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Widows and kin of Mpeketoni victims open up on life after night of terror

Doris Mbinya. The 22-year-old is seven months pregnant. The devastation of her husband’s loss is still fresh in her mind. She married Geoffrey Kipkorir, 25, just six months before the attackers took away his life. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUPDoris Mbinya. The 22-year-old is seven months pregnant. The devastation of her husband’s loss is still fresh in her mind. She married Geoffrey Kipkorir, 25, just six months before the attackers took away his life. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Doris Mbinya. The 22-year-old is seven months pregnant. The devastation of her husband’s loss is still fresh in her mind. She married Geoffrey Kipkorir, 25, just six months before the attackers took away his life.

Samwel Ruru had just graduated from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture Technology with a bachelors degree in Commerce and was about to start working. Being an only child of Joseph and Mary Ruru, all eyes were on him. He was expected to take care of his aging parents. Because he had completed his education and the future appeared bright, the 25-year-old got married.

“He was very hardworking and was our only hope. He was to continue the legacy of Ruru family,” his father says.
His precious life was cut short by a close range bullet from one of the attackers.

“He was spending the evening with his wife when the killers struck and frogmarched them outside. They were lined up and he was shot at close range as his wife watched,” Mr Ruru adds.

Doris Mbinya
The 22-year-old is seven months pregnant. The devastation of her husband’s loss is still fresh in her mind. She married Geoffrey Kipkorir, 25, just six months before the attackers took away his life.

As the sole breadwinner, Kipkorir was a boda boda rider. On the ill-fated evening, Kipkorir had gone to fix his motorbike.
She called to inquire how far he was so that she could begin boiling water for the evening meal.

“He said he was on the way,” she says.

Then gunshots began. Her husband’s phone went off.

“Because of the confusion, I followed my neighbours into hiding,” she says.
She only got the bad news in the morning when she came from hiding to find his body lying in a pool of blood outside their house.

Jane Wambui
She was left with a six-month-old baby. Ms Wambui, 24, entirely depended on her husband, Jeremiah Mwangi for survival.
Their one-year marriage looked promising as Mwangi was hardworking and ambitious.

“He told me he was going to get supper. I remained in the house. When he reached the gate, I heard gunfire. He had been shot by the men who proceeded to the next victim,” she recalls.

What pains her most is that the killers never looked bothered.

“They shot him and left as if nothing had happened. Did they know that I would end up suffering? They gave me this kind of life and I am now staring at poverty,” she says adding that she would find it difficult to pick up from where Jeremiah.

Ann Theuri
Ms Ann Theuri lost her husband when their life was just becoming better. She is 31 years old and they were married in 2008.
“He was hardworking. We have struggled through thick and thin but he did not live to enjoy the fruits of his sweat,” she says.
Mr Muiruri was shot twice in the leg and once in the chest.

His friend James Gichu survived. “He was escorting me home. We both had motorbikes. Then we saw a fire in Kibaoni and we decided to go to help,” Gichu says.

He says his brother then called to find out if he had heard about the gunshots.
“In a flash, Muiruri was shot in the leg. I dashed into the bush,” he says.

The gunmen arrived there and asked the bleeding Muiruri his name and then shot him in the chest.
Rachel Okello
Ms Rachel Okello’s husband, John Otuke, was among those killed in Kaisare village.
“We were happy that evening as he had arrived from his workplace in Mombasa with iron sheets to build his house,” she says.

She adds that the men told him that he occupied land that did not belong to him.

He pleaded with them to give him up to next morning when he would leave. They frogmarched him into an open field. He looked back to see a helpless wife and five children staring in fear.

She made frantic efforts to call for help. “They were going from house by house getting the men out. There was still time for police to save my husband but they never came till dawn,” she says.

The executions began at midnight. “We heard gunshots from our hiding place but could do nothing,” she says.
Mary Wanjiku
Ms Mary Wanjiku is very bitter with the killers of her husband. The mother of nine does not want even to relive the events of the night of June 15 when the heavily-armed attackers descended on Mpeketoni and caused a scar that will never heal.

Her husband, Amos Mburu, was in the list of the dead.

“I just don’t want to recall what happened on that night and the killing of my husband,” she says.

Up to this moment, she has never understood how a human being can be so cruel to a member of his own species.

“Those people were wild animals. They killed my husband and left me with nine children to take care of. How can I manage this?” she asks rhetorically.
She found herself a job in a local butchery in Mpeketoni but her life has changed for the worse; forever.

Mary Ruru and her husband Joseph Ruru. They lost their 25 year old son who had just graduated from JKUAT.

Mary Ruru and her husband Joseph Ruru. They lost their 25 year old son who had just graduated from JKUAT.

CALM AND NORMALCY

Calm and normalcy is slowly returning in Lamu County, two months after gunmen ambushed several towns and killed at least 60 people.
Police say twelve camps in the thick Boni Forest, believed to be the hideouts for the militia group, have been captured.
The attackers are said to be in the deep end of the forest retreating towards the neighbouring Somalia.

Intelligence reports suggest that some families are also housing the bandits in Kipini, an area that was never attacked during the killings.
The operation to smoke out the killers is being carried out by the Kenyan Defence Forces and the police.

The command is led by Deputy Inspector General of Police Samuel Arachi. Although security in the areas that were affected during the attack has been tightened, residents still prefer living in IDP centres.

During the day, residents go about their businesses, but during the night they retreat to the camps for safety.
“When night comes, I fear going to my house, so to feel safe, I join others with a story like mine at the IDP centres,” said Sara Muthoni.
The crackdown has been going on for the last two months and has seen 71 suspects arrested and charged in court.

The army is in charge of night patrols while police take control in the day. The curfew is still on and when night falls, not even the police can venture outside.

The soldiers are still searching the forest where the attackers are believed to be hiding.
“The area is around 1,200km², it is also a dense forest, so far, we have taken over 12 camps,” said Mr Arachi.

The curfew imposed by the Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo has helped restore normalcy in the county.
However, residents are treading carefully even with the security boost.

Hindi prison for instance accommodates residents who are still afraid to be in their homes at night. This is one of the four main IDP centres in the area.
County Commissioner Miiri Njenga said the number had drastically reduced since the crackdown on the bandits began.

Families and their livestock flock the prison from 5.45pm and leave as early as 5am to go back to their farms and businesses.
When the Nation visited the prison, 148 residents had slept there.

“The number was as high as 3,000, however if you look at the situation now, the number has fallen to a handful of people whose houses were burnt,” says Njenga.

STILL LIVE IN FEAR
However, residents still live in fear because most of the suspects arrested are granted bail and hence released.
“This is our greatest headache, we are in talks with the Judiciary to see how such issues can be addressed,” said Mr Arachi.

Besides Hindi prison, other camps are the power station, a home belonging to Mr Alex Kamenja and a farm belonging to Mr John Musebiu.

“We cannot stay at home. We don’t have the courage yet and most of us have fresh memories of the attack, that is why we live in camps. Some (residents) do not have homes because the houses were burnt down,” said a villager, Mr Bernard King’ori.

The Deputy Inspector General said 35 people are still under investigations while others are in remand. However, justice could still be far off a the Nation learnt that some locals were hesitant to record statements with the police. This might see some killers walk free and weaken the cases against suspects.

Mr Arachi noted that the curfew would continue until the security operation is completed. “We cannot say that the operation will end soon, we are conducting extensive investigations to bring to book financiers of the attacks and the killers and ensure the place remain peaceful after we leave,” he said.

He denied claims that the police and army were torturing innocent people saying the villagers had not reported to them such cases.

As far the as the attacks are concerned, the county commissioner said several theories were being explored including the possibility of hired goons.
However, Mr Njenga said he was sure the conflict was not as a result of communities rising against each other.

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