NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 1 – Taxi drivers in Nairobi held violent demonstrations on Tuesday to protest what they termed “ritual killings” of thirteen of their colleagues in the past month.
The latest killings occurred on Sunday night when a taxi driver who operated from Kimathi Street near the Stanley Hotel and another outside 680 Hotel were found murdered and their bodies dumped at Kibera slum.
The drivers’ bodies were dismembered with vital parts like the tongue, private parts and other organs missing, according to witnesses and fellow taxi operators who participated in the Tuesday demonstrations.
The rest were killed on diverse dates between July 26 and August 31, according to police and officials of the Kenya Taxi Cab Association.
“We want to know the truth. Our people are being killed in mysterious circumstances. It appears the killers are specifically targeting taxi drivers,” chairman of the Kenya Taxi Cab Association Peter Mburu Waweru said.
“The number of those killed since last month is thirteen. Every week our people are killed and the circumstances are just the same. We now fear for our lives,” Mr Waweru said when he led his members in the city street match which was violently broken by the anti-riot police.
Nairobi Central divisional police commander Richard Muguai said the demonstrations were illegal as he ordered his officers to descend on the demonstrators.
Dozens of the taxi drivers were arrested and their vehicles towed when they defied the police directive to disperse.
“Whatever the grievances, this demonstration is illegal, they (taxi drivers) are inconveniencing other motorists. It does not matter the reason they are demonstrating; they are not orderly,” he said.
One of the taxi driver who identified himself as Ng’ang’a Kamau said: “A colleague who was murdered was hired by two young men who wanted to be dropped off at Woodley estate.”
“That is the last time we saw him. He never returned but his vehicle was found abandoned within Kilimani area on Sunday night. On Monday, we looked for him in vain and ended up going to the City Mortuary where we found his mutilated body,” he said.
The taxi drivers said they were puzzled by the numerous murder cases, particularly because “they have had the same pattern where two people hire the vehicle and dump them within the same area.”
“The mode of killing is also the same because those murdered so far, have vital body organs missing,” another taxi driver known to his friends as Buda said.
Buda said he last saw his murdered colleague a Mr Mburu on the night of Sunday when they were waiting for passengers at their work station, near the Stanley hotel.
“I did not know he would not return. We were shocked to be told his body is lying at the mortuary,” Buda said.
Nairobi Provincial Police chief Njue Njagi said investigations had been launched to establish circumstances under which they were killed.
“We are interviewing various people. We have spoken to the taxi drivers themselves and witnesses at the scene where the bodies were recovered. It is a comprehensive investigation and we hope to unravel the mystery,” Mr Njagi said.
He said police were “equally shocked at the new trend of killings targeting taxi drivers.”
Mr Njagi confirmed they had received formal reports over the killing of the thirteen people.
“We have received the reports about the killing and we are investigating. It is in our interest too, to know the truth,” he added.
The taxi drivers first converged on Kimathi Street before they proceeded to Uhuru Park to hold a meeting with others from Ngong Road and Community but did not make it to the Nairobi Area Provincial Police headquarters, their planned destination.
Truck loads of anti-riot police blocked them and impounded over forty taxis which were towed to police stations within Kilimani area.
Mr Njagi said those arrested would be prosecuted for convening or participating in illegal assembly in town.
There were likelihoods of them facing more charges, police said.