How a gang of ten is terrorising residents of Mt Elgon

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. [Photo: Courtesy]

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Lands counterpart Farida Karoney will today visit the troubled Mt Elgon region.

The visit follows a wave of crime in the area for the last two weeks. One victim of the violence is anxiously awaiting the dignitaries, whom she hopes will help her find the head of her husband who was killed by a gang last week.

The two Cabinet secretaries are visiting the volatile region following a directive by Deputy President William Ruto who visited the area on Sunday after a night of terror left 10 people dead.

The husband of 29-year-old Phemi Chebet was among those killed.

Speaking to The Standard, Chebet, said her husband was killed by two assailants armed with an AK-47 rifles.

“They shot my husband in the chest at close range and then chopped off his head. They then put his head in a bag they were carrying and ran away with it,” she said.

“I am appealing to the Government to help me get the head of my husband so that we can bury his full corpse. In our tradition, you cannot bury your husband without his head,” Chebet said.

The mother of five said the mortuary bill is rising steeply and appealed to well-wishers to help the family offset it.

She also wondered why police officers, including those from the General Service Unit (GSU) who are on the ground are unable to contain the senseless acts by the dreaded gang. 

29-year-old Phemi Chebet said the attackers killed her husband Jamin Cheror, accusing him of being an ‘Oloibon’ who had predicted end to their evil activities. [Photo: Duncan Ocholla]

“If the police could have responded on time, my husband would be alive today. The assailants took more than 30 minutes at the homestead wrestling with my husband,” she said, sobbing.

Chebet said the attackers killed her husband Jamin Cheror, accusing him of being an ‘Oloibon’ who had predicted end to their evil activities.

“My husband is not even an Oloibon and the assailants said he has been ruining their plans for so long and they had to finish him,” she said.

Cheror’s father, Joseph Saulo, said the gang attacked his son’s home and descended on him using machetes at about 10pm.

Killed two

Mr Saulo said his son defended himself with a machete and killed two of the assailants in the process. The others, however, regrouped and came back for him.

He said his son confronted his attackers when he heard gunshots outside the house.

The father noted that when the gang realised two of their colleagues had been killed, the gangsters summoned their accomplices who were terrorising another homestead and together made their way to Cheror's house, beheaded him and took the head with them. 

Saulo said the assailants in their anger then proceeded to slash six cows  in the homestead.

He said the attackers also slashed open sacks of maize spilling their contents all over the house and later made away with Sh5,000. Cheror was the chairman of Nyumba Kumi Initiative.

The attacks have rekindled memories of Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF), a militia which killed and maimed people for years.

Residents of region are worried that SLDF could be re-grouping but leaders and security chiefs maintain the militia is a thing of the past and termed the current situation "normal robbery".

Security officials blame the current insecurity on a gang of less than 10 people. One suspected member of the gang was shot dead last week.

“It is a gang of less than 10 people who are well known. They were released from jail and now are attacking our people,” said Fred Kapondi, Member of Parliament for Mt Elgon.

He claimed a certain politician from the region is behind the attacks and asked security agencies to take action against the leader.

Mr Kapondi asked the Government to recruit police reservists to deal with the criminals who are now roaming in the villages freely.

“One of the criminals was killed by police officers and a respected leader in this region defended the criminal, saying he was innocent,” he said.

Other leaders have pointed an accusing finger at security officers, accusing them of colluding with the criminals.

Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati has asked the national government to transfer some of the police officers from the area.

“The regional and county commissioners should clean their security agencies and deal with rogue officers who collude with criminals. We are tired of holding security meetings in Mt Elgon,” he said.

Deputy President William Ruto has ordered immediate action against the criminals.

“Any officer who colludes with criminals should be disciplined, arrested and charged. Drunk police officers should be taken to rehabilitation because they cannot serve our people accordingly,” said DP Ruto on Sunday while in Mt Elgon.

Root cause

“Any vacancy in security team should be filled within the next one month so that we get to the root cause of the problem,” said the DP during his visit to the volatile region.

Even though leaders attribute the incidents to normal thuggery, outgoing Western Regional commissioner Mongo Chimwaga says the attacks have to do with land disputes.

He suspects the attacks were sparked off by a dispute over the allotment of land in Chepyuk settlement scheme phase three. 

“People have allotment letters but have no title deeds. The Soi, Mosop and Ndorobo people claim they did not get space during allotment yet they sold their land,” he said.

As leaders and security agencies differ over the cause of insecurity, locals are fleeing the region for fear of more attacks.

They recount nights of terror in the hands of criminals, which have left their relatives, friends and neighbours dead.