As the standard gauge railway snakes its way through Tsavo National Park, passengers savour the beautiful landscape and wildlife.
Invisible to them, however, is a dark side of the park: It has become a dumping ground for bodies of coastal people said to have been abducted and killed by security agents.
Relatives of missing people have now found a place to search for bodies of their loved ones.
“That’s where they are taking our youth after abducting them,” said Amina Kassim in reaction to a Facebook post of a man identified as Adam Mustafa, who was reported missing last week and his body later found in the park.
Four more bodies of people from Kwale County reported missing last year were found at the Makindu Hospital mortuary. Their records show they were found in the Tsavo National Park.
The bodies included those of Juma Said Sarai, Khalfan Linuku Abdalla, Nassir Gatana and Usama Nassir, who went missing between November and December last year.
The men — all from Bongwe village — were abducted by people believed to be police officers, according to witnesses.
Sarai’s body was the first to be found, prompting others to visit Makindu Hospital.
The bodies had signs of torture, including burns, gagging and strangulation, according to Haki Africa director Hussein Khalid.
“Some of them had their hands and legs restrained with ropes. Others had clothes stuffed in their mouths. They had burns and their legs were broken,” Mr Khalid said.
A day after the recovery, two more were found in the park. According to police reports, the bodies had multiple injuries and their hands were tied behind their backs.
In December, another body identified as that of John Ogolla was also found in the park.
Ogolla was reported missing on December 14 and his body found in Voi by relatives three days later.
The recovery of the seven bodies came even as the Nation learnt of four other unidentified bodies lying at the Makindu mortuary.
Six bodies were found in the park last March, prompting protests by activists. They were taken to Nairobi for post-mortem, but the results were not released to the public.
The families of the victims claimed police were behind the abductions and killings.
Investigations by the Nation show that all the victims were male and were linked to criminal activities, including selling narcotics and terrorism.
For instance Ogolla — Dadi to friends and family — was abducted by armed men in Bamburi, Mombasa. It was claimed he was involved in drug dealing in Kisauni, Mombasa.
Sources in Kisauni said that Ogolla ran a second-hand goods shop stocked with stolen merchandise.
“Police raided his shop last April and recovered stolen items. He had become a nuisance to the police. He was reported to have been fuelling gang attacks,” a Kisauni community policing group member told the Nation.
One of Ogolla’s relatives confirmed his involvement in crime.
RULE OF LAW
Meanwhile, security sources told the Nation that the four men from Kwale were abducted and killed over their alleged links to terrorism, claims their families denied.
“My brother has never been arrested over any crime. To link him to terrorism is malicious. Those who abducted him introduced themselves as police officers who know the law,” Mr Ali Mwakubo said of Nassir.
Coast Regional Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss Washington Njiru said every Kenyan has a right to life. Thus, he said, police cannot be part of those killing citizens.
“The Constitution provides for the rights of Kenyans, which we work towards protecting. We’ve heard reports of disappearances and killings, which we are probing,” Mr Njiru said during a recent conference at Sarova Whitesands Hotel organised by Haki Africa.
Last month, Haki Africa released a report dubbed “The State of Human Rights at the Coast”.
According to the report, there were 443 cases of human rights violations in 2019, including killings by the police.
There were 59 killings, 43 of them linked to security officers, 11 to suspected criminal gangs and five through mob lynching.
The report further says that there were 11 disappearances in the region last year.