Residents' agony as 20 killed in reign of terror, police on the spot

John Monyo. His left hand was chopped off by the killer gang on December 23, 2023. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

Residents of Luanda and Emuhaya sub-counties in Vihiga County have been having sleepless nights due to rising insecurity.

The residents are grappling with a gang that has been waging a reign of terror in the area for months now, leaving a trail of death and pain in its wake.

Usually, the victims are either shot dead and sometimes, they are butchered in a ritualistic fashion. In most cases, nothing is stolen from the victims after the attacks.

Despite the sporadic attacks, the police always say it is a normal crime, despite residents’ fear that the attacks are the work of terror groups such as 42 brothers, Msumbiji and Moja Kwisha.

Those who have survived attacks tell the story of young men high on alcohol and drugs who have no mercy on their victims.

Whenever it has struck, the gang, whose members are said to be between the ages of 15 and 25 has left behind a common calling card: bodies with tongues, genitals, and eyes ripped out.

The recent spate of killings is reminiscent of similar ones that saw over 20 people killed in 2019.

They included six night guards who were killed in cold blood at Kilingili market in Emuhaya Sub County. 42 brothers was directly linked to killings.

“These can’t be ordinary criminals going by the manner they beastly and gustily kill boda boda riders,” said John Olenya, the secretary general of Luanda Boda Boda Association.

Mr Olenya said eight boda boda riders have been killed and 30 motorcycles stolen in the last five months.

“On December 11 last year, a boda boda was killed after his head was hit with a blunt object to pulp. We buried him on January 3, and on that night, three other riders were killed in cold blood and their bodies dumped near a police station,” said Olenya

He said that their mobile phones and motorcycles were stolen.

Olenya said they hardly worked past 8pm even as police promised to deal with the gang.

Newton Kwameh, Luanda sub county community policing chairman, blamed security chiefs for not acting on intelligence reports.

Bill Imende (second right), Newton Kwameh (right) and John Olenya at the graveside of the late Kennedy Ochingwa. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

“It’s dangerous to be outside by 8 am, even Nyumba Kumi members have been killed with chiefs and their assistants being threatened by the criminals,” said Kwameh 

John Monyo, brother to Vihiga County Assembly Speaker Chris Omulele, met with the assailants on December 23 last year, at the gate of Mumboha Primary School while going home around 9.45pm.

“I saw a group of five people holding torches in their hands, forcing me to stop. I greeted them but none of them answered back. I alighted from the motorcycle and started running,” said Monyo, adding after a few metres, he slipped and fell down’.

He said one of them wielding a sharp panga arrived wanting to cut his neck. He shielded himself with the left arm which was chopped off completely.

“They then rained on me with kicks and blows and thought I had died. The gang leader ransacked me, took away the motorcycle key and Sh900 I had in my pocket and escaped using my motorcycle,” said Monyo

“I was saved by a Good Samaritan who came after the incident and took me to the hospital. I am lucky to be alive today though I will spend the rest of my life without my left hand.”

Kennedy Ochingwa alias ‘Mcoast’ met his untimely death on January 3 this year, and left behind a widow and a six-month-old baby.

His body was found dumped next to a mosque near Itumbu Primary School.

According to Pastor Bill Imende, the uncle, one of his eyes had been gouged out, his tongue ripped off and also had deep cuts on the chest, forehead and back.

“We fear following up the cases for fear of victimisation and retaliatory attacks by the gang. We are just on our own and the security apparatus have gone quiet as if nothing happened,” he said.

Shem Omoko, 38, who hails from Ebusakami Ebumbeya village, was killed around 7.30pm at Mombasa estate on December 11 last year, some 500 metres from his homestead.

He was a boda boda rider and the vice chairman of Ebusakami community policing committee in Luanda Southward. According to the widow, Dinah Aono, her husband brought them supper and went back to the market, to ferry his customers, who are mainly traders, then retire to bed.

“After an hour, I received a phone call and was informed that a lifeless body of someone who resembles my husband had been found by the roadside,” said Ms Aono, adding: “I informed my mother-in-law and rushed to the scene.”

Ms Aono said the assailants stole his mobile phone but strangely, his brand-new motorcycle was not stolen.

“My husband was hit by a metallic object on the left side of the head and broke the skull into two. He died on the spot as a result of excessive bleeding,” said the mother of four children.

Shem Omoko's widow Dinah Aono. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

Munala Kachia Ong’ondo, 71, the deceased’s father, said no one has been arrested in connection to his killing, adding he is not sure if investigations are still on but he desired to see justice done.

 “He was the sole breadwinner and his killers have left a huge burden on the family because their children are school going and his wife is jobless. The eldest of the four is in Junior Secondary,” said Mr Ong’ondo

Benson Olubala Maina, 21, from Ebulonga Esiamarwi, was among three boda boda riders who were killed on January 3 and their bodies dumped in the outskirts of Luanda town by the roadside.

He left behind his wife was still recuperating after undergoing a caesarean section when giving birth three weeks earlier.  According to his grandmother, Mary Agneta Mochi, he had deep cuts on the forehead and back, his spinal cord had been severed, and his motorcycle was stolen after the incident.

“His death has had a great impact on his grandfather who he was named after. He has lost his memory completely. The deceased used to help him so much but now that he is no more, everything has changed,” said Ms Agneta

David Onjiri, Luanda Township MCA, attributed the insecurity in the area to unemployment, laziness and drugs.

Onjiri said some were killed for revealing those behind the killings.

Luanda MP Dick Maungu claimed the police collude with criminals.

 “I have got information that some of the police officers are leasing their uniforms and guns to terrorise our people, and if that is the case we need to have them kicked out of this town,” said Maungu, adding: “If you kill by the sword you deserve to die by the sword.”

Mr Maungu said the majority of the officers spent time in chang’aa drinking dens collecting bribes.

According to Vihiga County Commissioner Felix Watakila about 15 people have been killed in cold blood between December 11 and January 31.

“The main suspect has been identified as ‘Fire Mama’ and she is believed to be behind the killings of bodaboda riders. She is on the run but we are tracing her. Whenever we want to raid her home, some unscrupulous police officers inform her then she goes into hiding,” said Watakila

He went on:  “It’s unfortunate that our security officers are also abetting crime by hiding criminals and leaking intelligence reports to them. We shall deal with them accordingly as per the law. Our chiefs and their assistants are also to blame for the escalating insecurity in Luanda.”

Watakila said 20 officers have already been transferred and more will go for abetting crime, several people have also been arrested in connection to the killings.

 [Report by Nathan Ochunge, Brian Kisanji and Mary Imenza]