War songs, chaos and threats rocked the release of bodies of FlySax plane crash victims from Njabini in Nyandarua to Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi.
From the forest, the plan was to take the remains of the eight passengers and two crew members to the command centre at Njabini Boys High School before ferrying them to the capital.
This was never to be due to the trouble caused by the over 300 young men, who claimed to have helped in the evacuation of the 10 bodies from Elephant Point at the peak of Aberdare Ranges.
Instead, the bodies were literally sneaked out of Nyandarua County under the cover of darkness after a series of cat-and-mouse games between the youths on one side and police and Red Cross workers on the other.
Like Somalia pirates demanding ransom from ship owner in the Indian Ocean, the rowdy mob wanted to hold on the remains until they are paid.
They attempted to block vehicles that had been lined up to ferry the remains until they are “appreciated”.
Chanting and dancing to Kikuyu war songs, the protesters blocked the road connecting the Kinangop deputy county commissioner’s office and the Njabini-Nairobi highway demanding to be paid.
“We understand the government always sets aside some emergency funds for such operations,” shouted one of the young men.
“The National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU) is well funded by the government to finance such emergency operations. We want our money now!”
Some alleged that they abandoned work on their farms and other casual jobs to help police, the military, the NDMU and Red Cross find and remove the bodies from the forest.
“We are not fools. You want to do to us what others have done to the NYS?” charged another youth, who seemed intoxicated, in reference to the Sh8 billion scandal at the National Youth Service.
“The bodies will not leave for Nairobi before we are cleared.”
Efforts by the police to reason with the young men fell on deaf ears, as they staged more drama to the chagrin of bereaved families and government officials.
Hundreds of heavily armed police officers were mobilised at 8pm after it emerged that the group was determined to block transportation of the bodies.
Later, police played a trick on the irate protesters and it worked: they confused the youths on vehicles that ferried the remains, which were initially in police Landcruisers.
As more vehicles used by police, Red Cross and other rescue teams were being lined up to take the bodies to the city, hearses carrying the remains sneaked through crowds.
The rioters were only able to identify the two hearses when drivers engaged high gears after negotiating through the vehicular and human traffic.
Moments later, it emerged that most of protesters were actually seeking to reap where they had not sown.
They had not volunteered in the mission at all, according to one of the volunteers who took part in the rescue mission.
They were idlers and hooligans, he said.
“Those who participated in the rescue mission are at home, dead tired,” the volunteer, who did not wish to be named, told the Nation.
“We knew it was a voluntary assignment. Those who participated in the search had their names recorded by the officers in charge of the operation.”
National Disaster Management Unit deputy director Pius Masai had asked for a list of the genuine volunteers so that they can undergo a training in safety and rescue missions.
They will be trained by the military, Kenya Police and Kenya Red Cross.
“We are proud of the young men who volunteered to assist in the mission. Their actions cannot go unrecognised,” Mr Masai said.
“We have the list and we are going to reward them with basic safety and rescue skills. They did a very good job, we appreciate their sacrifice.”
Harry Misiko contributed to this report from Nairobi.