19TH PERSON TO DISAPPEAR

Abducted Mombasa trader Taitumu still missing, a month later

He was allegedly kidnapped by six gun-toting men near Mama Ngina Waterfront on August 14

In Summary

• On August 14, David Taitumu, 47, drove himself to Lighthouse in the evening.

• He did not reach his destination. He has never been seen since. 

David Taitumu's wife, Regina, at Haki Africa offices on Tuesday.
DEVASTATED David Taitumu's wife, Regina, at Haki Africa offices on Tuesday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI
The family of David Taitumu and Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid [R] at Haki Africa offices on Tuesday.
SORROWFUL The family of David Taitumu and Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid [R] at Haki Africa offices on Tuesday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI
David Taitumu's wife Regina and daughter Sylvia at Haki Africa offices on Tuesday.
LEFT IN DESPAIR David Taitumu's wife Regina and daughter Sylvia at Haki Africa offices on Tuesday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

David Taitumu loved to drive himself to Lighthouse, near the Coast police headquarters, to relax. 

He'd join many other Mombasa residents to pass time. 

On August 14, the 47-year-old drove to Lighthouse in the evening. He did not reach his destination. He has never been seen since.  

It was around 7pm when he must have realised he was being followed. He tried to speed away towards the Mama Ngina Waterfront gate.

Witnesses say two cars following him gave a short chase and caught up with him. One blocked his way and the other kept watch at the back.

Taitumu, a businessman with two ration stores at Express in Docks and at the Coast General Hospital and a rental house had nowhere to go. 

He rolled up his windows and locked the doors, perhaps giving himself a sense of security.

Just then, six armed men emerged from the two cars. 

“Don’t try to run away. If you dare, we will finish you!” the men shouted, guns cocked, witnesses said.

Pedestrians at the roadblock just before the Mama Ngina Waterfront Park gate near the Mombasa Golf Course lay down, fearing being caught in any crossfire.

The men broke the driver’s window and pulled Taitumu out of the car. They bundled him into the boot of the car behind his and drove off.

Moments later, a man drove Taitumu’s car to an open space near the Coast Academy and abandoned it there with the keys inside the ignition. 

The car was later towed to the Central police station. A month later, no one knows where the trader is. 

This was the 19th such case of enforced disappearance this year, according to Haki Africa's records.

Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid said only six of the 19 have returned home.

Khalid said what bothers them most is the seeming lack of meaningful progress in any of the cases, which have all been reported.

“We have a DCI that either is not willing or has no capacity to get to the bottom of these cases,” the human rights activist said.

Taitumu’s wife Regina David, 38, and his only child, 19-year-old Sylvia David, have been living a traumatised life since then.

“We don’t sleep. My daughter has been having nightmares,” Regina, a housewife, said at the Haki Africa offices on Tuesday.

Taitumu’s younger brother Phineas Kirimi said they have been to all police stations, hospitals and mortuaries in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties but have failed to trace his brother.

“We are asking for help. Let us see him so we can know why he has been taken away,” Kirimi said.

Khalid said holding someone incommunicado without charging them is against the law.

“We have reason to believe it is the police who took him away. The police are not above the law. They should follow the same law they are enforcing,” he said.

On September 5, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai denied police officers are involved in enforced disappearances or extrajudicial killings at the Coast.

He said police officers are always unfairly blamed for criminal activities involving abductions without concrete evidence linking them such incidents.

“When you start accusing the police for no good reason, you discourage them,” the IG said during a Kenya Police Sacco meeting in Mombasa.

Mutyambai said many criminals use the name of police to hoodwink their targets.

On Tuesday, Kirimi said they have been following up on the case with the police in Mombasa but they are always given the same response: We are continuing with investigations. 

He said his brother’s phone was still ringing two days after he was abducted but was never picked.

“After the second day, it went off. Police told us they traced it to Likoni Island Terminal,” Kirimi said.

He said Taitumu’s daughter sent him a text on WhatsApp on August 16 and it was delivered on August 19.

“It means someone switched on the phone and was using it,” Kirimi said.

Regina said she only wants to see her husband home and safe. 

 

(edited by o. owino)