Villagers’ anguish as search for bodies continues

A Kenya Red cross official assists residents of Gathaithi to search for bodies after suspected Mungiki members killed 29 people on Monday night. Photo/ JOSEPH KANYI

On Monday, Steven Kago bought and slaughtered a sheep in readiness to open a butchery at Gathaithi shopping centre in Mathira, Nyeri East. He never did. The carcass was on Thursday still at the butchery while villagers searched for his body.

Mr Kago, 25, and his younger brother Festus Mugo, 22, have been missing since Monday night when suspected members of the outlawed Mungiki sect invaded Gathaithi village, killing 29 people, 12 from the same village and members of the same extended family. Given the extent of the massacre, the family appeared to have little hope of finding the two alive.

Cheerful self

“We have been to the Karatina Hospital mortuary since yesterday (Wednesday) and today, (yesterday). We have searched the tea plantations where the other bodies were found, but we haven’t found them,” said their grandfather, Mr Mugo Weru.

Mr Weru brought up the brothers after their mother, Eunice Muthoni, died. Mr Kago also doubled as a preacher at the local branch of the Full Gospel Church and on Sunday had met his aunt, Jackline Kirigo, who is married to a man from a nearby village.

“We greeted each other and he looked his normal and cheerful self,” she said. On the same night, his ageing grandfather heard noises outside his house at the furthest end of the village, the last homestead before one crosses Kamwitambia river into Kirinyaga West District.

“They called Mugo thrice and ordered him and his brother to come out with weapons as they were going to protect the village. They did not wake me up and even if they had, I would not have come out as I have been unwell for some time now,” said Mr Weru.

In the company of the two brothers were their three uncles, Watson Munene, Douglas Kinyua and Kenneth Munene. Only Douglas and Watson returned alive.

On Tuesday, Mr Kinyua said he managed to escape the killing spree by crawling beneath tea bushes after the group walked into a trap set by the dreaded sect members, who had also set a house on fire in one compound to lure the men.

People screaming

“I saw the fire from afar and heard people screaming but I could not go there. We only went when it became light,” said Mr Weru on Thursday. The relatives have also considered searching at the Kerugoya District Hospital and Nyeri Provincial General Hospital but have not done so as the local chief said all the bodies were taken to Karatina.

On Tuesday the family said they got information that Mr Mugo’s body had been found at Kiaruhiu trading centre, where some of the bodies had been dumped. On Wednesday, however, the body was discovered to have been that of another person, forcing the family to resume the search.

“We have not yet reported to the police but we spoke to the chief about the mat ter and we don’t know whether some of the bodies might have been transferred to Kerugoya,” said Mr Weru. Meanwhile, the families of the victims of the massacre have decided to hold joint prayers and a funeral service at the home of Mama Esther Mathenge.

They said it would be the most practical thing to do given that they are all from the same extended family and the costs would be spread among more people. They are also banking on the support promised by Internal Security minister George Saitoti when he led a high-powered delegation to the area on Wednesday afternoon. The nearby police post, which was empty when the massacre took place, has been staffed.