Death calls time for an old man at Safari Bar

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The Independent Online
They had done their best to clean the Safari Bar in Likoni yesterday, but it still smelled of blood. "It was all old man's blood," said Priscilla Laeela, one of three women, all heavy with shock, who were watching over the otherwise empty premises. "He was my neighbour, my very good friend."

The friend she was talking about was Samuel Kamau, the owner of the bar, who was murdered along with his son, David, during an armed raid on Sunday evening. The raid was the latest atrocity to mark the run-up to Kenya's elections, the date of which President Daniel arap Moi is expected to spring on the nation at any moment. In the last elections, in 1992, the focus of violence was the Rift Valley. This year, it is Likoni, a sprawling township just across the water from Mombasa, where 46 people have been killed in the past two weeks.

Ms Laeela was at the bar yesterday giving what support she could to two women Kamau employed to manage the place - Grace Sila, who was not working on the night of the attack, and 35-year-old Hadija Mohamed, who was.

Ms Laeela explained that the Kamau family were away making the funeral arrangements. Then Hadija described what happened on Sunday night.

"Only one man came first," she said. "He wanted drinking water, and jumped over the gate. I told him there was no water, then another jumped over and opened the gate. The others invaded - about 100 of them. They wore uniforms, military clothes, and high boots - if you kick a door it just goes. They were armed with guns and everything.

"They went through to the owner's room, straight to it, they knew where it was. They stabbed the old man, cutting open his abdomen. After he fell, and his intestines fell out, they followed the son. The son said `Don't kill me! The lady has all the money.' I gave them all the money, 34,800 shillings (pounds 350) I gave them."

They then took Hadija into the bush and threw her into a ditch, warning her that she was not to make a noise or they would come back and finish her. Otherwise, they were not going to kill her as she came from this area.

The police have not been vigorous in their pursuit of the killers. In fact, once they heard about the uniforms of the raiding party, they were gone within three minutes. Their caution is not surprising as the 46 dead include 10 of their number. Two decomposing bodies discovered outside Likoni on Monday were of officers missing since an attack on Likoni police station on 13 August, in which nine people, including several policemen, died. A large stockpile of arms was stolen after that attack, an act to which Mr Moi responded by setting a deadline of one week for their return.

Likoni is a township of corrugated iron built on dirt roads. Its inhabitants, a mixture of local people and diverse incomers hoping to catch some of the trickle-down from the tourist boom, have rubbed along without ethnic conflict.

But now, the tension is palpable. The raiders have had one message. Up- country people must leave the area. And that message is being heeded. There is only one way in and out of Likoni, and that is by ferry from Mombasa. If the ferry were to stop, there would be no escape without the complication of deep water. The first thing to greet the visitor off the ferry is an abandoned police post.

Yesterday, scores of people acutely conscious of their vulnerability were pushing handcarts packed with their belongings off the ferry and up the road into Mombasa. Around 2,000 up-country people who have decided to leave their homes but have nowhere else to go are camped out in the grounds of the Catholic church, protected by soldiers at the gate and a wall thorned down its length by shards of glass.

Even so, gunmen raided the compound last Friday and killed two people. And it is not possible to find anyone who believes that the raid on the Safari Bar will be the last.