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A life for a life: Mob justice perpetrators to hang

Irate members of the public beat a suspected carjaker along a Nairobi street in this picture filed on Tuesday 28th April,2014. Many suspects have died in similar scenarios.

Elikana Syongoh, an accountant with the Ministry of Defence, set out on a trip to Migori County on the evening of August 12, 2013. He was on a mission to increase his revenue streams.

Unable to resist the quail storm that had hit the country, Syongo left his workstation in Nairobi with his mind fixed on the then prized bird in Migingo village.

He was accompanied by his driver Moses Magiri and a caretaker, Simon Gombe, who was his link to the quail farmer, Nerbert Lubanga. They had no idea that theirs was a doomed trip.

As they were leaving Lubanga’s compound, having bought eight quails, word spread in the village that they were cattle rustlers.

An angry mob commandeered their vehicle towards Migingo centre where the three were forced out of the vehicle and ordered to sit on the ground as they faced harsh interrogation.

Their protests of innocence fell on deaf ears as the blood-thirsty mob descended on them with pangas, sticks, stones and other crude weapons. They were then set on fire alongside their vehicle.

Following the savage killing, police arrested 12 suspects and this week – following a lengthy trial, the 12 were convicted for killing the three men.

Those convicted were David Ochieng Ajwang, Eric Otieno, Nicholas Otunga, Benard Samuel, Daniel Owino, Julius Makambo and Kennedy Kisa.

Others were Julius Otieno, Janes Ogalo, Joseph Odhiambo, Joseph Keya and Paul Koi.

Kisumu High Court judge David Majanja rejected denials by the accused that they were not part of the mob. Not even their sworn testimonies could save their lives.

The court heard from testimonies of 23 witnesses, lined up by the prosecution, who all said that the accused were all present and wilfully participated in the killings.

“From the time word spread in the village that they had stolen cattle, the accused were part of the mob that barricaded the road, forced Magiri to drive to the centre while assaulting him and the passengers,” said Majanja while delivering the judgement on April 4, 2017.

Savage attack

He added: “The savage way the accused inflicted the injuries on the deceased leaves no doubt that they had intent to cause grievous harm or death. I therefore find and hold that the prosecution proved malice aforethought within the meaning of section 206(a) of the Penal Code.”

“I find the accused guilty of the murder of Elikana Gondi Syongoh, Moses Magiri Amek and Simon Gombe Kalkacha and I convict each of them accordingly,” he added.

The 12 are among hundreds who have been sentenced to hang for their role in mob lynching. It is now a harsh reality for those likely to be excited by the mob psychology, that the law will isolate and punish severely those unlucky to get caught.

A report released by police in 2011 indicated that more than 543 cases of mob lynching had been reported across the country.

With 133, Nairobi had the highest number of reported cases, followed by Nyanza’s 108, Western’s 95, Central’s 83, Eastern’s 48, Rift Valley’s 41 and Coast’s 35. North Eastern province had no case of mob injustice reported.

Further, within the first seven months of 2013, some 335 people had reportedly been killed by a mob. The numbers indicate at least 47 people were killed each month by a mob dispensing the so called instant justice.

Sources within the police say that since 2013 they had stopped recording the incidents, a fact which is confirmed by crime reports subsequently released.

In yet another case, four men were sent to the gallows by the High Court after they were found guilty of killing of a villager.

Samuel Ngonge, Vitalis Obula, Hezron Otieno and Charles Omolo were part of a mob which beat Meshack Owino for allegedly stealing from a local teacher.

On the fateful day of July 17, 2012 at around 3:00pm, commotion erupted in Karapul Village as villagers chased an alleged thief, Owino Nyaboro, who they accused of having entered a house.

However, testifying in court, Owino’s wife Christine Akinyi said atthe time of the alleged theft, her husband was sleeping at home. She said the mob forced its way into their home and dragged him out while raining blows on him.

Thorough beating

Akinyi said from the house, she could hear her husband screaming. She was able to positively identify the men who carried out this heinous act against her husband.

In his ruling, Justice David Manjanja said: “If several persons combine for an unlawful purpose and one of them in the prosecution of it kills a man, it is murder by all who are present whether they actually aided or abetted or not.”

He continued: “The accused all went to the slain man’s house, dragged him out and assaulted him. If they participated in the unlawful activity they are considered to have shared a common intention to kill the deceased and they are all guilty notwithstanding that the prosecution failed to prove who struck the fatal blow.”

The four are not the only ones who are paying for this unorthodox way of dispensing “justice”.

Cases gathered by The Standard indicate those caught, either as spectators or part of mob lynching, will find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

 

Story by Kamau Muthoni, Faith Karanja and Harold Odhiambo

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