Family devastated by death of Tharaka Nithi boda boda boss

Purity Karimi, the mother of the slainTharaka Nithi Boda Boda Association boss Willis Mugambi. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

The streets of Chuka town in Tharaka Nithi County are still in disarray following violent protests that led to the death of Willis Mugambi, popularly known as Kiraku.

Mugambi was shot dead a few weeks to the day he was to pay dowry to the family of the mother of his two daughters, in his quest to formalise the relationship.

Firefighters spent the better part of Easter Monday hosing down, soot and burnt tyres off the streets of main highways as an uneasy calm returned to the town.

Mugambi was the chairman of Tharaka Nithi Boda Boda Association and his killing over the weekend occurred when boda boda operators were protesting the death of a local trader, Mr Daniel Mutembei.

The conflict between the boda boda operators and police escalated, with the latter lamenting constant harassment.

His colleagues said Mugambi died during a confrontation pitting the police and the operators on Saturday as he tried to calm down his colleagues.

“He was not even among the operators who were demonstrating but was summoned to calm his colleagues. He came, and as he struggled to contain his angry colleagues, he was shot in the back and died,” said an operator who did not want to be named, fearing for his own safety.

When The Standard visited the area yesterday, preparations for his funeral were underway at his home in Kariakor village Chuka, Igamba Ngombe Constituency.

Slain Boda Boda Operators Association leader Willis Mugambi.

His cousin Fridah Gatwiri was one of the demonstrators in Chuka town when Mugambi was shot.

They were demonstrating with the body of Mutembei, and the police wanted them to release the body, but the crowd refused.

“In the end, the police got the body, but then the police started throwing teargas at us, and then we heard gunshots,” she said.


Amid the confusion, they scampered for safety. And once it cleared, they discovered Mugambi lying on the ground. “Though I was overwhelmed with teargas, I went on my knees and crawled to him thinking he was also overwhelmed, only for us to discover he had been shot. We rushed him to the hospital,” she said.

Gatwiri explained that Mutembei owned a weighing machine in Chuka town, which he charged people Sh10 to weigh themselves. “I have known him in town for 15 years. We just wanted justice for him, and now want justice for my ‘brother’ Mugambi,” she said.

She said though the people in Chuka did not know Mutembei’s family, they wanted justice for him after he was killed in unclear circumstances.

His family and friends yesterday recounted the last moments of the 30-year-old who was planning to formalise his marriage with dowry negotiations slated for May 11 this year.

Mugambi’s widow Christine Mwende,27, was visibly distraught by the killing, which robbed her of the father of her two daughters.

“I do not know how I will survive this, we started dating years ago, and now my daughters aged eight and three are fatherless,” she said. Mwende recounted how she received news of Mugambi’s shooting, as he tried to calm a group of youths in the town.

Tharaka Nithi Firefighters cleaning a street in Chuka town following the demonstrations on Saturday. [File, Standard]

“He had called me around 5.50pm to say he was about to leave for home. Then I got another call and was told he had been shot. I rushed there and found him sprawled on the ground,” she recounted. She called to him, but he was unresponsive, warm to her touch, his life slowly seeping away. “I hoped and prayed he was alive, and we rushed him to the hospital only for the doctors to break the bad news that he was already dead,” she said.

As she spoke outside their incomplete house that the young couple moved into recently to save on rent in town, Mwende said she and her daughters wanted justice. “The doctors said he died instantly, that he would not have survived from the gunshot wound,” Mwende whispered.

His mother, Purity Karimi, was teary as she mourned her firstborn, whom she described as God-fearing and hardworking, committed to the well-being of his parents, children and friends.

Young children

She fainted upon arriving at the scene of the murder and seeing his lifeless body. Karimi said the death could have been bearable had he succumbed to an illness, adding that it was unacceptable to know he had been felled by a human being. “Now, I am mourning my son and pained because he has a wife and young children. I have left everything to God and pray for justice,” said Karimi.

Eleseus Munene, the uncle, said Mugambi was a friendly, hardworking gentleman. The family wants the government to find Mugambi’s killers and serve them justice. Yesterday, Tharaka Nithi County Police Commander Donatha Rhiga said investigations into the incident had commenced.