Had police been deployed at the venue of slain Busia businessman Johannes Okoth’s funeral as requested by one of the killed bouncers, things could have been different.
This emerged even as the Association of Bouncers in Kenya called for the arrest of four relatives of Okoth that they accused of triggering conflict that led to the killings of their six members in Masebula village, Busia County, on Friday night.
MEN IN BLACK
The men, in black suits and dark shades, were among 10 others from Kisumu attending the burial of the businessman, who was shot dead two weeks ago by unknown assailants.
The six are Phillip Kwach (Kwach), William Omondi (Sisqo), Evans Onyango Ochieng (Toto), Richard Odero (Nick), David Okeyo (Ouma) and Elvis Odoyo Otieno, popularly known as Chief.
The crowd is said to have descended on the bouncers when they failed to identify themselves at the Sega Mission Hospital mortuary, where they had gone to collect Okoth’s remains, claiming they were unknown.
Busia County Commander Jacob Narengo said information gathered by police indicated that locals had suspected mischief when one of the men was spotted walking around with a black handbag.
It was later discovered that the 10 were bouncers from Kisumu and had been invited to provide security at the funeral.
Ms Moline Atieno, the widow of 35-year-old Sisqo, told the Nation that one Ms Mercy Awuor, said to be the latter’s niece, approached her husband to get some of his colleagues to accompany her to the funeral.
“On Friday, she asked my husband to help in providing her with security, but Sisqo told her that since the ground could be volatile, their presence alone would not guarantee her security and therefore needed police to be at the venue too,” said Ms Atieno.
It is not clear whether Ms Awuor tried to inform the police or whether the two agreed that the police would be present before they set for the journey to Bumala in Busia County.
But at the funeral, Ms Awuor, who was suspected to be involved in the murder of the businessman, is said to have denied any knowledge of the team, which prompted chaos that led to the deaths of the six men.
Ms Atieno, who has been left with three children, learnt on Sunday that her husband was dead when she saw his body in Busia. She had been told that they were only beaten and did not succumb to their injuries.
The bodies had dry bloodstains, dents and cuts that might have been inflicted by sharp objects.
Bereaved family members, Kisumu County leaders and locals who thronged Ahero Sub-County Hospital to view the bodies demanded thorough investigations into the merciless killings of the six men that they believe were victims of mistaken identity.
On that fateful day, Elvis Otieno, also a victim, cancelled a trip to Kendu Bay with his mother and entered a pickup truck with his friends to attend the funeral in Busia.
According to his brother Kevine Otieno, that was the last time they heard from his young brother, who he said used to be hired to provide security at various ceremonies.
“We were shocked to hear, hours after bidding him goodbye, that he was among the six people who had been killed in Busia,” said Mr Otieno.
Mr Boaz Odera, father of Richard Odero, said his final moments with his son were a week ago when he brought some shopping for his mother.
“Richard came home and found me with his mother. He brought soap, sugar and loaves of bread. He also gave me Sh200 before his mother asked him to clear some bushes behind the house before he left,” said Mr Odera.
That would be the last time he saw him alive. His son was working as a bouncer at a pub in Muhoroni.
His uncle, Geoffrey Onyango said his 24-year-old nephew, who had dropped out of school after Standard Eight, promised him that he would get married and build a house in a few months’ time.
His brother Oliver Tambo described him as humble and maintained that he was not involved in any murder.
DEMAND FOR JUSTICE
Leaders from Kisumu and the association representing bouncers have come out demanding that the perpetrators be brought to book.
The Association of Bouncers Kenya has written to Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and DCI George Kinoti condemning what they termed as the “barbaric and inhumane” murders of their members whose role was to offer private security at a funeral.
Mr Israel Ikola, the national secretary of the association, wants the DCI to order the arrest of two wives of the businessman and two relatives for triggering the violence that led to the deaths of the six.
“Apart from the four, all those who participated by inflicting pain using rocks, sticks and machetes that ended up killing our brothers must face the full force of the law. The narrative of mistaken identity is a flimsy excuse we cannot stomach as murder is a criminal offence and should be treated as such,” said Mr Ikola.
He pointed out that on many occasions they are usually hired to offer security at not only funerals but other ceremonies, duties that he said the members had always executed as professionals.
He blamed the authorities for not always taking seriously attacks on the association’s members.
“On many occasions we have lost our brothers and sisters in the line of duty, yet we do not see any stern action being taken by the authorities against the criminals,” said Mr Ikola.
Area leaders, led by Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, Senator Fred Outa, Kisumu Woman Representative Rozaah Buyu and Nyando MP Jared Okello, who expressed concern about the gruesome murders of the six, who hailed from Kakola village in Nyando sub-county.
“The police are called upon to conduct speedy investigations to bring to light what circumstances that occasioned this act and to bring those responsible to justice,” said Mr Nyong’o.
He called for calm as the police pursued the matter.