From the scenic West Pokot in Rift Valley to colonial Kenya’s hedonistic valley of Naivasha and to the plains of Athi River on the outskirts of Nairobi, there was hue and cry for our beloved children.
In Naivasha, four miniature coffins bearing the remains of siblings, Melody Warigia (8 years), Willy Macharia (6), Samantha Njeri (4) and Whitney Nyambura (2) lay in the day’s weather, the young souls united in death as in life.
Farther in West Pokot, two innocent children aged five and three had just died in an inferno moments after being knifed in a domestic quarrel between their parents. Their mother soon followed them in death.
And in Athi River, the families of Henry Jacktone, 4, and Alvina Mutheu, 3, were struggling to come to terms with Wednesday’s events when the pair were found dead in the boot of a car parked at a police station.
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Children, part of society’s vulnerable lot, are now increasingly feeling the brunt of roaring cruelty. If it is not their protectors turning against them, they are being reduced into simple collateral of wider evil schemes they have little clue.
In the Naivasha incident, the family of the 42-year-old mother suspected of killing the children vehemently denied that their daughter had financial or mental challenges. The four were buried at the family’s rural home in Murungaru, Kinangop.
Tears flowed freely as relatives and friends sought answers as to why the children had to meet such a ghastly end.
Their mother, Beatrice Mwende Kimotho, is in custody in connection with the killings and did not attend the two-hour burial. Her two remaining sons cried bitterly as their siblings were laid to rest.
She was arraigned at the Naivasha Law Courts on Monday. Mwende was however not required to plead to murder charges as police sought seven days to finish investigations. A postmortem conducted on the bodies confirmed they were strangled. The bodies of the four were found on Saturday in a house after their mother claimed she had killed them.
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Mwende’s elder brother, Macharia Kimotho, said they were waiting for a report of a psychiatrist on the status of the suspect.
“What we know is that our sister did not have any depression or financial challenges as reported,” he said.
In the Pokot incident, which happened in Bendera area, neighbours said they were woken up by screams and smoke from one of the rental houses in the wee hours of the morning.
“We found the door locked from inside. We managed to break the door but unfortunately could not save the children. He (the man of the house) was standing at the door with blood oozing from his neck,” said Everline Cheyech, a neighbour.
The man is believed to have stabbed them before setting the house ablaze. He too had stab wounds but residents rushed him to hospital with the help of police.
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“The two are not drunkards, and we are shocked at how the man turned against his family. Such an incident has never occurred here, it’s really shocking,” said Cheyech.
Santos Madalo, the village elder, condemned the incident and urged residents to resolve family differences amicably and seek help from authorities.
In Athi River, the family of young Jacktone said they will only accept once a DNA test confirms that it was indeed him. Jacktone, alongside Mutheu, had disappeared two weeks ago while playing in their home area.
His unbelieving father told The Standard
that he is still optimistic that his son will soon be found even as the girl’s parents asked DCI chief George Kinoti to give them answers on the shocking death of their daughter.
The discovery of the two bodies on Wednesday was a shocker to the families and an embarrassment to Athi-River police who had been promising a thorough probe into the disappearance of the pair.
The pair lived in the same rented flat, two floors apart. Unlike Jacktone’s family, Mutheu’s parents have come to terms with the sad reality that their daughter will not be walking home ever again.
The only thing Catherine Musembi and her husband Stephen Muthiani want to know is who killed their daughter and why. They sat next to each other as they narrated their harrowing experience since their daughter mysteriously walked out of their lives.
Above the couch where Musembi and the husband were is a laminated photo of little Mutheu in what looks like a graduation gown. This photo, of the girl smiling broadly, is the only thing left to the family to remember her with.
“We have accepted that she is no more,” a tearful Musembi said.
The two families did not hide their anger and frustration with the Athi-River police officers who they accused of abandoning them at their hour of need. Muthiani said the officers even after recording their statements did not bother to visit the home to find out how the children went missing.
The officers also had not given the families any details of the investigations until Wednesday morning when the DCI team called to inform them that bodies of two children had been found at the police station.
The families are still disturbed by the images of the two lifeless bodies placed side by side in the car at the police station.
Jacktone’s father says the more he thinks of the events at the police station, the more he is convinced that his son was not dead. He says should DNA confirm that it is his son, then the police will have to tell his family who killed him and why.
“Who removed his clothes and why?” he asked as tears swelled in his eyes while looking at a photo of his firstborn son from a family album.
In the West Pokot incident, County Police Commander Jackson Tumwet said his officers were investigating it.
“The police rushed to the scene and were able to pull him and his wife out with the help of residents. Both had multiple stab wounds and burns. Two children were burnt beyond recognition,” he said.
Tumwet said the couple was rushed to Kapenguria County Hospital where the wife was pronounced dead on arrival and the husband admitted in critical condition under police guard.
For the Naivasha incident, former Nyandarua Deputy Governor Waithaka Mwangi expressed his concern over an increase in cases of marital disputes among young people.
“We are calling on our youth to speak out when one has some challenges instead of committing such an act on innocent children,” he said.
Murungaru Assistant County Commissioner Sarah Magut urged women to speak out whenever they are faced with challenges. She said suicide and murder were not the solution.
“We have had challenges during this period of Covid-19 pandemic, with cases of depression and early pregnancy on the rise and we are keen to work and solve the challenges,” said Magut.
A cleric, David Njuguna, said challenges such as job losses and lack of income, had seen cases of domestic violence rise. And with this, children are suffering the most.
[Antony Gitonga, Irissheel Shanzu and Kamore Maina]