UoN law student, kin mistaken for motorcycle thieves, lynched

Samuel Odemba, the University of Nairobi law student who was killed in Mtopanga, Mombasa, alongside his cousin after they were suspected of stealing a motorbike. [Mkamburi Mwawasi, Standard.]
A University of Nairobi student and his cousin were on Sunday night lynched in Mombasa after they were reportedly mistaken for thieves.

The 26-year-old Samuel Odemba, a student at the Mombasa campus, had completed his law degree course and was expected to graduate in December.

Reports indicate that Odemba was killed alongside his cousin Kennedy Onyango at a petrol station in Mtopanga, Kisauni.

The two had been drinking at a local bar, and went for a motorcycle said to have been parked next to theirs when they were done.

Benard Omondi, Odemba’s brother, said the latter and their cousin went for the wrong bike because they were too drunk.

“I was told my brother mistook another person’s bike for his, as they were identical. It was while he was struggling to start it that residents thought they were thieves and started beating them,” Omondi said.

Their attackers descended on them with stones and machetes before setting them on fire. Their bodies were burnt beyond recognition.

A distraught Omondi called on police to investigate the death of his brother and cousin and take action against the killers.

“I received a call around 1am. I was told my brother and cousin were being beaten up. I was so heartbroken when I got to the scene. I could not save them. They were burning when I arrived, and there was nothing I could do,” he said.

Omondi described his brother, the last born in a family of five, as obedient, hardworking and focused.

Violent crime

Mtopanga is notorious for violent crime, and residents often lynch thieves.

On Saturday night, James Akunava, a Form Four student, was killed as he returned from a tuition class. His death has been blamed on a local vigilante group.

County police boss Johnson Ipara said they were investigating the killings and warned residents against taking the law into their hands.

“I am calling on residents to stop attacking suspects. Some of those killed are innocent,” Ipara said.

Hussein Khalid, the executive director of human rights group Haki Africa, condemned the killings and urged police to bring those involved to book. “I call on the police to investigate, arrest and prosecute the culprits,” Khalid said.

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Mistaken IdentityLynchingKennedy OnyangoSamuel Odemba