18 March 2018

Kenya: Search for Mt Elgon Killer Gang Leader Extends to Uganda

Security officers have extended the hunt for the suspected key leader of the killer gang in Mt Elgon to Uganda after two others were captured several days ago.

The hunt for Mr Timothy Kiptanui Kitai, alias Cheparkach, who is on the run after a Sh1 million bounty was placed on his head, has been intensified.

Two people linked to the criminal gang - Mr Alex Juma and Mr Cleophas Sichei - were arrested across the border in Suam on Friday.

MURDER

They appeared in a Bungoma court on Tuesday under tight security.

However, the two did not take plea as the prosecution asked for more time to conclude investigations.

The prosecution said it intended to charge the two with murder, robbery with violence, rape, malicious damage to property and causing grievous bodily harm.

Western region criminal investigation officer David Cheruiyot declined to give the progress in the hunt for Mr Kitai.

CURFEW

A week after a three-month dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed in the region, no attacks have been reported and relative calm is beginning to return to Mt Elgon.

"We want to tell Cheparkach and his gang that the government will deal with them mercilessly. Our officers have firm instructions to hunt them down and ensure peace in restored in Mt Elgon," Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i said, when he toured Kipsigon on Tuesday.

MATAKWEI

So who is Cheparkach?

A Sabaot elder says the name Cheparkach means he who strikes with a spear to kill.

Coincidentally, Mr Cheparkach hails from the same village as former Sabaot Land Defence Force leader Wycliffe Kirui Matwakei, who was killed at the height of the gang's atrocities in Mt Elgon in 2005.

RUTHLESS

Mr Cheparkach is feared for his criminal exploits.

The 35-year-old described by villagers as vengeful, ruthless and sly, is a primary school dropout who has been linked to several robberies in Mt Elgon and other towns in western Kenya.

The latest attacks by the gang targeted villagers in Kipsigon, Banantega, Kopsiro Masaek Chebyuk and Huruma areas.

CONSPIRACY

A close relative told the Nation how Cheparkach was initiated into crime at a tender age after dropping out of school, a decision which led to rows with his e father.

As the relationship between father and son grew worse, Cheparkach is said to have conspired with his mother to banish the old man from the family home in Kopsiro, making Mzee Kitai to seek refuge at one of his wives homesteads.

CHURCH ATTACK

At 18, Cheparkach was accused of organising an attack on a church camp in Kopsiro during which several women were raped.

Cheparkach was arrested and charged with robbery.

In 2002, Cheparkach was again linked to a robbery in Kitalale scheme in which five people were killed.

"He fled to Kisumu and later to Nairobi to escape arrest," says a relative who sought anonymity.

CONVICTED

He was on the run until 2004, when he was arrested with an an AK-47 rifle and a pistol.

The weapons were linked to several robberies in Kisumu and Nairobi.

Mr Cheparkach was convicted and sent to prison.

His father was murdered in mysterious circumstances in February 2007, and his body dumped in a pit latrine near a primary school at Kabukwo area.

NETWORK

The decomposing body was found days later.

Cheparkach resurfaced in Mt Elgon in 2014. Information as to whether he ever served his sentence remains scanty.

Villagers, who spoke to the Nation, said Cheparkach has been conducting his criminal activities under the watch of security officers, but evaded arrest because of his wide network of informants.

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