Wave of Probox-linked kidnappings leaves families in Migori, Homa Bay distraught

A Toyota Probox car.

A Toyota Probox car.

Photo credit: Pool

The thought of encountering a group of heavily armed men in a white Toyota Probox always sends shivers down the spine of many residents of South Nyanza.

The vehicle that the government at one time tried to ban from the roads due to a majority of its drivers being reckless is the most preferred getaway vehicle for an unidentified gang in Homa Bay and Migori counties. The gang is mainly engaging in abductions.

Since the beginning of the month, at least three people have been abducted in the two counties by people using the vehicle.

Masara

Masara town in Migori County. Migori town is experiencing a rise in kidnapping.
Inset: The kind of vehicle the criminals are using.
 


Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The daring gang operates in broad daylight and has left residents in shock. So skilled and swift are the criminals that witnesses barely recognise the number plates of the vehicles used.

A prison warder, who witnessed his colleague being abducted in Homa Bay Town on April 29 at 1 pm, said he thought the abductors were police officers.

According to a police report, the prison warden based at Kodiaga Maximum Prison did not report the incident thinking that it was a police operation since the abductors had guns and a pair of handcuffs.

Besides the three recent cases, there have been two other cases of Homa Bay residents reported to have been abducted in other counties, including Narok.

Another case of abduction in the county was reported in January and it involved a man, 27. The man was riding a motorcycle from Oyugis Town to Ndhiwa.

He was last seen at Ogande village along Rodi Kopany-Oyugis Road while speaking to occupants of a Probox. That was the last time he was seen.

Of great concern to residents is how frequently the abductions are taking place, whether they are connected and who are targeted.

Mr Evanve Oloo, a human rights activist, said it is time for police officers to act as abductions rise.

Bernard Ochieng

c, a warden at Kibos Prison, who was kidnapped on April 29 in Homa Bay. 

Photo credit: Pool

“It is only in Kenya where a suspicious vehicle can pass several roadblocks without being stopped for inspection. Why are police officers taking so long to arrest suspects?” he asks.

In the case of the prison warder, Mr Bernard Ochieng, who works at Kibos Prison, he was abducted along Homa Bay-Rongo Road by unknown people.

His kidnappers are suspected to have trailed him as he was travelling in a public service vehicle from Kisumu to Nyandiwa in Suba sub-county.

Kibos prisons boss Beverline Lungatso said the officer was off duty when he disappeared.

"He was to report back to work on May 2," she said.

According to Homa Bay DCI boss Abed Kavoo, the abductors were armed with guns.

They blocked the vehicle Mr Ochieng had boarded and asked him to identify himself before he was handcuffed and taken away.

“Phone signals showed that the car drove past Rangwe to a place called Nyanira before the signals went off," he said.

Mr Kavoo said they are trying to trace the owner of a phone number that was in communication with the warden.

The person sent several text messages to Mr Ochieng, but the warden failed to respond.

"The number has also been switched off but we are considering it as a crucial lead in the investigations," the DCI office boss said.

A similar incident took place in Migori a week before, where an employee of the county government was abducted by people in a Probox.

Mr Patrick Lumumba, a technician at the water department, had taken an official motorbike to a garage when he was abducted.

Police said four men approached their victim with a gun and started asking him questions.

The incident happened near Mjinga market in Migori Town as the public watched.

 Witnesses reported that the man was bundled into a white Toyota Probox that had four occupants before they drove off.

No one bothered to ask who the people were as they appeared to be police officers because they had guns. Similarly, no one noted the number plate of the vehicle.

“The four asked him why he was riding a government motorbike on a weekend before handcuffing him. They then bundled him into a waiting car and sped off,” said a witnesses.

The abductors later asked for a ransom of Sh1 million from the victim’s family.

Suna East sub-county police commander, Mr Esau Ochorokodi, said the family reported the matter to the police.

Judy, Mr Lumumba’s wife, said her husband had not shown any indication that his life was in danger.

Still in Migori, a woman in Rongo sub-county was abducted on May 8 in the wee hours of the morning.

Jackeline Atieno Oluoch is reported to have gone missing at 3am when his family was still asleep.

Her husband, Kenneth Oluoch, told the Nation that he learnt of the incident from a neighbour.

"I work in Kisii and the neighbour informed me that my son had checked in the bedroom and found the mother missing," he said.

Inside his house, Mr Oluoch found blood stains and his wife’s clothes. To date, her whereabouts remain unknown.

The case was reported to the police.

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