Police have trained their guns on one woman believed to have been at the centre of the Tuesday terror attack at the DusitD2 hotel in Nairobi.
Where is Violet Kemunto Omwoyo, the widow of Ali Salim Gichunge? Was she the financier of the 14 Riverside attack? Was she the planner? Did she recruit her husband into the barbaric act in which more than 21 people died?
How could a young woman who cut the image of the average Nairobi girl and who, according to accounts, was a kind, friendly, calm person suddenly turn into an extremist?
Detectives are mulling over these questions that continue to haunt Kenyans. Investigators Friday stormed into the house in which she lived with Ali Salim Gichunge to find out answers.
Whereas reports earlier this week indicated that the police had arrested her, the mystery further deepened Friday when she was not among the five suspects presented in court in connection with the attack.
Since Tuesday, Kemunto has become one of the most wanted women in the world with investigations being launched into the places she has visited and extending to her friends and relatives living in various places in Kenya, the US, Turkey, Uganda and Somalia where it is believed she might have travelled to after she disappeared in the period between 2016 and 2018.
On Friday, the Saturday Nation spotted about 30 officers camping at house number E7 in Guango Estate, Kiambu, where she lived with her husband.
The number of police officers and the kind of equipment they carried, which included specialised forensics investigation gear, pointed to the residence being the important clue to solving the Dusit attack.
The officers, stationed in various parts of the expansive estate, said they had orders to eject, if need be violently, anyone who came close to the house including journalists.
The kind of force present at her residence proved that solving how a university graduate who, as recently as 2016, enjoyed partying in the clubs of Kisii town, was complex.
Whatever happened to Kemunto is a question that her friends and relatives want answered.
In June 2016, Kemunto travelled to Kisii to visit her relatives. During the visit, she met a couple of friends and relatives with whom she took pictures and posted on various social media platforms.
While in Kisii, Kemunto went about her routine without the normal Muslim dressing of a buibui.
During that time, Kemunto was using Violet Omwoyo as her Facebook name.
In October 2016, she changed her Facebook name to Didgesupuu Omwoyo. Friends say the name ‘Didge’ in Didgesupuu is a short version of her Islamic name, Khadija, while ‘Supuu’ is slang for ‘beautiful’.
After that, Kemunto went under. “We don’t know where she went to. She disappeared and spoke to no one,” one of her sisters said.
Not only had she physically cut links with friends and family, but she also changed her Facebook name from Didgesupuu Omwoyo to Didgesupuu Faruq.
Then she disappeared.
In 2018, she returned and announced she was marrying Ali Salim Gichunge, the man who neighbours said was among the terrorists captured on CCTV at the Dusit attack.
Before the Dusit attack, her childhood friend Issa Musa told the Saturday Nation that Kemunto had lived with her husband for about a year.
According to the friend, the couple put up a Facebook post announcing the sale of all their household goods in Muchatha as they were moving to a recently completed house in Ruai.
“We were supposed to attend the house warming party for the new house next month,” the relative said.
Kemunto was born in Ruai into a family of six — four sisters and two brothers. Her father, who died 14 years ago, was a Kalenjin while her mother is Gusii. Her brothers live in the US.
After the death of her father, their mother, who runs a shop in Ruai, remarried.
Kemunto’s was a normal Muslim family, although not very religious. They were known for missing prayers and avoiding the mosque and madrasas.
Her mother tried to force them to adopt names that were not necessarily Muslim. This is how Kemunto came to be known as Violet Kemunto Omwoyo.
Kemunto studied at Muslim Girls Secondary School before joining Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in the year 2010.
After graduating in 2015 with a degree in journalism and public relations, she moved back to Nairobi and rented her own house in Ngumba estate off Thika Road.
At some point she worked at a phone shop in downtown Nairobi before she started importing electronics, jewellery and cell phones, mostly from the US.
During this period, she lived like a regular Nairobi woman. Some of the Facebook groups that she joined and often participated in included Kilimani Mums and Dads, Kisii Mums and Dads and Ngumba Times, an estate group.
Kemunto’s Instagram and Facebook profiles indicate a woman with a taste for expensive items.
“Mrs to a Mr F., God fearing, Allah first, Business Minded, PEACE,” Her Instagram profile reads.