In the quiet village of Mumbu, nestled within Murang’a County, a family’s pain has cut deep since the fateful day their son, Boniface Ngigi, was lynched in June. What was once a close-knit family has been torn apart, and a wife’s heartbreak has led her to leave for her family home in Embu. This is a heart-wrenching story that highlights not only the tragedy of Boniface’s untimely death but also the grave issue of mob justice in Kenya.
For the Thuo family, memories of Boniface have been reduced to harrowing images captured in video clips—images of their beloved son, oozing blood from a brutal assault by an enraged mob. The whispers in the village suggested that the 25-year-old had been involved in theft, accused of stealing dry beans from fellow villagers.
Boniface Ngigi had returned to his hometown after working in Nairobi as a matatu tout and boda boda rider. On that fateful day, he decided to visit his grandfather in Kirima, accompanied by three other youths. Little did they know that their journey would take a sinister turn.
As they embarked on their journey, they crossed paths with a group on patrol. Suspicion hung in the air, and they were quickly singled out as potential criminals after being questioned by the group.
Witnesses present at the scene later revealed that Boniface’s tragic fate was sealed in part because he struggled to explain himself. He was relatively new to the area and had difficulty providing a satisfactory explanation for their presence. Fear and confusion may have clouded his ability to articulate his innocence.
James Thuo, Boniface’s father, recalls the chilling phone call he received from his son during those dreadful moments. Boniface, desperate and in pain, reached out to his father, asking for a mere 100 Kenyan Shillings (approximately $1) to appease the angry mob that had surrounded them.
James Thuo, listening to the desperation in his son’s voice, realized the gravity of the situation. He understood that his son’s life was hanging by a thread. Boniface’s plea for help was a haunting reminder of the mercilessness of the crowd.
“I could tell from his voice that he was in great pain. He said he was dying, and the phone went silent,” recalled James Thuo, his voice heavy with sorrow. Unfortunately, at that moment, Thuo couldn’t gather the sum demanded by the mob. He began walking hurriedly toward Kirima, the place where his son was facing an unjust sentence.
“As we talked on the phone, the background noise said it all. There were people shouting for my son to say his last prayers. One voice said they knew I could not afford the 100 Shilling fine,” James Thuo painfully recounted in an interview with a Nation correspondent.
The journey to Kirima town was fraught with dread and anxiety for James Thuo. Each step weighed heavy on his heart as he raced against time to reach his son, who was in dire need of help.
And then, a ringing phone call pierced through the silence, delivering the heart-shattering news. The caller on the other end revealed that Boniface was no more. The caller explained that they had tried to intervene and save him, but the angry mob had prevailed, leading to the tragic loss of a young life.
Devastated by the news of his son’s brutal murder, James Thuo couldn’t bear the weight of his grief. He lost consciousness and collapsed by the roadside. It was the kindness of strangers who witnessed his collapse that breathed life back into him, offering a fragile glimmer of hope amid the darkness of despair.
“I reflected on my 49 years of life so far. How poverty made me drop out of primary school. How I always relied on menial jobs to make a living…how I struggled to raise my three children…and now this,” Thuo said, his voice filled with a mixture of anguish and despair.
Following the gruesome murder, the perpetrators exhibited shocking callousness by sharing pictures and videos of Boniface’s lifeless, blood-soaked body on social media. This further deepened the trauma for the Thuo family, who were left grappling with the grim reality of their loss.
In pursuit of justice for their innocent son, the Thuo family reported the case to the relevant authorities. However, their quest for justice encountered a disheartening roadblock when the case was transferred to Kigumo DCI officers. These officers shockingly concluded that it was not a criminal matter that warranted further investigation.
On June 20th, the Thuo family was presented with a troubling request—to forgo an autopsy and proceed with the burial of Boniface, categorizing him as a victim of an assault by unidentified and untraceable individuals.
“I don’t know what the document was. I cannot communicate in English. I was just shown a dotted line and told to sign it. You are now telling me that I said I had forgiven my son’s killers? That cannot be… I was told I was agreeing to bury my son,” James Thuo expressed his confusion and frustration.
Lawyer Timothy Kariuki weighed in on the matter, highlighting that the DCI had not fulfilled its obligations to Kenyan citizens in this case. He argued that the DCI’s actions indirectly endorsed lynch mobs and contributed to the unjust killing of innocent citizens.
“This was not a sudden death. It is profiled as an express case of murder, and the law expressly requires that all persons who commit the crime of murder must be arrested and prosecuted. They cannot be prosecuted in the absence of a post-mortem form stating the cause of death,” Kariuki emphasized.
Subsequently, the ongoing case was transferred to Murang’a County Criminal Investigations Officer, Cecilia Mugambi. She acknowledged the need for time to meticulously review the case details and determine the appropriate course of action. The Thuo family now clings to a glimmer of hope that justice may yet be served for their beloved Boniface Ngigi.