Gone without a trace: Kenya’s lost sons

Mr Mwenda Mbijiwe (left) and Mr Dafton Mwitiki.

Mr Mwenda Mbijiwe (left) and Mr Dafton Mwitiki.

Photo credit: File | Pool

What you need to know:

  • Kenya has recently recorded several abductions that turned out to be murders when they were investigated to the end.
  • It is now one year and five months since Mr Mwenda Mbijiwe went missing on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
  • Mr Dafton Mwitiki went missing on March 11, 2020, and close family members said he was in a hurry and was heading to seal a deal.

Kenya has recently recorded several abductions that turned out to be murders when they were investigated to the end.

The most recent case was the kidnapping of two Indian nationals – Zulfiqar Ahmad Khan and Mohamed Zaid Sami Kidwai – and their taxi driver Nicodemus Mwania from Mombasa Road.

Detectives with the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) now say the trio were killed and their bodies dumped in the Aberdare forest.

The Indians were reported to have arrived in Kenya in April to join William Ruto’s ICT campaign team, but they went missing on July 25 after they were abducted outside Ole Sereni hotel. 

Police say they were grabbed by armed men who were driving an unmarked motor vehicle.

Mr Khan was known to be active on social media. His abrupt silence raised eyebrows and his family began searching for him. He has never been found.

Nine officers who served in the now-disbanded Special Service Unit are believed to know what transpired after the three people were abducted and are in custody as investigations continue.

President William Ruto recently said the police unit was disbanded because it was linked to extrajudicial killings and forceful disappearances.

The arrested officers include Peter Muthee Gachiku, Francis Muendo Ndonye, John Mwangi Kamau and Joseph Kamau Mbugua, who were taken into custody last week.

The others are John Mwendwa Mbaya, David Chepcheng Kipsoi, Stephen Luseno Matunda, Paul Njogu Muriithi and Simon Gikonyo, who were arrested on Wednesday, October 26.

In a statement earlier this week, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) announced that it was investigating 112 cases of forceful disappearance, assuring Kenyans that most of the cases had been concluded and the next step was charging the accused in court.

“Ipoa continues to face challenges of non-cooperation by some members of the National Police Service (NPS). In view of this, the authority wishes to affirm that it will invoke the provisions of section 31 of the Ipoa Act,” said Ipoa chairperson Ann Makori.

“Further, in instances where it is evidenced, the authority will invoke individual or command responsibility to ensure accountability.”

Here are some of the other abductions of individuals who have left families with more questions than answers as the police remain clueless about what happened to their loved ones.

Dr Solomon Joloimat Lenengwesi

He went missing on July 8 and his case was taken up by Ipoa on August 22.

The businessman had just attended a meeting with a friend at a city hotel and was heading to Kileleshwa when he was stopped by a vehicle that blocked his way.

Four armed men jumped out of the car that had barred his way, introducing themselves as police officers before they left with him.

Mr Lenegwesi was with his friend in his vehicle. The friend had to drive the vehicle to Mr Lenengwesi’s home. He informed the family about what had transpired.

The family called Mr Lenengwesi’s phone number several times but it was not answered, said his sister Salome Lerosion.

But when his elder brother sent him a text message asking him whether he was okay, the businessman responded by saying “niko poa”.

“The [way] the message was drafted was a clear indication that it was not my brother who was responding,” Ms Lerosion said.

The family reported the abduction at the Lang’ata Police Station but were referred to the Kileleshwa Police Station because the incident happened there.

“We are asking the detectives following up on the matter to speed up the investigations so that we can get our brother back,” she said.

Mr Lenengwesi says in his LinkedIn profile that he was the chief executive at Global Investments Group.

He was also the Bingwa Lottery executive chairman when the company partnered with Halifax Limited in a move that allowed Kenyan mobile phone users to buy lottery tickets via short message services, the first end-to-end SMS-based lottery in the country.

He did not have any ongoing cases in court.

Mr Mwenda Mbijiwe

Mwenda Mbijiwe

Security analyst Mwenda Mbijiwe. It is now one year and five months since Mr Mwenda Mbijiwe went missing on Saturday, June 12, 2021.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

It is now one year and five months since Mr Mwenda Mbijiwe went missing on Saturday, June 12, 2021.

Interestingly, despite the attention the matter was given by former Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti, his disappearance was not included on a recent list issued by Ipoa.

Mr Mbijiwe was a known security expert and a former Kenya Air Force officer, serving for several years before he left to start his own company.

His disappearance also caught the attention of Rigathi Gachagua, who said that once the Kenya Kwanza coalition won the elections, they would get to the bottom of the matter. But this is yet to happen.

For four months, his phone number remained active on WhatsApp groups until Friday, October 14, 2021, when he left several groups, raising the question suggesting that someone else was using his mobile phone.

His family says he disappeared en route from Nairobi to Meru County. He was going to see his mother.

He went silent at 8 pm and his phone signal was traced to Thika, Kiambu County, detectives said.

The car he was last spotted in was traced to Kamiti Corner on Sunday, October 20, 2021, with the doors vandalised, keys missing and the radiator unplugged.

Mr Mbijiwe went missing alongside Mathew Muhatia Namasaka, his longtime driver.

Mr Mbijiwe had an ongoing case in court. In June 2019, he was charged with fraudulently acquiring money.

He was accused of conning Mr Fadhili Abdi Mohamed of Sh150,000 by pretending that he could get his sister Shamso Abdirahman a job at the United Nations.

Court documents in our possession claim Mr Mbijiwe committed the act on March 28, 2019, in Nairobi.

He appeared before Magistrate Martha Mutuku and pleaded not guilty. He was released on Sh50,000 cash bail.

Mr Dafton Mwitiki

Businessman Dafton Mwitiki

Businessman Dafton Mwitiki who disappeared on March 11, 2020

Photo credit: Pool

He went missing on March 11, 2020, and close family members said he was in a hurry and was heading to seal a deal.

His brother Victor said Mr Mwitiki was a shrewd businessman who co-owned a restaurant in Nairobi alongside a Chinese national.

But police claimed he had engaged in a series of kidnappings in the city where families had to part with millions of shillings to secure the freedom of their loved ones.

In two kidnapping cases that were investigated to the end, the phone numbers were registered to his name, putting him at the centre of the crimes.

In the first case, a Chinese national was kidnapped on February 27, 2020, with the criminals demanding Sh100 million.

The plan was foiled by detectives from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) who tracked down the suspects and killed four of them, including an administration police officer.

A source privy to the investigations said the communications equipment used in demanding the ransom was a sophisticated one but the line was registered to Mr Mwitiki.

In the second case, a university student went missing in January 2020 and his kidnappers demanded a ransom of Sh100 million.

The case was reported on January 13, 2020, at the Kilimani Police Station, but investigations were dropped days later after the family withdrew the case and paid the kidnappers Sh4 million after negotiations.

The student’s phone was switched off in Roysambu on Thika Road at 11.50 pm on the same day he went missing.

Mr Mwitiki’s vehicle was found in a thicket near Juja Oakland Estate after an unidentified person was found driving it.

No one has been arrested in relation to the matter.