Western Kenya Killer Gangs part I
Western Kenya Killer Gangs part II
The gangs that recently terrorised villagers in Busia and Bungoma counties were hired before the March 4 elections and trained on Lake Victoria islands.
Three men alleging they were hired to do the killings have spoken to The Standard on Saturday for the first time revealing previously unheard details of how dozens of youth were turned into killers. Their shocking claims have rocked the uneasy calm that descended on the two counties, after a month-long orgy of killings.
The killer gangs had struck in the wake of the March 4 polls, with a series of murders that sparked reprisals and left many people dead. They then went underground when police launched a crackdown to smoke them out.
The Standard On Saturday recently ventured out on assignment to establish how the victims of the attacks were faring. This writer and KTN reporter Patrick Amimo also set off on a journey around the two Western Kenya counties in a bid to uncover the faces behind the attacks. It was then that the members of one of the killer gangs made contact. A call from one of our sources indicated that some members of the main gang behind the attacks would agree to meet us and possibly be interviewed.
The details of the meeting were quickly arranged. True to their word, three young men (names withheld) arrived at a secret location we had designated for the interview.
They gave us fresh information that would change the focus of our investigations entirely. The eldest of the trio did much of the talking.
â€œWe were recruited by a politician (name withheld) to join the gang that comprised 65 youths from Busia and Bungoma counties,â€ he said. The men were told to converge one evening at a central place a few days after the March 4 General Election, from where they were transported for a briefing.
â€œSince the majority of us are jobless we boarded a vehicle that was assigned to us,â€ he went on. â€œBefore long, we were at a place within Busia County where we met other youths who appeared to have been ferried there earlier.
â€œA man who appeared to be the one in command told us that after a meal, we were to proceed on another journey that would take us between four to five hours. At around midnight, a lorry arrived and one after another, we climbed aboard. In the dark of the night, we began our journey. After driving for a while, we arrived at a place that appeared like a small market, but with little activity. Upon enquiring, I was informed that the place was Port Victoria, on the shores of Lake Victoria. There were four boats docked there and their occupants seemed to be waiting for us. We went aboard and set off on the lake. After about 20 minutes, we were told we had arrived.
â€œAbout 30 of us were told to alight at one island that we later learnt was called Khanete. The rest were taken to another island known as Nabaduma. That is the last island on the Kenyan side before you venture into Ugandan waters. The night passed without fanfare since most of us were tired from the long journey. Six hours later, we were told some guests would be arriving after they had visited and briefed the group at Nabaduma Island.
â€œAt around mid-day, a boat arrived carrying people who I have never met. Four of them were wearing long robes like those usually worn by Ugandans and West Africans. Only one was wearing a suit.
Also on the boat were a black sheep, a hen and other paraphernalia. After a short while and without saying anything, the men begun slaughtering the sheep. Two others were busy cutting open the live hen.
Some paraphernalia was sewn inside the henâ€™s body before the bird, which was still alive, was shoved into the water. Then the speeches began.
â€œWe were informed that our mission was to undergo some form of military training, afterwhich we were to be dispatched to Busia and Bungoma to carry out killing missions. During the training, we were to pose as fishermen during the day and resume our training schedules at night.
â€œFor every human head we delivered, we were told we would be paid Sh10,000 each. An initial down-payment of Sh100,0000 was given out as we were made to eat the sheepâ€™s meat, prepared with charms, and drink its blood. The oath we were being asked to take was said to make it impossible for the police to arrest us. Three of us resisted taking the oath when it was our turn to do so. As I came to realise later, these two (referring to the colleagues at the interview with him) and I are staunch Christians. We could not accept to attack and kill just for money. â€œRealising that their mission would be impossible with our presence, the leaders of the group converged and after about about 10 minutes ordered us to leave the island. They warned of severe consequences if we were to disclose this information to anyone. We were given a waiting boat that ferried us back to Port Victoria.â€
The three men do not explain why they were not killed on the island to keep the gangâ€™s secret. Was it because the leaders did not want to terrify the other recruits who had not yet been hardened by weeks of training? Whatever the reason, the three survived to share their tale with journalists.
â€œWe have decided to come forward because we trust the media,â€ they said. â€œWe canâ€™t allow our people to continue suffering at the hands of criminals.â€
The revelations forced us to venture out in search of the two islands. We established that there had been many young men working as fishermen at the two islands.
Residents of Sumba Island, not far from Khanete and Nabaduma, also mentioned noticing strange people at the two islands, especially at night.
â€œI was passing by Khanete Island at night from the Uganda side of the lake (one day) and saw a group of people who had lit small fires,â€ said Peter Musumba, the Chairman of Sumba Island Management Beach Unit, who thought the men were pirates, intent on robbing fishermen of their catch and equipment.
As dust appears to settle on the wave of killings executed by ruthless groups and Government makes frantic efforts to boost security, local leaders say this has only led to a lull before more attacks, even worse than before, begin