Gangsters visited terror on a market in Vihiga County over the weekend, killing five guards in what residents suspect was a well-planned murder mission.
Kilingili residents woke up to the sight of the bodies of four of the guards in different parts of the market yesterday. They all had head injuries. The fifth guard succumbed to injuries in hospital.
All five were aged 60 and above, and were guarding shops. The gangsters also broke into the shops, but stole nothing.
The spotlight is now on the police, with leaders and residents questioning why the security officers from the Kilingili Police Post, just 50 metres away, did not rescue the guards.
The gang then moved to the nearby Ilungu market and injured two other guards.
The family of Mr Thomas Lusiolo, 70, said he had confided in them that he had received death threats at his place of work.
His daughter, Ms Jane Minao, and sons Stephen and Caleb Minao, said their father received a death threat last Tuesday.
However, the two did not say whether their father received the threats on phone or whether someone threatened him in person. Mr Lusiola did not report the threats to the police.
“My father had worked as a guard in Kilingili for more than 10 years. On Tuesday, he told us he had been threatened at work, and that he had informed his boss,” Ms Minao said. “The threats were repeated on Friday.”
The other victims are Mr Linus Anyika, 68, Mr Francis Jojo Osayo, 65, Mr John Ondachi, 63, and Charles Kalume, 60, who died at Mbale Hospital.
Vihiga County Commander Hassan Barua confirmed the killings, as the residents accused police of sleeping on the job.
Sabatia MP Alfred Agoi, in whose constituency the killings took place, demanded that Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i overhaul the county security.
Area residents protested at runaway insecurity and asked top security officers to act. They accused the local police station of failing to help them.
They claimed the officers at the station told them that the area is not within the jurisdiction of the Kilingili Police Station.
Mr Caleb Minao said his father had been complaining about insecurity at the market. “They [guards] informed the police, but no action was taken,” he said.
Vihiga Deputy Governor Patrick Saisi described the situation as “sorry”.
“I came here to find out whether what I heard was true. What I have seen is tragic, yet we have a police station close to the scene. I will meet the senior police officers and make some enquiries,” Dr Saisi said, even as Mr Agoi accused police in Kilingili for failing to respond to distress calls.
“The police station is just 50 metres from the scene of the incident. Our people have been killed. I demand the replacement of officers at the station,” he said.
He said the area had been rocked by insecurity and asked the local administration to establish a county enforcement unit to beef up security. The MP added that he will help meet the funeral costs.
Kakamega County Commissioner Abdinuzak Jaldesa and his Vihiga counterpart, Mrs Susan Waweru, led senior officers to the murder scene, where they held a meeting, even as the bodies remained uncollected for hours.
They vowed to ensure that changes are made at the local police station.
Mr Jaldesa described the incident as horrific. He said he visited the scene because it is on the border of Kakamega and Vihiga counties.
He called on the local community to remain calm and assured them that action would be taken.
“We will pursue those involved in this brutal murder. We will address insecurity,” he promised.
Meanwhile, Mrs Waweru acknowledged that the residents had informed them that some of the victims had received death threats.
“We heard that some people had warned others that they would kill them. Investigations will be done. We call on the people to remain peaceful and give any information that might help in the investigations,” she said.