Thieves steal transformer at Kibaki's home three days after burial

The power transformer worth Sh500,000 was serving Mwai Kibaki’s homestead and 400 other houses in the neighbourhood. [Standard]

A power transformer that serves late President Mwai Kibaki’s residence and the neighbouring homes in Kanyange Village, Othaya Sub-County in Nyeri County was vandalised three days after his burial on April 30.

The transformer pole was erected around 50 metres away from the former president’s homestead.

It remains a mystery how the thugs vandalised the facility, yet Kibaki’s homestead was under round the clock guard by the elite Recce Squad officers.

On Tuesday, May 3, the vandals destroyed the transformer and stole its component parts.

A tea plantation that sits a few metres from Kibaki’s homestead is suspected to have served as a hiding ground for the thieves.

The vandalism, police suspect, lasted at least an hour.

At the scene, an umbrella was recovered, suggesting that the thieves were prepared for any eventuality, rains included.

On Thursday, May 5, engineers from the Kenya Power were spotted fixing another transformer on the vandalised pole-mounts.

Kenya Power distribution engineer in Othaya, Benjamin Onsomo, said electricity supply was cut off in the area at around 11pm on Tuesday.

At least 400 homesteads neighbouring Kibaki’s residence were, consequently, plunged into darkness, Onsomo told The Standard.

“We had to connect the affected houses to a feeder line at Othaya Sub-Station, which serves the town centre and its environs. As a result, power was restored, though temporarily, the following day (Wednesday, May 4) at 11am,” said Onsomo.

The Kenya Power officer said they could not immediately establish why the Kanyange Village homesteads were out of power supply, as no vandalism report had been made when the incident happened.

“After the vandalism, which wasn’t brought to our attention immediately, we tried to supply power to the transformer, but the line couldn’t hold. That’s when we dispatched a team to the scene, and we were shocked to learn that the transformer had been vandalised,” he said.

Onsomo said they filed a report at the Othaya Police Station on Wednesday, and thereafter started the process of replacing the stolen power converter.

The Kenya Power officer said this was the first incident being reported in Othaya this year, though in previous years, records show, there were several cases of transformer vandalism in the area and Mukurweini Town.

“The thieves usually target the transformer components, particularly the copper inside the device,” said Onsomo.

The Othaya Kenya Power official said more than 50kgs of copper components were stolen from the Kanyange Village transformer, which was worth at least Sh500,000.

Onsomo said he couldn’t immediately establish why the thieves targeted the transformer, yet the scrap metal trade in the country is currently outlawed. The thieves, he said, usually sell the copper components to scrap metal dealers, who operate in an illegal arrangement.

Neighbours said it’s likely that the thieves took advantage of heavy rains pounding the area to conduct the crime.

Benjamin Githinji, a neighbour, told The Standard that they did not notice any strange activity near Kibaki’s home on Tuesday night, and was shocked to learn of the vandalism the following day.

The Standard reached Othaya Sub-County Police Commander Serah Koki for comment.

“For now, I can’t comment on the incident because I did not visit the scene of crime. Kindly speak with Nyeri South Deputy County Commissioner Michael Talam,” she said.

Reached for comment, Talam said: “I suspect the thieves were interested in the transformer oil and copper, nothing else. They were very daring, given the risks involved in transformer vandalism.”

Talam confirmed receiving a report about the incident, saying he had tasked the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers in Othaya to probe the matter.

“For now, I can confirm that power has been restored in the area after another transformer was mounted,” he said.

The Standard reached the DCI team in Othaya for comment, but our communication wasn’t replied.

It remains unclear whether any suspects are in custody, or the number of people involved in the crime.