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We live in fear: ‘Haunted village’ near State lodge

NATIONAL
By Clement Masombo | May 3rd 2021
George Wagura herds his cows at Tagwa along the Chaka-State Lodge Road in Nyeri. Area residents live in fear due to insecurity. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Growing up in a village neighbouring Tagwa forest in Kieni, Nyeri County, was no easy task for most locals.

Other than attacks from wild animals like elephants that regularly broke out from Mt Kenya Forest, residents have had to bear with hyenas, which mockingly giggle at night, as well as the numerous bodies dumped in the forest or even by the roadside.

James Maina, 38, narrates the nightmare that was growing up in Tagwa village. It exploded in the late 1990s and early 2000 when it became the norm to stumble upon a body in the area.

When we met him some 13 kilometres from Chaka township and less than a kilometre to Sagana State Lodge that is heavily guarded by General Service Unit officers, he was lying under a tree next to his old Captain motorcycle.

Chewed sugarcane residue

Next to Maina’s motorcycle were some chewed sugarcane residues, an indication of a possible lunchtime snack. From a small non-woven bag, he was chewing some khat, perhaps to keep him awake on a dry day.

He is one of the few courageous ones to still be riding a motorbike in this haunted village. Due to the fear they live in, many locals do not walk along the Chaka-Sagana State Lodge Road past 6pm. Most of them are actually inside their houses by this hour.

The number of bodies dumped around the area is quite high. Of the four bodies found in the area this year, only one was identified to have been of someone from the neighbouring Kiawarigi village, some 10 kilometres from the lodge.

The rest are strangers, ferried, killed and then dumped here.

“We prefer an alternative route to Chaka, which is longer. You would rather take the long route and be safe than die along the way,” Maina said.

Maina, whose home is about two kilometres off the main road, said since 2019, about nine bodies have been found dumped in the area.

The latest one - a man’s body found without the head, probably devoured by the hungry hyenas of Tagwa forest -- was at the beginning of April. 

Richard Wagura, a 50-year-old caretaker of a 15-acre parcel in the area said on Sunday, March 28, at around 5am, he was woken up by a loud scream from the road.

When he rushed to the scene, he saw a man running towards him. It was still dark and he could not see clearly, but at least he could see a Toyota Probox parked some distance in the direction the man was coming from.

“He told me the occupants of the Probox, which took off towards State Lodge, had tried to snatch his motorcycle,” he said.

On Monday, March 29, he received a call from the area chief, George Mwangi, informing him that a man’s body was found at the spot where the “rider” he had rescued the previous day had been seen.

It later turned out that the man he assisted escape was the thief and the ones in the Probox were his colleagues. The owner of the motorcycle had been killed and his body thrown just inside the bush.  

George Kariuki, the boda boda rider, is one of the many killed in the neighbouring Mathira Constituency.

“The man was so shaken that I couldn’t suspect him to be a thief. I didn’t even imagine that there was a lifeless body near there,” Wagura said.

In October 2020, another boda boda operator, Anthony Miano’s body was found dumped in the forest. In both cases, their motorcycles were taken away never to be recovered.

In May 2014, five bodies were found in the forest. It later emerged that the youth were linked by police to the terror group, Al Shabaab. 

The following year, four other bodies were also found in the same forest. The four were suspects of robbery attacks on various occasions within the county.

In 2019, just after mid-term holiday break, Wagura rescued a schoolgirl who had spent a harrowing night in the forest after being kidnapped and gang-raped. She only summoned energy to scream when an elephant menacingly approached her.

However, Kieni East deputy Sub-county Police Commander Jackline Gitari said having the police post in the area has improved the security tremendously.

 

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