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Families in pain over chilling murders

WESTERN
By By Oscar Obonyo | August 11th 2012
Linet Masiga, mother to slain seven- year-old boy, Brodan Barasa, shows her son’s grave. [Photo:Oscar Obonyo/Standard]

By Oscar Obonyo

Parents of school-going children in Busia County are caught in a state of terror following what they say is a spate of unsolved ritual murders.

They also point to attempted attacks on several children that appear to involve violent sexual offenders or witchcraft. The crimes have led to increased tension and suspicion in the county.

Civic leaders and education officials say at least 14 people have been killed and their bodies mutilated over the last eight months. However, officials in the Provincial Administration dismiss talk of ritual killings as “mere rumours”.

A senior police officer, who declined to be named in this story, insists only two homicide cases reported involved the removal of organs.

Last Sunday, police responded to the mob lynching of a man suspected of involvement in the abductions and killings.

This followed two fresh killings in the last two weeks, including that of seven-year-old Brodan Barasa on July 29. Brodan’s murder has galvanised teachers and parents in Busia into action.

The boy, a nephew to football legend Dr JJ Masiga, was apparently lured or dragged into a maize plantation in Lugala village and stabbed several times in the head and neck. 

Public frustration

The attack took place around noon near a grazing field, less than three kilometres from the Kenya-Uganda border. His screams attracted the attention of a neighbour on an adjacent farm, forcing his attacker or attackers to flee on a motorbike.

The first witnesses on the scene say the Standard One pupil was still alive when he was discovered and there were signs the attack was similar to other ritual murders seen in the region.

“Why would anybody subject my child to this kind of death?” asks Linet Masiga, Brodan’s mother. She is infuriated that local Government officials deny these killings are going on.

Public frustration last week erupted into the lynching of 40-year-old Eliab Masiga (no relation to JJ Masiga), who was beaten to death in Nyahobi village when he stopped to ask for directions. Eliab’s distraught uncle, Edward Ogusinyi, says the father of three was a victim of public hysteria.

“No matter our frustrations, we must never allow panic and emotions to take control of the situation,” Ogusinyi says.

The former councillor, who will bury his nephew today, says Eliab had gone to visit his sister who is married in Nyahobi. Unfortunately, he had not visited his in-laws for some years and lost his way. He was suspected to be a child abductor when he asked for directions to his sister’s home from the children.

Independent investigations by The Standard On Saturday have located nine graves in Budalang’i, Nambale, and Funyula constituencies in which lie alleged victims of ritual killings.

Distraught locals also claimed that four school children have been missing for over three weeks and are presumed abducted and killed.

Mutilated body

One of those we spoke to was Bernard Barasa, whose 13-year-old son Silas disappeared in December, last year.

 The teen’s mutilated body was discovered in a latrine weeks later with his eyes gouged out and his genitals and tongue missing. Many locals believe the same fate would have met Brodan had his killers not been interrupted. Hannington Okello and Michelle Nakhone of Sio Port fear their missing son and daughter — Sanya, 10, and Nabwire, eight — are victims of the same killers that have struck in the region.  The two children, both in Class One at Bujwang’a Primary, went missing on July 16, this year.

Despite the police denials, local leaders are aware of the problem and have been working to deal with it. Sports Minister Paul Otuoma, in whose constituency most of the murders have allegedly taken place, was involved in discussions about the trend before he left for London two weeks ago.

Dr Otuoma held a meeting with departmental heads and opinion leaders from Funyula constituency at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi.  Security issues featured prominently, with leaders exploring immediate solutions and long-term options. Samia District Education Officer, Michael Mugawo, also met primary school head teachers and education stakeholders last Monday on the matter. 

Several safety measures were proposed, including changing morning reporting times, and suspending tuition classes before or after regular school hours. Mugawo also suggests that pupils who have to walk long distances be escorted to school where possible.

DC George Onyango, who has been at his station for about a month, says the “situation is not as bad as I have seen elsewhere”.

Two failed attacks

“I have been holding meetings with chiefs, assistant chiefs, and the security officials involved in patrols. I am convinced the (security) situation is not as serious as it is being painted,” he said.

He says his assessment may be coloured by having worked in areas with high insecurity like Murang’a, where the Mungiki sect once held sway.

“Maybe the dynamics and people’s perception of the degree of insecurity is different.”   Busia Branch Knut Secretary General, Mark Oseno, lists a number of cases of children who have gone missing or had to fight off attackers on their way to school.

 The official says two pupils of Mudoma Primary School “are among those confirmed missing for (more than) two months”.

The Knut boss says he has also received reports of two failed attacks – one involving a pupil from Bumayenga Primary School, and another involving a boy at Mugasa Primary School (names withheld).

The Standard On Saturday confirmed the latter case, which involves a Standard Eight pupil whose shorts was ripped apart before he fled.

Locals say there have also been a number of mutilation attacks targeting the elderly. The dismembered body of Anne Nafula Obusi, 90, was discovered at the foot of Nambuku hills on July 22.

She had been decapitated and some body parts removed. Her son, Buxy Gilbert Barasa, says she was abducted on July 8.

“Her murder can only be for ritual purposes,” says Buxy, a retired a civil servant. “She was an old, frail woman who was neither a threat nor stumbling block to anybody.”

Locals speak of killers harvesting body parts for sale to witchdoctors in Tanzania and South Africa. They say the county’s location at the Kenya-Uganda border makes it easy for merchants of body parts to flee through panya routes.

Sell to witchdoctors

Many, however, believe Kenyans are involved in the trade. “There is no way this can continue without the help of our own people,” says Funyula South ward civic leader, Cumulus Obada.

 “There are agents and accomplices of death among us and we shall smoke out all of them.”

There are fears this could mean more lynchings in Busia, some of which will almost certainly be of innocent people.


 

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