Guyo Jattani had grand plans at the start of this year. Plans that included spending time with his younger brother and strategising on the year ahead.
But instead of this usual script playing out, on January 28 this year, Guyo sat beside his younger brother Richard Jattani, who was fighting for his life at the Moyale Sub-county Hospital.
The previous week on a Tuesday, Richard was leaving a church meeting when an acquaintance, a well-known businessman in Moyale, convinced him to accompany him for lunch. The venue was a restaurant near the Moyale border post located on the Ethiopian side.
Witnesses say the two sat together for close to three hours enjoying a meal.
“The next thing we heard was that Richard had been dumped outside his gate,” his brother Guyo says.
Richard’s wife rushed outside to find her husband drifting in and out of consciousness and vomiting. She called a neighbour and the two rushed him to hospital. At the time of admission, his phone was missing.
Richard had been at the forefront of exposing the embezzlement of millions of shillings from a World Bank-funded project in Marsabit County.
“Doctors didn’t know if he would make it,” Guyo told The Standard.
A medical report revealed that Richard “presented classical symptoms of poisoning, typical of organophosphate ingestion… He was placed on eight drips and anti-poison medication.”
Organophosphates are used as insecticides, medication and nerve agents. Symptoms from this poisoning include increased saliva and tear production, diarrhoea, vomiting, small pupils, sweating, muscle tremors and confusion.
Richard’s medical report also says when he was admitted, he had abnormally low blood pressure and dimming pupil contraction.
Nobody knows how the poison got into Richard’s system. But they think they know why it was given to him.
His wife says it all started with Richard blowing the lid on illegalities surrounding a tender in the county he worked for.
As a result, on December 21 last year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives dispatched a letter to Marsabit County. It was addressed to Governor Mohamud Ali and signed by Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.
And the subject was straightforward: “Allegations of undersupply of vaccines and livestock drugs…”
“The State Department of Livestock undertook to carry out a countrywide vaccination programme with the support of the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP) during the financial year 2019/2020,” the letter noted.
“However, it has come to my attention through a formal allegation that the supply of some of the required vaccines and drugs as indicated in LPO 3083168 were never supplied as per specified LPO. It is further alleged that there are discrepancies between what was to be supplied as indicated in the LPO and what has actually been supplied to date.”
The letter from the ministry queries a few other things, including the improper logging in of the supplies received and the unprocedural dismissal of the KCSAP county co-ordinator, Richard Jattani.
“In view of the above,” the letter continued, “the tender process and payments for the above mentioned vaccines be halted forthwith until this matter is investigated in full and relevant facts established as to the integrity of the project implementation.”
Four days earlier, Richard had received a letter from the county’s Agriculture department accusing him of myriad misdeeds. In the letter dated December 17, 2020, Richard was accused of undermining his supervisors, among other things.
It also accused Richard of engaging external parties on official county matters resulting in outsiders like senior government officials making calls to the county and lecturing county officers on how to manage county affairs.
“Three offences amount to serious indiscipline and you have made yourself liable for serious disciplinary action… You are hereby suspended on full pay for a period of three months pending further proceedings.”
A month after this letter, Guyo woke up to the sad news about his brother. The poison that doctors suspect had left his brother bedridden can be devastating.
Fortunately for Richard, he walked out of hospital, but remains suspended. While no other attempts on his life have been made, the family still fears for his safety.
However, Tari Dodi, Marsabit’s deputy county secretary, said the county had not received official communication on Richard’s poisoning or the family’s concerns around what could have led to his being dumped outside his home unconscious.
“There could be some political undertones in the matter, but whatever is being said cannot be further from the truth. If there are any investigations going on, they ought to be with the police. If there was a crime scene, then the police are handling it. We do not know how far the investigations have gone, if at all there are any,” he told The Standard.
Whatever the reasons behind Richard’s poisoning, whistleblowers in Kenya have generally found they have very few places to hide.
The history of the country’s war against political impunity, economic crimes and runaway corruption in both the public and private sectors is lined with the tales of men and women whose attempts at speaking up were muzzled by coercion, intimidation and even death.
David Munyankei, then a civil servant, is widely believed to have been the whistleblower in the Goldenberg scandal that saw Kenya haemorrhage billions of shillings in a fake gold export scheme in the 1990s.
After blowing the lid on the embezzlement scheme, Munyankei met an unusual death, dying poor and ostracised by the very community he sought to protect.
He was arrested and spent time in jail. He was fired from his job and largely forgotten by history.
A year before Munyankei’s death, one such message was passed in a small sleepy village on the slopes of Mt Elgon when neighbours of Erastus Kirui Chemorei woke up to scenes that could have been straight out of a movie.
On February 19, 2005, around 70 uniformed police officers led by then area DCIO Julius Sunkuli, OCPD Augustine Kimantheria and DC Christopher Musumbu surrounded his house.
According to witnesses who spoke to The Standard at the time, the events that followed the arrival of the police at Chemorei’s homestead could easily have been torn off the script of a Hollywood blockbuster.
After minutes of assaulting and interrogating Chemorei, persistently asking him about the whereabouts of a certain key, the police officers led him to the back of the house and shot him dead.
Statements by the policemen present at the scene contradicted each other, with some saying Chemorei had been armed and on the run, while others said he was part of a gang that had been terrorising the public.
It later emerged that Chemorei was a crucial link to one of the country’s biggest drug busts, a Sh6.4 billion cocaine haul seized in Malindi. He was said to have been holding the key to the government storage unit that held the consignment.
Chemorei’s death signified Kenya’s entry into an even darker period with more killings and more heartache.
One of the most notable of them all was the murder of Meshack Yebei, who was due to testify at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2015 over the chaos that followed Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections. More than 1,100 people are reported to have been killed in the violence.
In the years that the case was heard before the Dutch court, families of witnesses lived in fear and agony. Many buried their loved ones. Many fled the country. And many more remained silent over what the ICC termed the “systematic interference with witnesses”.
Yebei’s gruesome murder happened days after he took his sick child to a hospital in Turbo town, Uasin Gishu County on December 28, 2014.
His mutilated body was found floating in a river five days later. His eyes had been gouged out, his genitals chopped off, his tongue cut out, and he had been shot in the head.
Family members told the press that Yebei was to testify against Deputy President William Ruto, who was at the time accused by the ICC of crimes against humanity in connection with the post-election violence. The ICC withdrew the case in 2016.
Ruto’s lawyer in the cases then, Karim Khan, said Yebei was in fact a defence witness.
Mwingi General Hospital was the scene of the murder of Frederick Musyimi, another witness to a crime against himself.
On August 25, 2016, Musyimi was found bathed in blood on the desolate Mwingi-Garissa Highway by a boda boda rider after he dragged himself from the bush.
He had been tossed out of a white vehicle and shot repeatedly by men who had abducted him from his home in Majengo, Mwingi, that morning.
Musyimi had been shot in the head, left cheek and left rib. His assailants, at that time believed to be police officers, had left him for dead. The boda boda rider ferried Musyimi to a local dispensary from where he was transferred to Mwingi General Hospital.
Later that night, at around 2am, two men forced their way into the hospital, opening fire at Musyimi who was on a drip as his horrified sister watched from a visitor’s chair next to the bed.
Whatever information Musyimi had on his earlier abduction and attempted killing died with him in that ambush at a government hospital.
But these assassins do not always get a second chance to complete their heinous missions.
In August 2018, Idriss Mukhtar was leaving a café in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa area. As he reversed his car to get out of the parking, a lone gunman walked to the driver’s window, pulled out a pistol, aimed and shot at Mukhar several times before melting away into the darkness.
David Wanjiru Mwai, a small-scale businessman was arrested and accused of being the killer.
While Mukhtar fought for his life in hospital, Mwai was arrested and confessed to participating in the shooting. He was ready to take a plea bargain in exchange for a more lenient penalty.
At the time of the shooting, Mukhtar had indicated that he was in possession of information regarding corruption within the Garissa County.
Mwai never made it to court. The team investigating the attempted killing of Mukhtar was transferred and Mwai was found dead in his police cell at Nairobi’s Parklands Police Station.
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