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The prison facelift angle in the Kamiti terror convicts’ escape

By Kamore Maina | Nov 17th 2021 | 3 min read

Kamiti Maximum Prison in Nairobi on September 17, 2021. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Wycliffe Ogala has become the latest casualty of the breach at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison that saw three terror convicts break out.

The former prisons boss has been replaced by Brigadier John Warioba, who has already been sworn in.

"The appointment follows the briefing to the Head of State from the ministry responsible for Correctional Services regarding the security breaches ... that led to the escape of three inmates," read the statement from State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena.

This came a day after Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers uncovered the depth of laxity at the facility that allowed for the escape after they pieced together a statement from a convict who shared a cell with the three fugitives.

The man, who is also being held over terror-related activities, told the DCI that his cellmates broke out of Kamiti at around 1am on Sunday.

It was the culmination of a month of planning.

They created lumps under their blankets that allowed them to dupe prison guards, who were not paying keen attention, into thinking they were asleep.

Wardens only learnt of the escape on Monday at around 10am, hours after the fugitives had got out.

It also emerged that the convicts began digging a hole through which they made their escape during routine maintenance work carried out in the cell block they had been held in.

These details were shared with DCI investigators earlier today when they interrogated the man left behind.

He told officers that he did not join his three cellmates because he was optimistic an appeal against his conviction, which is pending before the High Court in Nairobi, would succeed.

The details he provided painted a clearer picture of the prison break and the gaps in security at Kamiti.

Some investigators are, however, not convinced about the witness' reasons for staying behind.

Speaking on condition of anonymity as the details of the statement have not been authorised for the public, an investigator told 'The Standard' that the man had an injury on his right hand, which would have made it difficult for him to scale the prison's 10-foot walls.

Of interest to investigators is the hole in the wall that the three fugitives are reported to have used to sneak out of their cell.

Officers believe the drilling of the hole may have started over a month ago when some prison inmates in the masonry department were contracted to carry out routine maintenance of Block 6A, which is where the fugitives were being held.

At the time, the block received a facelift on the outside and inside of the cells. The cells were repainted, with the works including the addition of white wallpaper.

Police now believe that the convicts knew of the structural gaps in the wall and exploited them to make their escape.

No debris was recovered from outside or inside the cells, indicating that the drilling could have taken place earlier.

Investigators said the convicts then brought in blankets that they cut into pieces to make a rope that was used to scale the prison's high walls.

They further believe the escape could not have happened without the knowledge of some prison wardens.

The DCI is carrying out a countrywide manhunt for Joseph Juma Odhiambo alias Yusuf, Musharaf Abdalla Akhulunga alias Zarkawi, and Mohamed Ali Abikar.

Odhiambo was convicted in 2019 for attempting to join the terror group Al-Shabaab. Akhulunga was arrested in 2012 over his role in a failed attack on Parliament while Abikar was convicted in 2019 for abetting the 2015 Garissa University attack that killed 148 people.

The directorate has offered a bounty of Sh20 million per fugitive for information that leads to their arrest.

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