family, is rich by local standards. A number of his relatives have been gunned down or burnt alive after they were caught red-handed.

One was linked to the disappearance of about seven guns at Bookers Police Post in Mumias but the case never went anywhere.


He is not the only man who is suspected to fund militia in Kakamega County.

A good number of businessmen and politicians, right from ward representatives all the way up to MPs from western Kenya, have benefited directly from their services during campaigns and political rallies.

Business rivals in the vast counties of Kakamega and Busia have also used them to settle scores as well as exact revenge on their real and imagined rivals and enemies.

Politicians readily turn to them to make a statement. But after the political class is done with them, they are dumped and left to their own devices.

Yakub says police are investigating all possible leads to the killings. But his men are still in the dark on the motive of the killers given that they hardly take anything from their victims.

This has weakened the economic link on the matter.


When the Nation contacted leaders in the region, some of whom have been very vocal on the matter, none volunteered any names, only attributing the killings to rampant unemployment in the area following the collapse of Mumias Sugar Company.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who has offered to take care of all the injured, said his government is working tirelessly to empower the locals through development projects to help deal with crime.

Senator Cleophas Malala also pointed a finger at runaway unemployment rates in the county following the closure of Mumias Sugar Company.

He said he did not have any names of the perpetrators. Mr Malala said he had also heard of a Yondo and another suspect whom he named in one of his public speeches to residents in the area.

He also blames the massacre on failure of the Nyumba Kumi initiative in the area. “Some people were recently fired and this is increasing unemployment in the county,” Mr Malala said, adding that he recently donated 100 mobile phones and torches to help in door-to-door surveillance by the Nyumba Kumi teams.


On his part, former Sports minister Rashid Echesa attributed the spate of killings that have claimed more than a dozen lives to unemployment following the closure of Mumias.

“Mumias Sugar used to employ more than 18,000 cane cutters. Today more than 8,000 casual labourers are jobless and this is the main cause of insecurity in the area,” he said.

He denied that the killings had any connection with the five people police have so far arrested.

Mr Echesa said that police should investigate the crimes and take action on any politician or leader behind the killings.

“Apart from the latest victim, where a man and his wife were attacked, I do not know the other victims,” he told the Nation on phone.

Area MP Justus Murunga did not pick our calls and had not responded to our text messages by the time of going to press.