Killer gangs rain fear, terror on boda boda men in Busia town

David Odhiambo and his wife Rose Atieno hold the portrait of their son, Bernard Ochieng, who was killed and his motorcycle stolen. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

The family of Bernard Ochieng who hails from Burumba Map Clinic in Busia town is still mourning his untimely death.

Ochieng, 29, was butchered in cold blood last Thursday by unknown assailants and his motorcycle stolen.

“The last time I saw my son alive was on Wednesday afternoon in town. We had a lengthy discussion with him and agreed that we meet the following day (Thursday) at home to sort out the issue he had,” said David Odhiambo, his father.

Odhiambo recounted how he received a call from the deceased’s younger brother informing him that he did not return home as expected.

“A few minutes later, a rider knocked at my door and broke the news of his death. The rider informed us that my son’s lifeless body had been found in an open field some 200 metres from my house and his motorcycle had been stolen,” said Odhiambo.

“We rushed to the scene and found my son lying in a pool of blood. There were nails hammered into his skull while his cheeks had been slashed and the eyes gouged out,” narrated the crestfallen father.

According to Odhiambo, the same day his son was killed, another rider had been murdered in cold blood around Busia airstrip, and his motorcycle stolen.

“Boda boda business is now a death trap. My eldest son just escaped death by a whisker after he was accosted by strangers who first posed as passengers,” said Odhiambo, adding that were it not for fellow riders who were behind him, he would be dead by now.

The incident happened a year ago and the son spent over six months at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret undergoing specialized treatment.

The gang, whose members are said to be between 15 and 25 years old, strikes often, leaving behind a trail of death and pain in its wake.

The gang targets Bajaj Boxer motorcycles. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The gang has killed at least eight people and injured 50 others in the last one month, with Ochieng being the latest victim. The county has at least 60,000 riders, with about 6,000 riders in Busia town.

According to residents, those killed are mainly from Matayos, Teso South and Teso North constituencies as well as Uganda.

The gang often leaves a common calling card; bodies with tongues, genitals, and eyes ripped out.

Bodies of the victims are later dumped beside the road, in thickets, or maize plantations. Those who have survived the savage attacks have been left nursing life-threatening injuries.

Others who have allegedly been killed by the dreaded gang are Emmanuel Ekisa who was killed at Burumba forest, Samuel Ong’ala who was found murdered in Segero area and David Ochieng whose body was discovered near Breeze hotel.

Steve Sande’s body was found in Bugengi area next to St Francis Morgue, Ken Muguere was found dead around powerhouse area, while John Bukwa’s body was dumped at Ojamong’ bridge. Emmanuel Olubai has been missing for the last 11 days and his family fears the worst.

But Busia County Commissioner Kipchumba Rutto has maintained that only two riders have been killed and their motorcycles stolen in the last one month and not eight as indicated by the riders and residents.

“I am only aware of two incidents, one at the airstrip and the other one in Teso South of riders who have been killed and no one has been arrested in connection to the two incidents,” Mr Rutto told The Saturday Standard.

Busia County Commissioner Kipchumba Rutto. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

He said police have intensified security patrols in the area.

Boniface Okumu, the Busia County boda boda chairman, said the gang targets Bajaj Boxer motorcycles.

“Of all the deaths reported, the owners were having motorcycles that were purchased on loan from credit organisations,” he said.

Okumu believes that some creditors could be colluding with criminals who track the motorbikes they sold to the riders and stealing them.

“When the motorcycle is stolen, the tracker is removed immediately. This tells you that its a well-coordinated attack,” said Okumu, adding that criminals target motorcycles whose owners are in the final stages of clearing their loans. In the case of Ochieng, he purchased his motorcycle a month ago on credit.

Charles Juma, the vice chairman of Busia boda boda riders said sometimes the attackers use women who pose as passengers and upon arriving at their destination, the rider is ambushed and killed.

Teso South MP Mary Emase lamented that despite the many deaths that have been reported, security officials seem to have turned a blind eye to the matter.

Ms Emase, who spoke during a security meeting with Mr Rutto, also alleged that besides stealing the motorcycles from the riders, the gang was conducting ritualistic killings.

“We are experiencing sporadic attacks targeting boda boda riders and deaths have been reported. The same manner in which they are killed points to cultism,” said Emase, adding that in all the cases reported, their motorcycles are missing.

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