January 18, 2022


“Most of them bore marks of torture, tied with ropes, polythene bags on their heads and some had deep cuts”.

More by Winnie Kabintie

Shock as Bodies Dumped in River Yala

Shock as Bodies Dumped in River Yala

The hashtag #RiverYalaBodies first appeared on Twitter on 10th December 2021 when Blogger and Activist Joel Mbirika shared a thread detailing how dozens of bodies were being retrieved from river Yala, stashed in sacks, but it was not until Monday 17th, 2022 that the story went viral after Haki Africa, a national human rights organization based in Mombasa responded to the story.

According to Mbirika, a body is recovered from the river every two to three days. The bodies are taken to Yala Sub-County hospital mortuary, where they end up being buried in mass graves.

The recovery is done by village experts ritually talented with the expertise to exhume submerged bodies. The experts are believed to be hired by either Vihiga County or DCI men. This is because the bodies are driven to the Hospital Mortuary in a police vehicle. The bodies are labeled unknown and less than two weeks ago, they were buried in a mass County grave as unclaimed and unknown bodies.

The Yala River is a river of western Kenya, a tributary of Lake Victoria.

According to the expose’ the bodies are of male young adults probably in their thirties.

At the time Mbirikia shared the tweet, there were reportedly 17 male bodies marked as “unknown” in Yala Sub County hospital awaiting a mass burial.  The bodies were said to be too fresh, meaning the victims had just been recently killed.

Haki Africa Director Hussein Khalid and Activist Boniface Mwangi set off to Yala on Monday and guided by a villager, Okero kite who often retrieves bodies from river Yala they saw two bodies in the river.

Okero told us there are still many bodies rotting in River Yala. We didn’t believe him but agreed to follow him to the River. In a span of minutes, he had spotted and shown us two bodies. The whole scene was sickening. We told him we had seen enough,” Activist Boniface Mwangi Narrated.

According to Okero kite, he has Since July 2021 removed 31 bodies from River Yala. On 10th October 2021, Okero reportedly retrieved 10 bodies. Each of the 10 bodies was in individual sacks, and in his own words, “each body was neatly packed and sealed like a parcel.” This past week he reportedly removed three bodies, two of them of Somali origin.

When the team visited the Yala Sub-County Hospital Mortuary, there was 21 bodies listed as “unknown men.”

“Most of them bore marks of torture, tied with ropes, polythene bags on their heads and some had deep cuts. The bodies are decomposing fast and it’s likely they will be buried in a mass grave very soon,” Boniface Mwangi said.

On 20th October 2021, 9 unidentified bodies were buried by Yala Mortuary to create space in the morgue. The hospital reportedly receives at least five bodies from River Yala every month, according to the information gathered by Haki Africa.

Haki Africa Director Hussein Khalid said that it was a shame that bodies were being bumped in the river by a double cabin and a box as reported by locals and no action was being taken.

Do we have a government in place? How comes this is happening? We have visited the mortuary and we have seen for ourselves, bodies that have been tortured, bodies tied with ropes, bodies whose limbs have been severely dismembered others with marks on their heads. This shows that these people were tortured before they were killed,” Hussein Khalid

Extra-Judicial Killings in Kenya

Last year The Daily Nation reported that there were more cases of extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances in Kenya in 2021 than any other period in history.


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