Ndanu falls on the Yala river in western Kenya is a scenic site that enthrals visitors and lovers of nature.
As you approach the falls from Yala town, you are immediately captivated by the gentle flow of water through the beautifully arranged outcrops of rock, producing a natural sound that becomes deafening as you get closer.
Behind the beautiful Ndanu falls, however, is an eerie tale of dumped human bodies whose identity remains unknown.
Numerous bodies have been retrieved from the river in recent years, an unresolved mystery that residents now only converse about in hushed tones.
Last Thursday, four bodies were retrieved from the river near the falls by the local community. A day before that, three bodies, with hands tied behind their backs and some with deep wounds on the head, were retrieved. They were all male.
At Yala Sub-County Hospital in Gem, Siaya County, 20 unmarked bodies have been lying unclaimed at the mortuary for the past three months. Nineteen of them were taken out of the river and brought in by the police.
It has emerged that the Ndanu falls is the main spot where most of the bodies are found, and residents of Yala township are concerned.
Dr Bruno Okal, the medical superintendent at the sub-county hospital, confirmed to the Nation that 20 unidentified bodies are lying at the mortuary. Soon, the hospital will dispose of them in line with the law on unclaimed bodies.
“There is an impending mass burial,” said Dr Okal. “We have been receiving the bodies from River Yala and they are brought in by police marked as unidentified,” he said.
The local community said the dumping of bodies has become a normal occurrence.
Mr Nicholas Okero, a resident and diver, has helped police retrieve bodies from the river.
“I have retrieved many bodies from this river. From July 2021, I have removed 31 bodies. Every time the bodies are spotted, the police alert me and I rush to help” said Mr Okero, who is paid for the work. He said that some of the bodies were packed neatly in sacks.
“Sometimes people have reported seeing sacks floating in the river. For instance, in November, five sacks were floating near the Yala bridge and people thought someone dumped garbage in the river,” he said.
“Five days later, the smell was unbearable. It is then that it emerged the sacks contained bodies.”
He claimed that at the time we spoke, there were at least five bodies stuck in the rocks at the falls.
Mr John Omondi, 31, a boda boda operator, said he had witnessed the removal of some of the bodies from the river, adding that most of the bodies had their hands tied and heads wrapped in polythene bags.
Dumping of bodies
Residents claimed some of the bodies were brought to the site in a black double-cabin pickup truck, and that a white Toyota Probox was spotted occasionally in the area at night or early in the morning.
“In December, some pupils who were on their way to school spotted the vehicles. Bodies were dumped in the river before the vehicles were driven away,” Mr Omondi said.
He added: “Other than the bodies that are dumped around the falls, some are thrown upstream and then flow downstream. Some are retrieved while others just decay because people don’t claim them. The bodies of two people of Somali origin were retrieved in December.”
Ms Susan Amondi, a resident of Yala town, said the government had not taken any action matter.
“If the government was serious, they would ambush and arrest the drivers of the two vehicles that have been dumping the bodies in the river,” she said.
St Peters Clavers parish priest Fr Clement Oluoch also expressed concern over the dumping of bodies.
“Last week, seven bodies were retrieved from the river. Even now I am told we have some bodies in that river,” he said.
He added that the presence of bodies in the river poses a threat to health because locals may consume the contaminated water.
20 bodies retrieved
“The Ndanu falls is an intake site for water used in Siaya and Bondo. These bodies contaminate the water and it may be disastrous to the population that depends on it,” he said.
“The authorities must now come out and solve this issue once and for all because life must be respected.”
Human rights activist Khalid Hussein said: “I went to the Yala sub-county mortuary and personally counted 10 bodies marked ‘unknown’,” he said.
“These are people’s children, people’s husbands, wives, sons and daughters. I have seen four bodies still in the river, some already decaying. Honestly, do we have a government?”
Gem sub-county police commander Charles Chacha confirmed that over 20 bodies have been retrieved from the Yala river from January last year to date.
“Yes we are aware of the bodies being dumped in the river. As far as we are concerned, I can’t talk about the bodies now, it will be speculation,” he said.
“We do not dispute that we have bodies being retrieved from River Yala, but this does not mean that it is the police killing them and dumping them there,” said Mr Chacha.
Siaya County police commander Michael Muchiri said police will establish a permanent check-point at the Yala bridge to stop the dumping of bodies.
“There is no life that is less important to us, even one body being retrieved is one too many for us. We shall also work with the public to ensure we succeed in this,” he said.