Sungusungu: Puzzle of how to stop senseless burning of houses, killings

The day is the evening of 18 October 2018 and one that the villagers of Bobasi Bogetaorio (Borabu) will forever remember as a chilling experience in the hands of the Sungusungu militia group which descended on the village.

Their mission was simple – to finish Isaac Orangi, their targeted victim for the reason that he was being accused of mobilising people not to pay monthly contributions to the outlawed group. Isaac himself was on their radar for defaulting his contribution for the previous six months.

They pounced on the home after his wife, normally a resident of Nairobi where they lived with Isaac and their children, had been spotted at their village home. They thought he too was home vigilante group that the husband was too had travelled to the village.

They mobilized their members and immediately they stormed Orangi’s compound baying for his blood with war chants, wielding all manner of crude weapons. They torched one of the grass-thatched houses in the compound and turned the whole village into an operation zone after realizing that Orangi was not there and his wife had fled.

Vigilante group

The group unleashed untold terror on the villagers, maiming several youth and destroying properties before they were repulsed by the villagers with the help of security personnel who responded to the alarm.

This attempted cold-blood murder was one of several incidents of the senseless bourgeoning insecurity perpetrated by the vigilante group.

Area chief – Mogusu Aura, tells Kurunzi that this was the fourth time since the turn of the year 2018 that the Sungusungu group had carried attacked in the village and it’s neighbours.

The proscribed group works underground, with good connections throughout the country and even in the security system. Their leadership comprises mainly young and middle-aged men and women, who although not very well educated, are conversant with the latest communication technology.

Unconfirmed reports allege some are even working in the government intelligence system.

The residents accuse security agencies and the government at large of laxity in addressing their plight leading to senseless killings, maimings and suffering of the people in the hands of Sungusungu.

Futile efforts

Efforts by the local administration leadership which includes chiefs and village elders to try address the security question have borne little results and the group always pounces after gathering intelligence through their communication system then disappear.

While the government insists it has disbanded all vigilante groups in the country, evidence of this group operating and even collecting KSh200 every month from frightened residents is all over and leaves more questions than answers.

Locals claim the group now storms to bars at night, beating up everyone on sight and robbing them. They are always armed with crude weapons including rungus, machetes as well as bows and arrows. Some of those in the operation carry guns and dangerous chemicals.

The group keeps a record of its targets and will always collect intelligence about the whereabouts of their would-be victims or those they consider an enemy for whatever reason.

In 2009, at Bomatara village, in Kitutu Chache constituency, five elderly people were burnt to death in broad daylight after being suspected of practising witchcraft, sparking outrage in the whole country and beyond as human rights groups condemned the killings.

They had been accused of abducting a five-year old boy and making him dumb though their magic.

In another incident four years ago, a woman and her daughter were burnt to death in their home on account of witchcraft. Earlier in 2017, three men who were advocating against the Sungusungu animosity, cheated death by a sheer luck after fleeing following a tip-off from a Good Samaritan who advised them to run for their life.

Kurunzi has since contacted the three who are in asylum abroad, in fear of returning home and, worse, their families (who are still in Kenya) are always paranoid that they may be attacked any time.

While government maintains its position against the vigilante groups like Sungusungu, their activities continue unchecked to the detriment of of innocent, helpless Kenyans who suffer insecurity and massive terror in the hands of these groups.

Apart from Sungusungu, residents of Kisii County and the larger Gusii region continue to live in fear of attacks by another outlawed group – Chinkororo.


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