Chief Jane Muchui: Did illicit brewers kill my son to avenge crackdowns?

Chief Jane Muchui

Chief Jane Muchui with a picture of her son, Joseph Muchui, who was murdered on November 1, 2022. Top left: Chief Machui and her husband John Muchui at the grave of their son.

Photo credit: Stella Cherono | Nation Media Group

Chief Jane Muchui buried her son on his birthday.

She is supposed to return to work after the bereavement period, but she is not sure she wants to. She is lost in a melee of fear, suspicion and anger on one end and the zeal to fight illicit brews on the other.

The Gituamba chief strongly suspects that her son, Joseph Muchui, 30, was murdered by a group of villagers opposed to her crackdown on illicit alcohol in her location in Laikipia West.

The first day of November, she says, remains the darkest day of her life.

That day, she was at home when she received a call from the village elder Mwangi Murimi.

“He told me that I needed to go to an area called Plot 10 in Kiambogo sub-location. I did not suspect anything when he called. Joe had been away for two days but I thought he had travelled or something,” she said.

Chief Muchui told Nation.Africa at her home that after that first call, several other people also called her, each asking her to rush to Plot 10. The calls became too many, and she had to ignore some of them.

“I drove to Plot 10 with my nephew Muiruri, and when I arrived at the shopping centre, I saw clusters of people gathered in different spots and when all groups spotted my vehicle, they stared,” she said.

“I stopped and one man came to me and told me, ‘Pole’. I wondered why he said he was sorry, and as I started to interrogate him, another villager came and pulled him aside.

“I could hear her quarrelling and telling him that he needed to prepare me first. All this while, I wondered what they were talking about.”

A few minutes later, another woman joined them and they asked her to allow them into her car. That is when they broke the news.

“I cried. I really cried. It was painful,” she said, amid tears.

Later, Chief Muchui and some women, including the bearers of the bad news, walked to the scene where her son’s body was lying.

“I remember seeing dried blood on his face, then the elbows and knees had dug the soil, an indication that he had struggled trying to rise from the ground. When we checked his body, I saw bruises on his torso,” she said.

She said several residents called the police as they helped her into her vehicle.

“After a while, I requested them to let me go back and check my son’s body again. My aim was to try and establish if he had been murdered there, or if his body was dropped there,” she said.

“The training that we go through has some elements of crime scene analysis and so I wanted to look out for some.”

From her analysis, she suspected that her son was killed elsewhere and his body dropped at the corner of the farm at Plot 10.

“His clothes had no blackjack, yet almost everyone there had gathered the weed on their clothes,” she said.

“I believe he was still alive when he was dropped there, there were signs he struggled to rise up. My favourite son tried to rise but he could not.”

She said she suspects some illicit brew makers in her location conspired to kill her son because of her constant crackdowns on them.

Her husband said the postmortem report indicated their son was hit on the back of his head with a blunt object and that someone kicked his torso several times.

“I am a matatu driver and I was on my way to Nakuru to drop off some clients. When I got the news, I came back and went to the morgue where the body was taken. It was painful seeing my son lying lifeless,” he said.

The couple described their son as resourceful, hardworking and thoughtful. “He was always available for any task and we have always relied on him as our driver. He was always there,” Mr Muchui said.

On the day of this interview, Mr Muchui, some political and religious leaders and a few village elders were holding a meeting on how to eradicate the drug and illicit alcohol problem in the village.

“We have lost so many youth to alcohol. Some of them lost their sight. Most youth just spend their days drinking. It is tough and my wife has really been on the forefront in the fight against this menace,” Mr Muchui said.

Geoffrey Gichuku, a resident of Karandi, said the village had been ruined by alcohol, bhang and miraa.

“Unlike in the past, these days the brewers just add some concoctions to water and then serve their customers even within an hour,” he said.

“It is a shortcut. Initially, local brews were brewed for even three days. The alcohol these people sell these days is just poison.”

Pastor John Nyagah, also from the area, blamed the police for not supporting chiefs in the crackdowns, adding that some officers receive bribes from brewers for protection.

Alcohol, he said, had brought other forms of evil to villages in Laikipia West, including suicide, domestic violence, separation, rape, defilement, sexual assaults and road accidents.

Chief Muchui says she is not sure if she wants to keep doing her work, and she feels unsafe.

“I have received numerous threats and I feel like every day at work will remind me of Joe, my son. I will still think about it,” she said.

Another chief in Nakuru, who requested anonymity, said the fight against illicit brews had been left to chiefs without the backing of Administration Police officers.

“It is becoming tough to do these operations. The villages gang up against us and sometimes they assault us,” he said.

The death of Chief Muchui’s son is under investigation and it is too early to link the death to the brewers, said Laikipia County Police Commander John Nyoike.

On Thursday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kindiki Kithure ordered that police officers be assigned to chiefs.

He said chiefs will have at least five officers and be required to keep work plans and a register of services.

These plans will take effect by early next year and are intended to make the 3,950 chiefs and their 9,043 assistants more effective and more accountable to the public.

He said every chief will have “police officers attached to them to enable them … to enforce law and order”.

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