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Insecurity, fear engulf village as vigilantes burn to death one man in his father’s house.

The remains of the house that is said to have been gutted down by the vigilante gang who killed 32 year-old Jeremiah Waichungo Kariuki on Saturday afternoon after injuring one of their members.
Residents of Riuriro Estate (literally meaning ‘where people get lost’) in Theta Ward, Juja Sub-County are living in fear after a middle-aged man was torched to death by a group of youths on Saturday afternoon at his father’s house.

According to witnesses, the deceased is said to have earlier picked a fight injured one of the gang members by hitting him with a blunt object. The injured man reported the incident to his troop who later ganged up and sped towards the deceased’s father homestead where the dead man had gone to hide.

“About 40 or so youth in bodabodas surrounded this homestead at around 1 p.m. and after conversing for about five minutes, jumped over the gate and entered the compound. Some of them guarded from outside and on top of the unfinished house to wade off anyone who dared come closer,” said a resident who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal.

It is alleged that the gang, who are well known to the residents, first killed 32 year-old Jeremiah Waichungo Kariuki and then set ablaze his father’s house, probably to conceal all evidence.

“No one has the courage to face these boys. They are very ruthless and heartless. When some residents attempted to confront them, they were repelled by the gang who threw stones at them, forcing them to make a terrified retreat as plumes of smoke engulfed the victim’s house,” explained another resident.

It was not until they were satisfied that ‘their mission had been accomplished’ that they boarded their bikes and fled.

Joseph Kariuki, the father to the deceased, dismissed rumours that his set himself ablaze after fearing the revenge by the group. He said that while out on duty in Isiolo County, he received a distress call from one of the neighbours informing him of the ensuing incident.

Kariuki accused the police of laxity and negligence as they ignored his call for help, only arriving more than an hour later when the damage had already been done.

“My son was alone in the house when they struck. Immediately I heard the news, I called the inspector manning the area AP (Administration Police) camp and asked him to send some officers to the scene as a matter of urgency but they never responded in time. The first officer to report here came when all was done and the residents had already put off the fire,” said Kariuki.

An eyewitness who saw it all as it transpired narrated how they found deceased laid underneath one of the beds. He said that he had not been consumed by the fire but had visible body injuries.

“The boy had injuries all over the body and was bleeding from the ears, evidence enough that he might have been killed before being thrown into the house and later set ablaze,” said this residents who seemed visibly shaken and frightened.

Efforts to get details of the incident from the area police were fruitless as at press time, but a police source alleged that Waichungo mysteriously set himself ablaze in his father’s house for fear of arrest after he beat up his victim. He is said to have died from the inferno while properties worth thousands of shillings in the house where damaged.

But all those we spoke to rubbished this myth adding that this incident was one of the most extreme cases of vigilantism in the recent times. They complained of a sharp deterioration in security, complaining of being terrorised by this group of youth who have been committing various offences in the area. They narrated tales of horror they have undergone in the area for quite a long time with no police intervention.

These youth are said to be damaging people's fences, stealing things from people's compounds and knocking on their doors at all hours of the night. This has left people to feel unsafe in their own homes.

“This place is so insecure and residents have resigned to fate as our security officers do nothing to contain the situation. These boys operate in impunity and have instilled fear on the residents. No one can dare express their dissent for fear of reprisal,” said a distraught residents.

They added that the vigilante had taken over the affairs of the area and called the shorts on the terms of engagement and business.

“They control all what happens here. For instance, if one wants to set up a building in the area, they are the ones who dig trenches for the foundation and also mix mortar concrete (koroga) for the house foundation. Their terms and conditions for the job are not negotiable and the developer has to adhere to them without question. Failure to that, they will terrorise them into submission,” explained another resident.

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