Cow-slashing gang still terrorising Homa Bay villagers
Livestock farmers in Homa Bay County are worried in the wake of fresh attacks by a gang that has been slashing and maiming cows.
The unidentified gang has left many families counting losses after they killed several cattle, a major source of income for families in rural communities.
The gang first struck in Mbita in December last year and has left a trail of destruction and panic among residents. The attackers later raided homes in Ndhiwa, killing several animals before fleeing.
Local administrators say up to 150 cows have been killed and several others have been maimed.
Security officers are also puzzled about the motive for the attacks in which sharp objects are used to pierce the bellies of the animals.
Homa Bay County Commissioner Moses Lilan said security agencies were yet to unravel the motive for the attacks and why the gang members have been targeting livestock.
Angry residents of Kaguria sub-location in Ndhiwa sub-county on Sunday beat to death a suspect after attackers struck on Saturday night and maimed 10 cows.
One cow died in the fresh wave of attacks on livestock that have left villagers puzzled.
The villagers armed themselves with crude weapons and attacked the 22-year-old suspect, identified as Jabez Ochieng Achiando, accusing him of being a member of the gang.
This is after the gang raided several homes in two villages – Kitanda C and Kirindo A – and pierced the belly of a cow and abandoned it to die.
A farmer who was said to have heard a commotion at his home at 4am decided to investigate what was happening to his animals.
Kabuoch South location Chief Bob Ouma said the farmer raised the alarm and was joined by his neighbours to pursue the suspects.
“The villagers found three young men walking along the road next to the farm. They are residents of the village but locals pointed fingers at them as the people responsible for the attack,” he said.
The villagers roughed up the youths before setting them free.
Mr Achiando sought medical attention at a health facility in Nyatambe in neighbouring Migori County.
Mr Ouma said other farmers in Nyatambe were also counting losses after their animals were killed.
The villagers launched a manhunt for the suspects, who had gone into hiding.
“News about the three youths who were walking late at night spread in the villages. The man who was admitted in hospital was tracked down to shed light on what they were doing at night,” he said.
Affected farmers decided to visit the health centre where Mr Achiando was being treated.
They descended on the man with kicks and blows before dragging him from his bed.
The suspect escaped into a sugarcane farm but the villagers, armed with machetes, slashed him to death.
“No one gave him a chance to defend himself. He also had an active case in court where he was accused of burglary,” Mr Ouma said.
Some of the farmers who lost their animals said the attacks had sent panic among villagers, forcing residents to arm themselves. Ms Roseline Owino lost an expectant cow.
“I was hoping that the cow would provide me with milk after calving. I would have sold the milk to neighbours so as to take care of other household needs,” she said.
Mr Richard Anyango called on security officers to increase patrols in the affected villages.
"Security agencies should intervene and help us by intensifying patrols in the villages. This incident has proved that we may also be killed if the insecurity is not addressed,” said Mr Anyango.
Pala Assistant County Commissioner Moses Atupamoi said the other two suspects were being sought by police.
“I only urge members of the public not to take security matters into their own hands,’ he said.