A shrine in Gatundu South that has lately witnessed cases of crime has been shut down.
For many years, the historical ‘holy’ caves situated in Kimunyu village have been popular among Christians from different denominations who stream there in droves to fast and pray.
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But the caves were last week closed down by the Government for two months, citing security reasons.
Gatundu Deputy County Commissioner Abdikadir Godana, who chaired a crisis security meeting in the area, said residents had complained that the caves were being used as a hideout for criminals.
Police last Tuesday raided the caves at night and arrested 10 suspected criminals.
“We now have information the thugs hide inside the shrine and today we declared we are going to close down and clear that shrine. Stern action will be taken against cattle thieves. We have also assured residents that we will triple night patrols,” he said.
But locals fondly remember the caves for good tidings.
Mau Mau fighters are said to have used the caves, which border Thiririka River, as a hideout from the colonial forces during the struggle for independence.
After Kenya gained independence, the caves were converted to a place of worship by village elders.
At least 50 worshippers from all corners of the country make their way to the caves daily, with the number doubling or tripling over the weekends. The worshippers normally fast and pray while they are in the shrine.
However, going by revelations of the security meeting, the caves have also been turned into a den for criminals.
At the meeting, Gatundu OCS Joshua Nyasimi, Assistant Chief Lillian Kariku and Kimunyu Senior Chief John Mutheki were put on the spot for not stopping criminal activities in the caves, which have been in the spotlight for allegedly harbouring criminals.
In July 2015, police officers from Nairobi traced a woman to the cave, who, alongside her boyfriend, had faked a kidnap.
In February this year, a schoolgirl was raped near the cave. And in May, another man attempted to rape a woman nearby.
Cases of cows, goats and sheep being stolen in the village have in recent times reached alarming levels, with residents saying the thieves have been using the caves to hide the animals before eventually selling them to unsuspecting butchers.
Joseph Kibe, who owns the farm where the caves are located, described the decision to close them down as a blessing in disguise.
He had been asking local authorities to close the shrine to no avail.
“I have in the past written to the deputy county commissioner, police boss, the chief and his assistant on the matter but the worshippers have been adamant,” said Mr Kibe. “I am happy that finally, my wish to have the caves closed has been granted.”
As residents celebrate the closure, some worshippers are unhappy with the decision.
Mary Ndida, a worshipper from Kibwezi, said the Government should have instead deployed undercover police officers to the caves to enhance security.