Nothing hurts a family like the death of one of their own. Nothing disturbs a parent like their apparent failure to protect their child. Nothing should prick a society’s conscience like the inability to protect lives of its children. A country that cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens is one that should have an urgent meeting with itself to re-examine its own relevance. Kenya has reached that moment.
ONLY A CHILD
It’s not just the government. It’s not just the elected leaders. It’s not just members of Nyumba Kumi. It is the country, each and every person who resides in the geographical entity that is Kenya should attend this meeting with self.
The picture of one Miriam Kaluki holding a picture of her son Malik Murunga that appeared in Wednesday’s issue of the Daily Nation is one every adult dreads. Though it happens quite often, all parents hope that their children would not die in their lifetime. Parents hope they will be the ones to be buried by their offspring and not the other way round.
Miriam’s case is sadder. Her son did not just die. He was killed. Slaughtered!
Reports indicate that neighbours stumbled on the dying seven-year-old Murunga in an unfinished house next to his parents’ home on Sunday evening. He was lying “limp on the cold floor with visible injuries on his neck and stomach. His insides were popping out of his belly and there was a gashing wound on the neck.” Beside him was a kitchen knife, probably, the weapon used to kill him. Though he was still alive when the neigbhours discovered him, the injuries inflicted on him were too grave. He died a few minutes later.
The mother, who at the time of the murder was praying at a nearby mosque, cannot fathom just why her son was killed, and in such a gruesome way. Neither can I! The Grade One pupil could not have hurt anyone so much to prompt such a reaction.
Malik’s killing is the latest in what has become a trend in Matungu, a constituency in Kakamega County of Western Kenya. He is the 21st victim of what newspapers have labelled the killing fields of Matungu. Twenty-one is the official number of casualties over a two-month period, rumours in the villages put the number higher. A few leaders, including a former Cabinet Secretary who hails from the area, the local member of the National Assembly and the local Senator, have since been arrested and released. A handful other suspected killers are facing charges in court. But the killings continue.
In the ensuing uproar, various theories have been advanced in an attempt to explain the cause of this seemingly organised slaughter of helpless villagers. Political supremacy, sheer crime, poverty, the collapse of Mumias Sugar factory as well as human sacrifice and ritual killings have been advanced as possible motives. Whichever of these is, indeed, the motive, we as a society must move with speed to curtail the means and opportunity that enables the criminals to continue taking away the lives of our people.
To begin with, the police as agents of the government whose main reason of existence is to protect lives, must up their game as a matter of urgency. They have been accused of loitering in the market centres as criminals kill with abandon in the villages. Police officers need to be where the people they are protecting are, inside the villages.
Secondly, the government should bring on board everyone with the capacity to help. Village elders and the Nyumba Kumi leaders have complained of being sidelined. You can’t win this war if you don't work with the victims!
While at it, the police must be given tools to do their job. A story was written where the local police division did not have a single moving vehicle and had to call the county headquarters, some hundreds of kilometres away, requesting for means of transport when a report of an attack was made. How now?
Importantly, the people must learn to work in their own interest by providing information to the law enforcers. Most of the attackers are people known to the villagers and depend on the local community for essential support systems. The people should stop their apparent apathy towards security agencies and start telling on their potential killers. Granted, the fear that rotten apples in the administration may sell the informers out to the criminals is real but, as it stands, the killers kill all the same. After all, it is not possible that Malik said anything to anyone about the killers that triggered his own killing!
Finally, there comes a time when to maintain the law, temporarily suspending it becomes an inevitable option. Matungu has reached a point where a state of emergency should be declared. It makes a lot of sense to sacrifice the freedoms of a few suspects, limit individual spaces and save lives.
Michael Cherambos comments on topical issues. [email protected]