Kenya

Families visit mortuaries in search of missing kin

Families visit mortuaries in search of missing kin

HAKI Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid (centre) speaks at a past event.  He says autopsies show the victims were tortured to death.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

More than 54 families had reported to Garissa Referral Hospital mortuary by yesterday to identify the 11 bodies that were recovered from Tana River last week.

Haki Afrika’s Executive Director Hussein Khalid said autopsies on the recovered bodies revealed that the victims were tortured before being dumped in the river.

“According our officers who were present during the autopsies, there were a number of bodies that had their hands tied at the back. A number of them had their ears chopped off and their genitals mutilated. We also confirmed that they had stones tied around their waists when they were submerged in the Tana river,” Mr Khalid said.

Most of the victims also had wristbands with the colours of the Kenyan flag on them.

Among the families present at the morgue was that of 45-year-old Nyeri businessman Gerald Guandaru who was abducted on June 29 in public in Nyeri town. Witnesses reported that Mr Guandaru was grabbed by three men along Kanisa Road and bundled into a station wagon bearing parastatal plates. This was four years after his initial abduction in May 2017. Both abductions, though four years apart, took place within a 100 metre radius along the same street.

Another family present was that of David Taitum, a businessman who was abducted on August 14 last year near Mama Ngina Drive, Mombasa, where he loved to spend his evenings with friends. Three cars allegedly surrounded his before some unidentified men alighted from the cars, broke Mr Taitum’s front right window, pulled him out, bundled him into one of the three cars, and sped off. One of the attackers is said to have then driven the victim’s car to his favourite spot at Mama Ngina drive and abandoned it there. This was the last time Mr Taitum was seen.

City Mortuary

The family reported the incident at the Central Police Station.

“We were told there are bodies recovered from the Tana River that were brought here (City Mortuary) and we came to check if maybe our loved one was among them.

“It has been over a year of receiving calls that a body has been collected and not finding him after rushing to check if it is him,” said Kirimi Phineas, a brother to Mr Taitum.

Irene Gathungu, the sister to Josiah Waiguru Gatongo, who disappeared two weeks ago in Kikuyu, was also at the City Mortuary. Accompanied by Simon Mungai, a mutual friend, they had hoped to find the body of her brother among those that were to be ferried from Garissa to Nairobi.

“Josiah left home on August 31 to go to work and never came back home in the evening. Two days later, his phone was off and we reported the incident to the police but we have not yet received any feedback. We heard there were bodies from Garissa here and we rushed to check but we did not find him,” Mr Mungai said.

Mr Waiguru, 36, ran a salon and barber shop in Kikuyu town. His wife, Catherine Gichura told the Saturday Nation that her husband left home at around 6.30 am but never made it to his workplace.

“I left home around 8am and called him because I wanted to discuss something. He did not receive the call, so I decided to pass by the shop. I found it locked. I did not think much about it. When he failed to show up in the evening, I got worried. The next day, we reported the incident at Kikuyu Police Station,” said Ms Gichura, who is eight months pregnant with their first child.

Tana River

Tearfully, Miriam Hassan, the sister to Ibrahim Hassan who disappeared on August 14, 2017 in Kibra, Nairobi, narrated how the past four years have been harrowing. She was relieved when she heard that some of the bodies that had been recovered in Tana river would be brought to Nairobi as she could not afford to go to Garissa due to financial difficulties.

She recalls that it was on a Friday evening when her brother received a call from his friends asking him to join them for a drink, which was a normal habit. That was the last time they ever saw Mr Hassan.

The family reported the matter to the police three days after he failed to return home. Her brother left behind a wife and two young children.

“We do not know where he is. We do not know whether he is dead or alive. We ask the government to help us. Please, our government, whether our loved ones are dead or alive, help us find them. We need closure,” Ms Hassan said.

Mr Khalid expressed his organisation’s frustrations and that of the families in trying to follow up on the disappearance cases with various security agencies saying nothing much had been achieved.

“This issue of enforced disappearances must be firmly dealt with. This one goes directly to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, he must personally intervene,” he said.