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Mathare residents slam police over river body retrieval

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The body, believed to be a victim of recent floods, was discovered floating in the river by residents, who claim that police consistently shirk their responsibilities by offering money to locals, often young boys, to retrieve and pack bodies.

Residents of Mathare North are expressing outrage over the handling of a body retrieved from the Nairobi River, accusing authorities of neglect and ineptitude. The body, believed to be a victim of recent floods, was discovered floating in the river by residents, who claim that police consistently shirk their responsibilities by offering money to locals, often young boys, to retrieve and pack bodies.

Collins Odhiambo, a Mathare North resident who retrieved the body and placed it in a bag, revealed that police offered him  Sh1,000 for the task. "Money wasn't the most important part of why I agreed to do this. We need to respect the dead and dignify them. His body had been lying near the river for hours, and no one seemed to care. He faced a cruel death and respecting his body is the least we can do," Odhiambo explained.



Initially, Odhiambo was offered Sh500 by the police, but residents objected, even threatening to throw stones at him if he accepted. "He didn't even have PPE for this. He was going to take the body without a mask or gloves. The police themselves can't touch the body because they find it filthy and offer residents peanuts to do it for them," said Morris Muinya, another Mathare resident.

Muinya added that police cars came and left for hours without picking up the body, forcing residents to handle the situation.

Margaret Muthoni, who witnessed the body floating in the river, recounted how they chased it until they could retrieve it. "We just saw a body floating away and went to get it. We all ran to where it was flowing, and luckily the boys got it before it was further washed away," she said.

Evans Mwangi, another resident involved in the retrieval, said the body had been exposed for five hours without any action from authorities. "Residents usually take up this job because people are hungry and suffering, so they would do anything, even packing a body without proper PPE. As much as we cannot blame them for taking up the job, the authorities doing this every time is truly appalling," Mwangi stated.

He added that authorities regularly lure young boys to perform these tasks, exploiting their desperation.

Muinya pointed out that this practice is not new and that the community has often been left to manage such situations. "It's always a trend in the area for the police to offer money to boys to retrieve bodies and pack them. This is not the first time, and sadly, it might not be the last," he lamented.

The ongoing floods in Kenya have led to increasing fatalities, with the Ministry of Interior reporting 291 deaths. Additionally, 188 people have been injured, and 75 are currently missing. The tragic consequences of the floods have been compounded by the inadequate response from authorities, according to the residents of Mathare North.

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