NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 21 – Police have nabbed 63 suspects following the Monday night slaughter in Mathira, where fighting between residents and Mungiki adherents claimed more than 29 lives.
The killings, which turned the area into a terrifying orgy of blood and crude weapons, have been strongly condemned by the government and petrified residents.
On Tuesday evening, President Mwai Kibaki ordered the Minister for Internal Security to get to the root cause of the killings in the Mathira Division of Central Province.
“Security forces should provide detailed accounts of what transpired with a view to ensuring such heinous crimes never recur,” said a terse statement sent to newsrooms via email.
The Head of State said the killings ‘were a matter of great concern’ and further ‘condemned the loss of lives’, directing that the culprits be brought to book as soon as possible.
Earlier, the Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti told journalists that the hunt for the killers is on.
“We will be going to that area tomorrow (Wednesday) to even talk to wananchi and find out what is happening,” he said.
An assertive Mr Saitoti said that those behind violent attacks in the Chehe Sub-location would face the full force of the law.
“Let us concentrate on the fact that… innocent Kenyans have lost their lives and the key thing right now is to hunt down who are the murderers. And once we nail them we make sure they are subjected to the appropriate laws,” he said.
The Minister told a media briefing at his Harambee House office that officers from the CID and other organs of security had been deployed to the area to try and piece up all the events that led to the 2am incident.
“The law is there. We are not in anyway taking what is called extra judicial measures. We do not condone it on the part of the police neither should we condone it on any person, whether it is Mungiki or not Mungiki,” he said, allaying fears that police would retaliate with its own wave of violence.
“Citizens of this country have a right to lead their lives and the government has to protect them.”
According to the Karatina Medical Superintendent Doctor David Ndegwa most of the victims who were taken to the mortuary had their arms chopped off, a sure sign that they were defending themselves.
“They have got cuts in the scalp, the face, neck and some of them have lost their limbs. Two of the bodies have been burnt beyond recognition, and the cuts seem to have been inflicted by a very sharp object.”
He said the Karatina mortuary was now full to capacity, which stands at 30 bodies. The doctor added that some patients were treated and discharged early Tuesday.
Meanwhile, five victims who were injured in the attacks were recuperating Tuesday at the Karatina District Hospital.
During an interview with Capital News, one of the victims recounted the sequence of events that led to him being attacked.
“I just heard them say, take that one! So I was grabbed and placed between two people carrying a panga (machete) each. Nobody asked me anything. They drove to this place, which they called a slaughterhouse. The one driving the motorbike said ‘we caught one’ and then suddenly I was surrounded.”
Another victim says he was caught off guard: “I saw several people converge with motorbikes, about 40 in number. I encountered a group on the way home, they pinned me down and stabbed me,” he says, pointing to his side.
“I was stabbed several times.”
Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe said on Tuesday morning that the slaughter began when the people of Chehe sub-location, tried to flush out the militiamen.
“Initial investigations indicate the violence erupted when members of the public ganged up to resist a Mungiki move to expel all residents of Kirinyaga from Karatina,” he explained.
There have been rising cases, especially in Kirinyaga, of locals taking up arms and killing Mungiki suspects on the claims of extortion.
On Saturday, more than 300 villagers torched five houses in Kangaita Village at dawn, that were believed to be hideouts for the sect members.
At least 15 suspected Mungiki members were killed in the past two weeks.
But Mr Kiraithe urged residents not to take the law into their own hands and instead report any suspicious characters to the police.
“I would like to appeal to the public to report members of the sect committing crimes to the police instead of using criminal violence to resist them.”
Tension remained high in the area on Tuesday evening.
COMPILED BY: Bernard Momanyi, Laban Wanambisi, Simon Ndong’a, Michael Karanja and Laura Walubengo.