Murky waters swerved gently through green thickets whistling leisurely on both sides of the Yala River.
Dark timeworn rocks that were once fully immersed in the waters during the rainy season peeped through the fast-flowing River, under the unusually cold January.
Growing up, I enjoyed watching my brothers’ unconventional swimming competitions in the river with only my legs inside the water.
As it seeped through the forests miles away, the Yala river left behind palatable peace and tranquility but it also left horrid secrets in lifeless bodies.
In January 2022, the secrets came in 36 bodies, tortured and tormented, tied to heavy stones to keep them drowned. Some with deep cuts, fingers chopped, head wrapped in polythene bags and most, decomposed beyond recognition.
These bodies had been fished from the river in just six months, 29 from November. No one admitted to killing them and the residents only recalled a Double-cabin and a Probox that dropped ‘packages’ into the river in wee hours.
On Tuesday, January 25, four more bodies were recovered at the Yala River. However, it remained in the water as the nearby Yala-Subcounty mortuary is full beyond capacity.
Haki Africa boss Hussein Khalid in the company of a human rights defender Boniface Mwangi four days ago posted a video stating that they counted a total of 21 bodies, two that were still floating in the river.
“At Yala mortuary, I saw 21 bodies. The morgue officials confirmed they buried nine bodies in October 2021 in a mass grave,” he said.
Most of the bodies, he said, bore torture marks, tied with ropes, polythene bags on their heads some with deep cuts.
Police spokesperson Bruno Shioso had in a statement claimed that there were only 19 bodies retrieved from the river in the past two years.
From July 2021, Okero Kite, a resident, said he had removed a total of 31 bodies.
“On October 10, he retrieved 10 bodies, each body packed neatly like a parcel,” said Mwangi.
“10 days later, the hospital buried nine bodies in a mass grave. Since then, they receive at least five bodies every month from the river,” he continued.
According to locals, the people are killed in different locations and then brought and dumped on the river.
“Two vehicles; a double cabin and Probox are often spotted dumping ‘packages’ in the river in the wee hours of the night,” noted Khalid.
Police said they had launched investigations to establish the mystery around bodies dumped in River Yala in Siaya county, but so far, no update has been given.
Residents along the river banks have been raising concerns over the increasing number of unidentified bodies fished from the river.
Another body had been retrieved from the river at Ndanu falls on Sunday.
Area sub-county commander Charles Chacha said his office will soon write to the public health officers and the court to seek a permit for disposal of the bodies.
“The bodies are chocking the small morgue with a capacity of 16 bodies at Yala sub-county hospital and should be disposed of,” he said.
According to the residents, this was a strange occurrence never witnessed before.
Late last year, residents of Ulungo village in Bondo sub-county raised concern over the growing number of bodies being discovered in River Yala.
They claimed that dogs were feeding on the decomposing bodies, dragging some of the body parts to their homes.
Amnesty Kenya issued a statement two days ago stating that all the bodies retrieved had visible evidence of physical torture and drowning.
Through the executive director Houghton Irungu, they called out the police for lack of urgency or interest in investigating the killers and those dumping the bodies.
“The interior Cabinet Secretary must urgently mandate an interdisciplinary comprehensive, public postmortem for each body and preserve evidence for forensic identification,” said Irungu.
He added that Amnesty and other human rights organizations are willing to fund independent forensic pathologists for the autopsies.
Meanwhile, families continued to flock the morgue in search of their lost kin, with minimum success as the bodies have decomposed beyond recognition.
If the police did not kill and dump these people in River Yala, Missing Voices affirms that it is their responsibility to investigate who did it and ensure they are prosecuted promptly.