11 October 2008

Kenya: Criminal Gangs Spread Terror in Kangundo

Nairobi — Armed gangsters have been terrorising residents of Kangundo and Kathiani constituencies the last few weeks, forcing many of them to abandon their homes.

Benjamin Mbithi, a clinical officer based in Kangundo town whose home was invaded twice in one month, now lives in a rented house after he moved from his larger residence outside town.

Mr Mbithi said the armed gangsters invaded his house in the dead of the night. "When gangsters pay you a visit at 2 a.m., and you are with your wife and teenage daughters, do you give them another chance to do so?"

He said the criminals stole money, his car and personal effects.

The gangsters are said to be young men operating in teams under the command of established criminals.

The gangsters also raided the home of outgoing Matungulu District Officer Mary Githaiga in Tala a fortnight ago.

Wearing administration police uniforms, they tricked the DO's workers to gain entry into her house.

Retired Chief Inspector of Police Johnstone Mutua Mukeka was hospitalised at Mater Hospital in Nairobi after he was attacked during another raid at his home in Kawethei location.

In a coma

"There were about 20 people armed with weapons. Some of them surrounded our house and others manned paths leading to the house in a bid to stop any villagers from coming to our rescue. After storming our home, they slashed my husband with a panga," Mrs Mutua said.

Mr Mutua was taken to hospital in a coma with cuts on the head and a fractured leg. "The criminals address one another using such titles as corporal, sergeant, inspector or OCPD," she said. Joseph Kyalo was visited by a young man at his pub last month who warned him that his group would "visit" his home on Wednesday.

And, true to his word, that Wednesday night, a group of gangsters raided the home, smashed the windows and set their shop on fire.

"The young man is a primary school drop-out known in the neighbourhood as a thug. I escaped miraculously, and I have not spent a night in my house since then," Mr Kyalo said. The young man has been arrested, but Mr Kyalo is too frightened to testify against him.

"How can I testify against him in court when gangsters who are sympathetic to him are roaming our village?" he asked.

Three weeks ago, gangsters shot and killed Sylvester Matheka and stole Sh100,000 after raiding his home in Lita, near Kathiani town.

His wife said the attackers surrounded the house and smashed the windows before shooting her husband.

"They took his mobile phone and the money before leaving," she said.

Ironically, Mr Matheka, concerned about the rising insecurity, had donated part of his land to the state to put up a police post. The land was donated in 2004.

In Kyanzavi, several people were injured and two women raped on Friday night by a gang of about 10 men armed with crude weapons.

The gang first raided the home of a senior National Youth Service officer but were repulsed by his night guards.

At wits' end

They then attacked a nearby house where they raped a woman and her daughter and stole money.

Later they moved to another house where they beat up family members and stole from them before disappearing into the darkness.

Now residents,are at their wits' end and are organising young men into groups to patrol the villages at night, saying police have failed them.

"The vigilantes move in groups and work in shifts. They patrol between 10 p.m. and 4.30 a.m.," said Peter Matuta from Muthwani village.

"The other night, our young men repulsed the gangsters as they prepared to raid a home; the best the gangsters could do was to flash their torches at our men before turning back," he said. Ngoleni and Kaviani areas of Kathiani constituency are also faced with the same problem.

Additional reporting by Victor Nzuma

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