River Yala: Dumped bodies back as six men, woman retrieved from water

River Yala bodies

Villagers stare at an unidentified body that was discovered in River Yala, Siaya County on January 20, 2022.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Yala Sub-County Hospital administrators have called on families with missing relatives to visit its morgue to find out whether they are among seven unidentified bodies lying there.

The bodies of six males and one female were retrieved from the River Yala in the past two months.

Medical superintendent Bruno Okal said the bodies were collected from different spots in the river.

“We call upon members of the public to visit and establish whether their missing kin are among the bodies. Three of the bodies were retrieved from water while four were found along the banks, according to the police who brought them,” Dr Okal said.

He added: “The hospital administration is making this call in order to ease the strain that is currently experienced in the facility. We can only handle a maximum of 16 bodies. Secondly, relatives of the deceased persons should give them a decent send-off.”

Some of the seven bodies had begun decomposing, just like 32 others retrieved from the same river in January.

“Our mortuary is relatively small. Bodies retrieved from water are often in bad shape and require specialised handling … our facility is strained beyond limit,” he added.

Of those retrieved in January, 13 were positively identified by relatives through DNA analysis and were subsequently collected and buried.

At the time, the news of unclaimed bodies retrieved from the River Yala and piled up at the Yala hospital mortuary shocked the country, with media reports suggesting that they were extrajudicial killings possibly carried out by state security agencies.

In an earlier interview, Mr Nicholas Okero, who helped the police retrieve bodies from the river, said some bodies were stuffed in sacks before being discarded into the river.

“Some had deep cuts and their faces [were] totally disfigured. Some bodies had also stayed in water for long and [had] begun decomposing,” Mr Okero said.

He also said some “had their faces tied with polythene bags and their hands tied to their backs”.

He speculated that some of those bodies might have been dumped upstream and driven downstream by currents to the Ndanu falls, where they were found.

Government chief pathologist Johansen Oduor, who led the postmortem examinations on the 32 bodies, said at the time that some of them were skeletal.

He said others had “disfigured faces” and could not be identified “unless through DNA sampling”.

Police spokesman Bruno Shioso said the police would investigate what led to their deaths.

“As the police, we shall leave no stone unturned. All the bodies will be identified and we shall ensure justice is served. We shall arrest all the perpetrators and bring them to face the law,” he said.