By Wainaina Ndungâu
On the night of April 20-21, 2009, a suspected Mungiki gang murdered 29 people in Gathaithi and Kiangumara villages, Mathira West District in one of the most horrendous massacres in Kenya.
A Nyeri based journalist who was among the first to arrive in the picturesque tea growing villages on the border of Kirinyaga and Nyeri County said the scene was scary.
"Bodies lay on narrow village paths, necks twisted or slit and many heinous wounds all over the bloodied bodies. You didnât want to look at a victim twice. More distressing was the sight of panic-stricken villagers, tears streaming down their faces, moving around in circles trying to identify the dead," recalled the journalist.
By the time the regional security and intelligence officers belatedly appeared on the scene in the early hours of the morning, information had already filtered that those killed had been woken up from their sleep, dragged from their houses and hacked to death with axes, pangas and machetes.
Witnesses said a gang of young men armed with crude weapons roamed Gathaithi-Kiangumara and Kiaruhiu villages between midnight and 2am committing the massacre.
All those killed were men. One of the victims was burned to death when the gang set ablaze the house he was sleeping in. It appeared that the killer gang had moved into the area in vans and quickly made their escape after committing these most heinous killings as the Government slept.
It later transpired that the killings may have been on revenge of a string of other killings organised by vigilantes targeting members of the Mungiki in Kagumo market and Kerugoya town, Kirinyaga County.
Villagers fed up with the extortionist ways of Mungiki and government desperation to offer protection had organised themselves into vigilantes and taken on the dreaded criminal gang. It was a bloody war which took over 100 lives and wounded many others.
In the end, however, Kirinyaga County perhaps became the only place in Central Kenya where the Mungiki would think twice before planning a mission.