Truck drivers demand end to Northern Corridor murders

Lillian Chengo

Ms Lilian Chengo’s husband, Gabriel Chengo, was found murdered in his truck near Manyatta on the Mombasa-Nairobi Highway on Thursday last week.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

When Gabriel Chengo bid farewell to his family at their Miritini home in Mombasa and set off in his truck to transport cargo to Uganda, his wife had no idea that it would be the last time she would see him alive.

The 40-year-old truck driver had told his wife that he did not want to make the trip because his employer had not paid some of his dues. However, being his family’s sole breadwinner, he decided to get the job done and sort out the problem at a later date. So around 9pm he set off, only for his body to be found a few hours later inside the truck parked at Manyatta area.

By the time the 31-year-old decided to call her in-laws to find out if they had heard from him, photos of her husband’s body were doing the rounds on social media.

Preliminary police investigations indicated that the assailants had used her husband’s clothes to tie him up and cover his face. His belt was used to strangle him. A post-mortem examination indicated that Chengo had died from stab wounds and strangulation.

Gabriel Chengo

Gabriel Chengo, a truck driver who was found murdered and his body left in his truck on Thursday last week near Manyatta along the Mombasa-Nairobi Highway.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

The Chengo family is the latest to suffer the devastating effects of highway robbery along the Northern Corridor, which some now term a death trap for truck drivers.

Four other drivers have been killed in the same manner in the past two months, findings corroborated by Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) data.

“Geoffrey Mwangemi’s truck was diverted on 17/7/2022 and found murdered in Kilibasi. Mohamed Mohamed of Awale Transporters was killed and truck left in Maungu on 7/7/2022. Francis Opondo was killed on 28/8/2022 ... Absirizack Abdullahi, working with Awale Transporters, was killed on 2/3/2022...” states a report by KTA.

Taita-Taveta County Police Commandant Patrick Okeri insisted that his officers had contained highway robberies along the important transport route. The Northern Corridor is an important transport route for Kenya, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda and covers 12,707km.

“Through collaboration, we have managed to boost security. Last year, when one truck driver was killed, we arrested three suspects whose cases are ongoing in court. We always conduct patrols, and mount roadblocks and checks for vehicles,” he said.  He acknowledged insecurity was a problem and that the Maili Kubwa area has become a dumping site for bodies.

“We caution drivers to stop picking up unauthorised passengers and encourage them to stop at safe places,” he added.

KTA Chairman Newton Wang’oo complained that security was deteriorating along the highway and said the area between Mariakani and Mtito Andei is particularly dangerous.

Drivers complained that the special Northern Corridor Police Unit was not effective. Some of them accused the officers of demanding bribes and even committing the robberies themselves.

“Our drivers are being murdered along the corridor and no action is being taken,” said Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers and Allied Workers Union chair David Masinde.

 “Police know who these people are. We are issuing a seven-day ultimatum. By Thursday next week if you won’t have arrested the culprits, we won’t drive anything in the name of a lorry. This is a strike notice,” said the union’s general secretary, Nicholas Wambua.

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