Among the Luhya, a funeral is regarded as a highly respected ceremony for the living and dead. It is, therefore, taboo to disrupt the ceremony, which is usually characterized by elaborate fanfare and feasting. Relatives and friends pull out all stops at ensuring that the departed soul is given a befitting send-off. Even if one had a bad record, the dark side is brushed aside with platitudes taking centre stage instead. It is unthinkable to badmouth the deceased - cultural attitudes to death and mourning allow no room for criticizing someone who has passed on.
The Luhya believe that the dead watch over the living, and that is why those left behind dread doing or saying anything that might upset or unsettle the deceased. It is no wonder then that the latest happenings in parts of Kakamega have not only left locals perturbed but sent shivers down the spines of residents.
A new gang, targeting only food in homes where funerals are being held, has emerged. A vicious gang, ‘Paka Mang’aa’, is fast becoming a thorn in the flesh of mourners who now are not guaranteed peace to grieve. The gang strikes at night, steals food, and sometimes beats up mourners. Over the past few weeks, Paka Mang’aa’s weird escapades have been reported in Khwisero, Shinyalu, Navakholo, and Ikolomani sub-counties where security agents are scratching their heads about how to deal with this bizarre crime trend.
The criminals prefer ugali, meat, chapati, mixture, and tea. In some funerals, a number of mourners have been left stranded after losing personal belongings to thieves.Even as the real motive of the gang remains unclear and residents live in fear, Kakamega County Commissioner John Ondego is assuring tranquility will prevail since security agents have firm instructions to infiltrate and dismantle the terror gang.
“We have received reports and complaints about the gang and I have instructed all security agencies to step up investigations and ensure the so-called Paka Mang’aa gang is disbanded as quickly as possible,” said Ondego.
Clobbered to death
The gang’s latest attack was in Ikolomani where an irate mob cornered and lynched a gang member. The daring criminals had attempted to rob mourners and steal food at a bereaved homestead in Mutaho village. They were however overpowered before one of them was clobbered to death. Police rescued two accomplices who were taken to Kakamega General Hospital after having sustained injuries.
A man said the three men pulled out crude weapons, which they used to unleash terror on mourners at the homestead.“They staged the raid at around 8 pm after pretending to be part of mourners. The criminals had tried to steal from one of the mourners who raised the alarm and the man was beaten to death. The other two who stormed into the house to steal food tried to escape but they were overpowered and received a thorough beating before police intervened,” recounted the mourner.Ikolomani Sub County Police Commander (SCPC) Benjamin Wambua said the lynched suspect and the two nursing injuries belong to a 20-member Paka Mangáa gang that has been terrorizing residents at night in funerals.“We have received several complaints from residents about the gang and police had launched a manhunt before the latest incident. It is true they have been robbing mourners and stealing from funerals and we were almost arresting them after we gathered reliable information about the gang,” said Wambua.The police commander appealed to locals not to take the law into their hands, but instead, report to relevant authorities whenever they notice suspicious individuals in funerals.It is said the Paka Mangáa gang linked to a series of attacks in parts of Kakamega County, has its roots in the Khwisero sub-county where the home of a chief was recently torched and the administrator’s cows slaughtered.
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The long arm of the law
Five members of this gang were arrested while in action in Khwisero at a homestead in Kisa South where they stole chapatis and tea prepared for mourners.Apart from stealing food and beating mourners, the gang also waylays motorists and passengers at night. According to Jemima Okano, a resident, the criminals stormed the home while armed with machetes scaring away mourners before running away with chapatis and tea.“They stormed the funeral at night and asked where the food was while armed with machetes. They took the food and threatened anyone who stood in their way. They destroyed a few things before they left,” said Okano.Okano now calls upon the security personnel to intervene and ensure their life and safety is guaranteed.“The gang looks so deadly and we just hope the government will intervene before things get out of hand because even sleeping is a problem, and having or attending a funeral is now a risky affair,” said Okano.She urged security agencies to enforce the ban on ‘Disco Matanga’, which is encouraging the existence of the gang.“We have witnessed helplessly the gang attack people on the roads, evade homes pretending to be mourners before going to grab by force food in the kitchen,” said Philip Juliana, another resident.Patrick Dhahabu, a Luhya elder from Lurambi sub-county, says it is a lack of respect and bad manners by youths to steal at funerals while people are mourning. He warned that perpetrators risk attracting a curse since funerals are considered sacred by most people.“The dead need utmost respect. When you steal food meant to feed the people who have come to accord them respect; you disturb their spirit. Culturally, such action is bound to haunt the culprits, and if they do not stop this weird behaviour, the elders may decide to curse them,” said Dhahabu.