Meru village in the grip of ‘untouchable’ killer gang

Mutuati family

The family of the late Musa Kalung'e when they spoke to Nation at their home in Kalerene, Mutuati on July 4, 2023. 

Photo credit: David Muchui I Nation Media Group

Stanley Ng'olua sits pensively outside his house in Kalerene village, about six kilometres from Antubetwe Kiongo market in Mutuati, Meru County, mourning the death of his 23-year-old son, Kennedy Mwendia.

The pain of loss, coupled with the circumstances in which Mwendia was killed, continues to bring tears of grief and cries for justice for Ng’olua.

A few metres from Ng'olua's home, another family is mourning their father — 60-year-old Musa Kalung'e.

Mr Kalung'e was killed by a machete-wielding gang while guarding his miraa farm three days after Mwendia was killed.

Next door to the Kalung'e home, another family is in distress after their relative, Jeremiah Baariu, went missing while guarding a miraa farm.

The night he went missing, the farm he was guarding was raided by a gang that stole miraa. Baariu, a nephew of the late Kalung'e, remains unaccounted for two weeks after the incident.

Across the ridge in Luciuti, Peter Kiumo, another miraa farm guard, is in Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital nursing deep cuts after he was viciously attacked by the machete-wielding gang and left for dead.

Kalerene is now a village under siege by a criminal gang of young men who target miraa farms. They kill and maim anyone who gets in their way.

Residents are so frightened that they cannot visit the bereaved families to offer condolences, as is customary.


Mr Stanely Ng'olua whose son Kennedy Mwendia was lynched by a gang that claimed he was a thief.

Photo credit: David Muchui I Nation Media Group

They say the gang of about 17 members is considered 'untouchable' and reports to the police have failed to result in their arrest.

While Ng'olua believes his son's murder is linked to a land dispute, he also suspects the machete-wielding gang operating in their village was involved.

Mwendia was going about his daily business in Antubetwe market when a group of five armed men attacked him with machetes and stones, accusing him of stealing a motorcycle.

"I had previously received death threats from people I knew and had filed five police reports, before my son was killed. On the day he died, I had given him my motorbike and sent him to the market to buy supplies for our shop. The killers accused him of stealing my motorbike," Ng'olua says.

His concern is that his son was killed even after he had made five reports of death threats to the police.

"In one case, the threat was clear that they would accuse my children of being thieves and lynch them. I have five OB numbers of the reports, which were never acted upon by the police. Two weeks after my son was killed, no suspect has been arrested," he laments.

Andrew Michubu, a son of the late Kalung'e, says the criminal gang has been terrorising the village with impunity, indicating a confidence they have that they are untouchable.

"My father had also reported death threats from known members of this gang. A few days later we found him dead on the farm. He had deep cuts on his head and neck. We live in fear because nothing has been done to improve security," says Michubu.

Mutuati police boss

Mutuati Subcounty police commander Joseph Chesire on July 4, 2023. He said police were pursuing Nkomori gang members who have been terrorising residents. 

Photo credit: David Muchui I Nation Media Group

He adds: "Neighbours are also afraid to come for burial planning meetings because of threats from the gang.
Norman Mwiti, whose brother is missing, suspects that the same killer gang is involved in Baariu's disappearance.

"My brother disappeared and three days later, our uncle was killed. We suspect that the same gang is involved in both incidents. We have resigned ourselves to fate because we do not know who will be killed next. We are crying out for justice for my brother and uncle," says Mwiti.

Mutuati police commander Joseph Chesire says a multi-agency operation had flushed out the criminals who had been targeting miraa farms.

He says investigations into the murders of Mwendia and Kalung'e are ongoing.

"We are aware of criminal gangs known as Nkomori who have been terrorising residents. However, we have stepped up operations and many of them have fled the area. We are still on their trail and urge the public to come forward with information that can lead to arrests," says Chesire.

Meru County Commissioner Fred Ndunga says the county security committee is pursuing the gang leaders. "We have names of some of the key suspects and we are investigating them."

Meanwhile, the four families in Kalerene village are waiting for justice to be served.