|Security officers and members of the public at the scene where two mass graves were discovered at Empakasi area in Athi River, Machakos County. [PHOTO: PETERSON GITHAIGA/STANDARD]|
By DANIEL WESANGULA and PETERSON GITHAIGA
Kajiado, Kenya: At least four dead bodies were recovered in mass grave at a disused quarry three kilometres off the Nairobi-Namanga highway on the border of Machakos and Kajiado County on Saturday.
An old man found the bodies, basically bits and pieces of flesh and severed heads, after he followed a hyena and a strong stench of rotting flesh. There were fresh indications that more bodies could be found as the search continues.
On a routine herding in Empakasi area, Simon Soiyale was attracted to a hyena that seemed to have something peculiar between its jaws. On closer inspection, he noticed that the fleshy bone between the scavenger’s jaws resembled something human.
Around it were smaller bones that resembled human fingers.
“Then a stench of rotting flesh hit me and I decided to follow the hyena,” Mzee Soiyale told The Standard on Sunday.
What he discovered resembled a scene straight off a horror movie set. Two mass graves 10 metres apart lay at the bottom of a 10-foot quarry. In one mass grave, four human skulls could be seen protruding from a large boulder the size of half a sack of potatoes. The boulder was like the centerpiece of a macabre painting, surrounded by the peeping skulls.
The tops of the skulls were fleshless and pink, smoothened by the vagaries of nature, pink from the flesh that coated them not so long ago and the endless gnawing form the wild animals and attrition.
Threads of flesh and cloth also protruded from under the large boulder.
All around, lone bones littered the site with stray dogs prancing around attracted by the putrid smell from the decomposing bodies.
The sunken quarry had mounds of soil all around, a perfect place to dispose bodies. Were it to rain, silt would provide the perfect cover and bury with it a heinous crime that residents associate with what has become the elephant in the room among Kitengela residents. Frighteningly, residents say this is not the first incident.
“Just a few metres from here other bodies were dumped,” Soiyale says. He made the gruesome discovery on Friday evening and alerted the police.
As dawn broke in Empakasi on Saturday and the serenity of the undulating windy plains shattered by the news of the discovery, residents huddled in groups, talking in low tones about the fate that befell the buried.
Even as the police cordoned off the area almost 12 hours after the report was made, residents talked of the silent terror slowly spreading in the area as a result of the dreaded Mungiki sect.
“They are among us. Some of those here know the people buried in these graves. . and these are just a few people. If you were to scour this area, you will discover more,” Alex Kinuthia, a boda boda rider, told The Standard on Sunday.
Among those present was a 38-year-old man in search of his younger brother who has been missing since last Sunday. He told The Standard on Sunday that the last time he made contact with his brother, he was on his way to a church service at Maina Njenga’s Hope International Church.
The missing young man of 25 never returned home. His house in Nairobi’s Mbotela estate remains unoccupied and his laundry business unattended. Kennedy, he only gave his first name for fear of his security, had been referred to the graves by the area OCPD on Saturday morning after enquiring about the whereabouts of his younger brother for the umpteenth time.
As he talked of his missing sibling, the ever-present lingering tear on his left eye betrayed his braveness. After a closer look at the skulls, he couldn’t hold back any more and the lone tear ran down his left cheek and onto his chest staining his dusty black shirt.
The thought of his kid brother being among the dead too much to bear.
The quarry is on community land that has changed hands twice. From being communal land, to government land and back to being classified as communal land.
Police officers who spoke on condition of anonymity pointed a finger at the outlawed sect, claiming that some of their colleagues, others in senior positions, are paid to look the other way by the sect leader. Others said the Government is unwilling to deal the Mungiki a final blow.
As the clouds gathered over Empakassi, and dogs continued to hopefully wander around the graves, one truth remained certain among the residents – Mungiki is with us.
But the county administration added a twist to the plot.
Kajiado County Commissioner Laban Kobia explained that the killings were most likely linked to the selling off of East Africa Portland Cement’s land by unscrupulous dealers to gullible buyers. Some of these dealers are thought to be affiliated to Mungiki.
On Sunday May 4, two people were brutally attacked after attending a service in Good Hope Church at Kitengela. The two are said to have been among a group of people who had gone to East African Portland Cement Company’s land bordering Kitengela and Athi River. After attending the church service, the group marched to the area where they engaged in a fight with people said to be their rivals. The clash left two people dead.
The next morning, a gang of about 60 people with pangas, clubs and metal bars, alleged to be on a revenge mission, went door-to-door looking for people they claimed were involved in the killing of their friends. Four people, who are said to be behind the killing on May 4, were attacked.
A Mungiki splinter group opposed to Maina Njenga’s tenure and led by his brother, is said to have been behind the May 4 attacks.
“It is only last week when one group of the brokers came to my office and claimed that their rivals were targeting them for elimination… this is most likely related but we will do a thorough investigations,” said Kobia.
He said his office had received several missing person complaints by Kitengela residents.
He, however, asked any resident with any information related to the killings to offer it to the police.
Even as the government official waited for an exhumation order to be issued, one young man at the scene said there were more graves in the government land, but the young man was reluctant to volunteer more information.
Two mutilated bodies have been found metres from the scene over the past month, further fueling fears that the area could be a dumping ground for bodies.
“It is unfortunate that people are slaughtering each other like animals. This area has been very peaceful for many years but since they came to Kitengela, it has become a hell. These people and their church need to be dealt with once and for all,” area elder Daniel Kanchori said.
For him, and several others, only one group of people can be blamed.
At 6pm yesterday, five hours after the crime scene had been cordoned off, the County Commissioner ordered the gathered crowd to disperse. After the police assured residents that all was under control, they finally walked away murmuring.
Some out of anger of suffering another night of not knowing where their loved ones are. Others out of the fear that is slowly growing amongst them. While many more as a result of both anger and fear.
Additional reporting by Jacob Ng’etich