The wave of killings in Matungu in Mumias sub-county, Kakamega County, continues unabated weeks later. Families continue to lose their loved ones in circumstances they cannot explain.
Early this year, six security guards were murdered at Kilingili market on the Kakamega-Vihiga counties border. Last week, a security guard in Maraba Estate on the outskirts of Kakamega town was killed by thugs.
Yet even as these killings continue, law enforcement officers appear to be out of depth in containing the situation. No arrests have been made; instead, the public is treated to the now all too familiar line; “investigations are underway”.
It should be made clear to law enforcement agencies that such hollow assurances, while civilians continue to lose their lives and live in fear, will no longer wash. Deliberate and decisive action must be taken to stem the killings.
A lot has been invested in the police through numerous reforms and the provision of work related stores to facilitate their working.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations must bring its expertise to bear, for it is on its ability to gather intelligence that the mission to stop criminals making life unbearable and a nightmare in Matungu will succeed.
So far, 20 killings have been confirmed in Matungu. Of these, 13 were killed by members of gangs calling themselves 42 Brothers and 14 Brothers. Seven others were lynched on suspicion of being members of the gangs, but the story being told on the ground is different.
While some of the killings are linked to land disputes; in which case both parties are known, there is a general consensus among the citizenry, and which the police chiefs in the area have corroborated, that these marauding killer gangs are in the employ of local politicians who seek to intimidate each other ahead of the 2022 elections. This type of callousness stands condemned.
A recent meeting of security chiefs in Matungu confirmed they had names of politicians suspected to be the main financiers of the gangs, but they were yet to gather enough evidence to arrest them. In truth, this is applying double standards and can only succeed in fuelling speculation which, in any case, is rife.
Ordinary citizens suspected of wrong doing hardly ever benefit from such police rationalisation. They get to prove their innocence from police cells after days, even months of sluggish investigations.
Blame has been apportioned to local leaders, especially the chiefs, their assistants and local policemen. Some residents claim this cadre of leaders operate in cahoots with the criminals who are well known to them. There could be an element of truth in this, for it is inconceivable that criminals who live among us can operate with such impunity in a given area for so long without authorities knowing who they are.
Unless there is good reason for it, citizens among whom the killers live and those to whom the killers are related would not hesitate to volunteer information to law enforcers. In Matungu, however, those interviewed by the media say it is suicidal to do so.
Unscrupulous leaders colluding with the criminals report informers to them and in the end, they become targets of the criminals. Speculation is rife that some of those who were lynched had nothing to do with the murderous gangs; that they reported the criminals and got betrayed.
The gangs are said to operate within the ranks of boda boda riders. By day, they pretend to be earning an honest living while in reality they use the opportunity to scout and identify victims.
It behooves the police to go through the ranks of riders with a fine toothcomb to separate criminals from those doing an honest day’s work.
And because local police officers are under suspicion for colluding with the criminals, Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai should consider deploying new officers to the area to give impetus to the fight against the gangs.
Where involvement by local administrators in the commitment of these heinous acts is established, stern action should be taken.