The fight for the control of a human trafficking route between the northern Kenya and Nairobi might have led to the death of a Kenya Defence Forces soldier in a car crash in Murang’a last Monday.
Senior Private Frankline Muthee Gitonga, who was based at the Defence Headquarters Camp Administration Unit, was the driver of the ill-fated Toyota Probox ferrying seven illegal immigrants from Ethiopia to the city.
The vehicle was heading to Makutano from Kenol when it veered off the road and overturned.
A joint police, intelligence and military investigative team is trying to piece together the sequence of events that led to the accident.
“We have established that the soldier was off duty,” Murang’a South Police boss Alexander Shikondi said, adding that KDF was not under investigation but “an incident involving an individual”.
A preliminary report indicates that there was another soldier who was seen by witnesses fleeing the scene while carrying a gun. He reportedly boarded a matatu heading to Thika and is being sought.
The vehicle had been spotted in Moyale on January 21 and Isiolo town the following morning. The Probox was also seen at Archers Post and Marsabit and had covered about 181 kilometres on Monday. It had left Isiolo at 4am.
What’s puzzling investigators is how the vehicle, which was supposed to be heading to Nairobi, crashed while moving in the opposite direction.
“Our working theory is that the vehicle was travelling from Isiolo towards Thika with intention to access Nairobi. But along the way, there was a confrontation that led to the vehicle being shot at from behind,” states the intelligence report. It suggests that the driver might have defied orders to stop.
Mr Shikondi said they were also trying to find out if there were highway patrol officers on Monday.
“All logical conclusions point to a clandestine conflict that compelled the driver to change course and flee,” he said.
A source added: “The actors in this ring have their fiefdoms. It appears the two KDF men were either working alone or belonged to a network that wanted to go against the criminal enterprise.”
When the crash occurred, a caller who introduced himself as an immigration security officer in Nairobi told the Nation that there was an accident at Kenol that involved a vehicle that was on an official mission to repatriate seven illegal immigrants. They were being driven by a soldier since they were suspected to be terrorists, he said. The caller did not want the story to run “since it’s very sensitive and touches on national security”.
At the scene, however, there were no repatriation orders that are procured from the courts and the said illegal immigrants were not handcuffed.
When the Nation called the “immigration officer” to clarify why the government was repatriating the immigrants using a private car, the call was disconnected and the phone switched off.
“We have arraigned the seven Ethiopian nationals for being in the country illegally. We are seeking repatriation orders,” said Mr Shikondi.
They did not take plea as police indicated that some needed more time to stabilise after the accident.
Senior resident magistrate Shivai Agade directed that all be produced in court on February 3 to take plea. The prosecution also said the seven need an interpreter since they are only fluent in Amharic.
A military source said if the soldier is not given a military burial, it would mean he was found to have been engaged in crime.