The Days After a Night Visit from Al-Shabaab
09/07/2017 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The horrors of the attack on Jima didn’t end with that night. After the shooting stopped and the militants left, villagers returned to find out what happened to their family members and neighbors.
With tears streaming down her face, Naomi told International Christian Concern (ICC), “That night, I didn’t even have a wink of sleep. Early [in the] morning, I fearfully left to find what had happened to my husband. To my shock, I found him lying dead at the junction to the next home. He had been shot in the head and slaughtered. I started screaming and drew the attention [of] the whole village that was still in panic. While running towards our neighbor’s home, I found another body and identified that it was Musyoka, our friend and neighbor.”
Mwende Mulwa returned around 5:00 a.m. to find that her home had been ransacked. “My husband went to check to see if our neighbors were fine. He found bodies of dead people lying on the access road to Jima village. He identified and counted seven bodies of men who were villagers with us. These were people we knew personally; they were our friends.”
Authorities arrived in the village shortly after 7:00 a.m. and began evacuating people. The bodies of the victims were taken to the mortuary and the survivors of Jima, Poromoko, and Pandanguo found shelter at Witu Catholic Church and Katsaka Kairo.
As authorities evacuated people, a neighbor called Salome Njoki to tell her that her husband was murdered in a vicious night attack by al-Shabaab. “I received a call in the morning that Jima was attacked in the night and Peter, my husband, was one of the seven men who lost their lives. We were not in Jima that time and we could not believe the sad news. We sat here worried and confused about what to do, when our neighbors came after learning that Peter was killed.”
In the aftermath of the attack, people wondered why. Why did this happen? What was al-Shabaab looking for?
Mbevo Mutie remembers with sadness the horrific, ruthless crime committed against his friends.
“We heard Teresio Munyi crying for help and saying that he was being killed. We picked our two children and ran to the nearby bush. Later, we heard commotion at our neighbor’s home where they also dragged him to the main road, tied his hand behind the back, and slew his throat.”
He continued, “We later learned that the assailants entered one of the homes and demanded for identification cards and one man, Bakari Juma, was spared because he bore an Islamic name. The other man [with a Christian name] was murdered.”
This is not the first time that the attackers have asked for identification cards. In 2015, a commuter bus traveling from Nairobi to Mandera was ambushed and all of the passengers were asked to produce their identification cards or recite the Islamic shahada. Those found to be non-Muslims were killed.
Syungu, wife of Mwangangi Muneni, is still in shock after the night of terror. “I cannot believe what I saw that morning. This was a ruthless act and although I have accepted that this has happened, I am still bitter about it. Why did they kill my husband like an animal? I pray for God’s strength as I brace myself to bring up my seven children without a father. It is not going to be easy, but by God’s grace we shall make it.”
Life has not been easy for the victims now living in three crowded camps in Witu. The government, villagers, and the Red Cross have been giving them food and other small necessities, but diseases are looming in the camps due to overcrowding, dust, and poor sanitation.
Cyprian Taah, the Witu Catholic Church priest, is concerned that “if the people continue living in the camp with such poor conditions, we might end up having [a] cholera outbreak and we do not have enough medicine.”
Traumatized school-age children are having difficulty adjusting to the new schools in Witu. One child, Gideon, told ICC, “I am still terrified and it is difficult to concentrate in class. That was the first time we slept in the bush with my parents and it was raining. It was a long night that I have ever seen.”
Mbindyo Fikiri, a class two pupil said, “Sometimes during lessons or even at night I see images of dead people. That morning, I saw many lifeless bodies and the fresh memories are disturbing me.”
Despite the difficult circumstances, family members take the time to remember their loved ones. Their eulogies are a harsh reminder of the challenges that these Christian families now face, the compassionate fathers lost, and the continued reign of terror by al-Shabaab. Lilian Mburu said goodbye to her father, Peter, in one such statement:
“It is a very difficult time for us to comprehend how our father was innocently killed by al-Shabaab. We have been left by a hardworking and caring father who ensured that we had clothes, food and school fees. He was a loving person who had dedicated his life to the family and community. Father, we shall always miss you. Fare thee well.”
Since this attack, two more similar attacks have claimed the lives of another eight Christian men in Lamu County, Kenya. Four were killed in nearby Maleli Village, and another four in Hindi less than two months after the Jima attack. This terrible scene will continue to be seen repeatedly until the Kenyan government finds a way to protect its citizens.