For motorists using the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu road, the imposing Mt Longonot in the background and tens of wild animals grazing on the vast land are a sight to behold.
Many times, motorists have stopped by the roadside for a picture or to get a feel of the cool breeze from Kijabe hills. Some stop to watch the wild animals from near Mt Longonot national park graze.
For years, sections of the land off the busy road have remained undeveloped mainly due to insecurity caused by cattle rustlers.
However, the area is currently under construction with works on the Mai Mahiu-Longonot railway extension near completion, while former IDPs have developed land between Longonot and Mai Mahiu trading centres.
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Sections of the land, have also remained unutilised for years and these have turned into ‘haunted grounds’ where tens of bodies have been found dumped.
Last week, there was a public out cry after several bodies were found dumped in River Yala. Reports showed that 23 bodies had been retrieved from the once river.
It is the same case with the stretch along the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu road and Gilgil section where many bodies have been found dumped. Families have also reported that their missing kin were last spotted in this area.
The most notorious area is Governor’s which is a few kilometres from Longonot town.
Last year, over 15 bodies were found dumped off the busy road, a majority of which were middle-aged males who had been strangled.
Some of the bodies were recovered in Longonot National Park and the vast Kedong ranch.
In the last three months, at least three bodies have already been collected off the busy road.
In the last incident on October 26 last year, the body of seasoned journalist Gatonye Gathura was found dumped near Kihoto estate.
It took police over a month to identify the body that had a wire around the neck with indications that he was murdered elsewhere and the body dumped in the area. Two months after the journalist was laid to rest in his Limuru home, no arrest has been made and the family and friends are still grappling in the dark for the motive.
A nephew of the deceased Dr Lawrence Nderu termed the death inhumane, adding that Gatonye died a painful death -he was strangled with a wire.
“No one knows why Gatonye was murdered and we are still in pain hoping that police will one day arrest those behind this heinous murder,” he said.
Before his death, Gatonye was a contributor for The Standard newspaper and ran a website “Rocket science’ that concentrated on reproductive health and mental health.
The other incident that made headlines was when the body of Amos Ndung’u, a taxi driver from Kasarani Nairobi, was found dumped near the national park and his car missing.
Several suspects have since been arrested and arraigned, but over 90 per cent of the murder cases have remained unsolved with fingers pointing to some security officers.
Early last year, a two-week search for a missing matatu driver ended on a sour note after his body riddled with bullets was found dumped in Naivasha sub-county hospital mortuary.
Following the recovery of the body, the family of 43-year-old Wallace Kahiro accused officers from Kikuyu Police Station of extra-judicial killing.
Kahiro had been released by a Kikuyu court two weeks earlier but disappeared minutes later only for his body to be found riddled with bullets.
Initial reports indicated that the deceased was shot through the back of the head by people suspected to be police officers.
According to Pastor Sammy Wanyoike his cousin had been arrested by police and held in the police station for five days.
“Kahiro was taken to the Kikuyu Law Courts where he told the magistrate of his ordeal in police custody and the case was thrown out,” he said.
Wanyoike added that two officers arrested Wanyoike outside the law courts, adding that this was the last time he was seen alive.
“We went to the police station and the officers denied re-arresting him and for two weeks we searched all over until we found the body in the Naivasha mortuary,” he says.
But why the area?
According to an elder Geoffrey Ngunjiri who has lived in the Longonot area for over 30 years, huge chunks of the land have remained unutilised for years.
He says this has given the murders opportunities to dump bodies in the area without any scrutiny from motorists or members of the public.
“During the evening, the area is deserted and the traffic is low. This gives the killers time to dump their cargo and drive off easily,”
“There are routes used by sand lorries and this has made it possible for the killers to drive in and easily dump the bodies without anyone noticing,” he says.
He points to 2005 as the darkest moment when over 40 bodies suspected to be members of the Mungiki sect were dumped in farms around the area.
“In that incident, the victims were shot in the back of the head but with time this has changed and the killers are using wires to strangle their victims or blunt objects targeting the back of the head,” he says.
A source familiar with security operations notes that criminals and State officials have been incriminated in the dumping of the bodies.
He says that in most cases, criminal gangs have ended up using the land to dump the bodies of their victims as the area is sparsely populated.
“We have other cases where known criminals have been released by courts on bond, meaning more suffering for the public and police have no other choice but to eliminate them,” he says.
The former police officer notes that other areas used for dumping the bodies include the Kamae-Thika road which criss-crosses the Aberdare forest. For years many motorists and even tourists used the road and the lucky ones would spot a family of elephants feeding by the roadside.
The road has, however, turned into another dumping spot with the elephants now replaced by bodies as was the case in 2019 when three brothers who hailed from Nakuru were dumped there. “Previously, Kinale Forest was a notorious site where bodies would be dumped but a section of it was cleared to facilitate the expansion of the Nairobi-Nakuru highway,” he says.
According to the chairman of the Jikaze IDP camp in Mai Mahiu, Mohammed Maina, some of the bodies recovered from the area were decomposed, a clear indication that they had overstayed there.
He says that every month residents stumble on at least one body, adding that most of the victims are not known in the semi-arid area.
“We believe these bodies are ferried from different locations and dumped along this busy highway that is used by heavy commercial vehicles,” he says.
According to statistics from Naivasha Sub-county Hospital, the majority of the bodies brought in by police are either from accident scenes or those murdered and dumped in the area.
The superintendent in charge of the Naivasha hospital Dr Angeline Ithondeka says that a majority of the bodies brought in by police are never claimed, forcing the facility to dispose of them after the stipulated time.
She says that most of the victims are young men, adding that they do not have documents and police have to collect fingerprints for identification.
“All bodies dumped on the highway or from accident scenes are ferried to Naivasha as this is the only public facility along the highway and this has a toll on our services,” she says.
The doctor adds that once identified, the kin quietly after informing the police collect the bodies and this marks the end of the story.
“Every year, we dispose of over 30 bodies and a majority of them were recovered by police,” she says.
Naivasha OCPD Samuel Waweru says that they have made some arrests in some of the cases and points to an incident where the body of a taxi driver from Kasarani was found dumped.
He says that two suspects were nabbed in Nairobi. Their arrest led to the arrest of another two suspects who had been involved in the murder of another taxi driver in Naivasha.
The senior police officer notes that nearly all the victims were murdered elsewhere and their bodies dumped in the area.
“Nearly all the murders are committed elsewhere and the bodies ferried to this scene, but we have made some progress and arrested some suspects involved in these murders,” he says.
On allegations that a majority of the bodies recovered from River Yala are of victims who were kidnapped in Naivasha, he says that no such reports are in their records.
“We do not have any records of persons who were kidnapped in Naivasha and the bodies found in Yala as claimed,” he says.