Kidnapping in Murang’a and Kirinyaga counties has declined due to increased crackdowns, improved surveillance and the cooperation of residents, according to the police.
Residents of the two counties have been passing sleepless nights especially during the latter half of 2013 when gangs abducted people with impunity, putting police on the spot. But they are now saying the worst is over.
“Residents have been more forthcoming with information that has enabled us to arrest the culprits, and this has dissuaded other would-be abductors,” Central region director of police operations Ephantus Kiura told the Sunday Nation.
But he declined to give the number of those arrested in connection with the kidnappings.
He said cartels carried out the abductions but added that most of them have been disbanded after their members were arrested.
Mr Kiura said most of the abductions were related to business rivalries while others were carried out by family members of the victims.
“Some of these people were looking at their rich relatives and arranged for their kidnapping expecting to gain from the ransoms demanded,” he said.
During a tour of Kirinyaga County on November 29, police chief David Kimaiyo declared war on kidnappers and killers.
He said 190 extra police officers would be posted in Kirinyaga County to deal with the criminals.
In Murang’a, the county government donated one vehicle while the national government provided two to assist with surveillance in the area.
County Commissioner Kula Hache told the Sunday Nation the nyumba kumi initiative – where neighbours offer to be each other’s’ keepers – was responsible for the improved situation.
“Even a single case of abduction affects the entire community, but such incidents have gone down in this area,” she said.
The most recent case was reported on December 15 when a 100-year-old woman and her daughter-in-law were forcibly taken from their home in Gitui village around 7pm.
Relatives said the two were abducted by four men dressed in police uniforms who claimed the old woman was wanted at a police station.
A similar incident involving men in police uniform happened on the evening of November 2, when 52-year-old Harrison Gichuhi was kidnapped in Kagio town, Kirinyaga.
He was about to close his business, a petrol station, when a gang of five showed up in a white saloon car.
Mr Gichuhi was then bundled into the vehicle and driven off towards Nairobi as his employees screamed for help.
Mr Gichuhi was held captive for five days as the kidnappers demanded Sh2 million ransom. But he managed to escape when his captors left him unguarded in a forest in Murang’a.
Vigilantes in Kirinyaga grew weary of these criminals, and on November 11 lynched two suspects in Kagumo market.
Mr Kiura asked residents to be wary of suspicious characters as they might have ulterior motives.
The kidnappers usually take their victims by surprise and whisk them off to secluded places where they hold them hostage for hours and even weeks.
They threaten to kill their captives if the ransom money is not sent as demanded, and sometimes they make good on their threats, sending shock waves across the counties.
Last year some 20 Kirinyaga residents were abducted; three of them were hacked to death.
Hardly a month passed without reports that several people had fallen prey to the well-organised gang that pounced on their victims even in broad daylight.
Some residents even fled their residences to neighbouring Embu County fearing possible abduction and execution.
Mr Cyrus Munene, a trader, was brutally killed and his body dumped in a rice plantation at Nguka village on the Mwea plains. He was abducted upon arrival at his Kerugoya home at around 9pm.
A night guard was hacked to death as he attempted to rescue his boss. Mr Munene, who owned a private boarding primary school and other businesses, was found dead two days later.