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Probe on after land activist is found dead

By Boniface Gikandi | August 30th 2019

An activist who championed for land rights in Muthini village has been found dead two days after she disappeared.

The body of Esther Mwikali, 57, was discovered on Tuesday dumped in a farm near her homestead.

A search party went looking for her after she failed to turn up for a village meeting. Her eyes had been gouged out and sticks inserted into her private parts.

Besides Ms Mwikali's body was a huduma namba slip and an Identity Card belonging to a man. The search party at first thought the documents belonged to her attacker.

However, when they looked around, a few metres away from Mwikali's body, they found the man lying unconscious with an empty bottle of an unidentified chemical near him.

He died a few minutes later without revealing what had happened.

Mwikali had been working with civil society groups that have been investigating abuses meted out to squatters living on parcels of land claimed by some tycoons.

James Mburu, a spokesperson for the squatters, said Mwikali's husband Moses Wambua fled to Kiambu town after he was threatened by unknown people.

His family had earlier been evicted from their land.

“We associate Mwikali's death with land struggles around here. We are asking the Government to investigate the matter without delay,” said Mr Mburu.

Mr Wambua returned home on Wednesday after he received information about his wife's death.

Speaking on phone, Wambua said his wife was a crusader who championed for the rights of the landless.

Activists in Murang’a led by Alice Karanja of the National Coalition of Human Right Defenders blamed Mwikali's death on increased insecurity in Makuyu.

“Action should be taken on individuals who are alleged to have threatened the squatters including Mwikali's family,” said Ms Karanja.

Murang'a South Sub-county Police Commander Dorothy Gaitange said Mwikali could have been raped before she was murdered.

Ms Gaitange said a postmortem examination will be conducted to help in the investigations. She also appealed to the public to provide information that could help police arrest the culprits.

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