Mysterious killings of top directors haunt major land-buying company

The remains of a car belonging to Mr Paul Kariuki, the chairman of Kihiu Mwiri Land Company who was abducted by unknown people in Thika on July 1, 2015. The car was found burnt, but he is yet to be found. PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

There are many parallels between the Godfather — the blockbuster movie about the mafia settling scores — and the cold-blooded gangland-style killings at Kihiu Mwiri, a land-buying company in Murang’a South.

In the past two years, six directors have been killed in mysterious circumstances. In all, over the past 15 years, seven directors have been killed while four others have disappeared without trace. Some relatives of the directors have also been abducted at various points and later released in the calculated attacks aimed at eliminating all the officials in the 6,200-member company. The question that remains unanswered is why these officials are being eliminated.

In the latest incident, the company chairman, Mr Paul Kariuki, disappeared on Wednesday evening soon after leaving his office in Thika town. His burnt car was later found in Limuru. Six days later, his whereabouts remain unknown as police say investigations are under way.

His wife, Ruth Nyambura, told the Nation that Mr Kariuki called her at around 4pm on the ill-fated day and told her he was leaving the office after a long meeting with some shareholders.

Mr Kariuki — who has been the chairman since 2001 — was to drive home directly.

“I waited for him but he never arrived home. I tried his phone throughout the night but it was on voicemail,” she said when the Nation contacted her on Saturday evening.


She said that on the morning after Mr Kariuki went missing, she reached the people he was with the previous day to enquire about his whereabouts. No one appeared to know.

“I decided to go to a petrol station in Thika where he normally parks his vehicle and the attendant informed me that he had picked his car at around 6pm,” said Ms Nyambura.

At that point, she decided to report the matter at Thika Police Station. Police tracked his mobile phone to Ndarugo in Juja on the Thika Superhighway at around 7pm.

The following day, his car was found in Limuru near St Paul’s University, burnt. Ms Nyambura was able to identify the car and a cheque book, which was partially burnt.

Curiously, Mr Kariuki had consented to give an interview to the Nation about the mysterious killings at the company. He went missing the day before the interview.

He had also pledged to organise at least four other families of his colleagues to speak about how their relatives were killed .
The Nation last spoke to him on Wednesday at around 4pm, and he confirmed that he would arrange for the interviews the following day. That, however, was not to be. Attempts to call him after that did not succeed as his phone was on voice mail.


His family now fears the worst, considering the misfortunes that have been befallen company officials in the past.

“He had complained that his life was in danger,” said his brother, Mr James Macharia.

On Sunday last week, Mr Paul Kaharu, also a director of the company with its base in Gatanga, was shot dead as he walked to his car in Majengo Estate in Thika. He had stopped to meet a friend while on his way home, when the assailants who were on a motorcycle shot him six times.

Accosted by gang

He will be buried on Wednesday.

On May 10, the company’s vice-chairman, Mr Peter Kuria, was shot dead at his home in Grey Stone at around 7pm. Nothing was stolen from him.
In January, Mr Wilfred Gichana was killed by a gang in his home.

And last year, Mr Charles Kamau, yet another director, was accosted by a gang in his home while Mr Ibrahim Mwangi was executed when gangsters forced their way into his home at Kihiu Mwiri farm.

The calculated executions started with the killing of Mr Benson Gumbi in 2001 after he was waylaid by a gang in a coffee plantation as he went to a company meeting. It must have been the perfect murder.

To this day, no one has ever been arrested or prosecuted for the killing, or for any of the others.

Word on the streets is that a group with interest in the land company has hired a hit squad to eliminate the officials.

“We have reported the matter to the police in both Thika and Murang’a, but no one has ever been arrested. Directors have recorded statements over threats but no one takes us seriously,” said Mr Joseph Muiruri, a director.


Murang’a County Commissioner Kula Hache yesterday said authorities were puzzled by the killings.

“We do not know why they have been killing each other because there is no remaining empty land to grab or sell. We thought the murders were a result of lack of documentation and we have a task force in place to facilitate release of title deeds but they are still doing it,” said Ms Hache.

The government sent police officers to the farm in Murang’a and since then, no one has been killed there. Instead, the victims are followed to Kiambu County. She said her office had closed the company offices as part of wider efforts to resolve leadership wrangles but one faction went to court and was allowed to remain in office, a situation that has fuelled the quarrels.

Of the directors who have been missing since March last year, three were abducted in Kiambu County.

Mr Newton Muhoro, Mr Job Mwangi and Mr James Kimaru were picked from a Thika hotel by people who pretended to be police officers. Since then, their whereabouts have remained a mystery.

“They were all seated at one table when they were ‘arrested’,” said Mr Muiruri.

Four months to their disappearance, they had accused the police in Thika East of colluding with their colleagues to intimidate them and have them charged with murder.

The company was registered in 1970 and through a loan and membership contribution (Sh120,000 from each member), it bought 1,285 acres of land that has since been subdivided among the members.

The scramble for money, power and control has been blamed for the bloodshed, with some of the directors and shareholders claiming that there is a group among them that is behind the killings.


The company has been embroiled in leadership wrangles for over two decades.

Last year, at a meeting convened by the Registrar of Companies, the wrangling factions agreed to form one team. Mr Kariuki, who was the chairman of one of the factions, was picked as chairman while Mr Kuria, who chaired the officials elected in 2011, settled for the vice-chairmanship.

Of the team allied to Mr Kariuki, two directors have been killed while two others are missing. From the team allied to Mr Muiruri, three directors have been shot dead while two are missing.

Ms Mercy Wanjiku, a shareholder, claimed there is a third group, which is running parallel activities, including fresh vetting of members at a fee.
The matter, she said, had been reported to the police, but no action has been taken.

Though the directors said they had been working in harmony, sources indicated that there could be mistrust among some of them, who are likely working with other forces.

Meetings with Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, the county commissioner as well as the intervention of Senator Kembi Gitura and Woman Representative Sabina Chege have borne no fruits.

During a recent tour of the region, Deputy President William Ruto ordered Lands Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to have the title deeds released by September as a permanent solution to the killings.

However, Mr Njoroge said there were individuals trying to scuttle the process so that they can continue swindling shareholders by demanding registration, surveying and title deed fees.


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