A Friday night in October 2017, a suspended student led three armed men in a deadly revenge attack that lasted three hours. The gunmen killed a security guard and six students, injuring another 18 at Lokichoggio Mixed Secondary School, close to Kenya’s border with South Sudan.
A few weeks earlier, the perpetrator had been expelled from school for unruly behaviour. He was from South Sudan and was said to have been an SPLA soldier before joining the school. The attack happened between 1am and 4am. The police didn’t arrive at the school until 5am meaning the attackers had hours to move from one classroom to another targeting those who were not in good terms with the expelled student.
In a cubicle where the girls slept, two were raped and shot. One of the girls succumbed to her gunshot injuries in a hospital in Lodwar. Eight of the injured students were airlifted to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital for specialized treatment. The hospital is almost 600 km south of Lokichoggio by road.
A mess up
One of these students was Meshack Nagete. He was brought to the hospital to be treated for bullet wounds in the legs and stomach. A year later you could see that his stomach had been stitched together in a very bad way, but worst of all, when the doctors attempted to stop the blood loss from the wounds in his legs they cut off the blood supply and left the legs unmonitored for 18 hours. Gangrene set in, and as a result of the dead tissue it was decided that Meshack’s legs had to be removed. It was also done very sloppily, and before the other leg was sawn off, Meshack’s mother and Joseph Ebenyo Alinga, an uneducated doctor, said stop.
‘The gunmen killed a security guard and six students while injuring another 18’
Appalling surgical conditions
They brought Meshack back to Lokichoggio, where Joseph started treating him at his private clinic in Totubunoe, a village on the outskirts of Lokichoggio. What Joseph achieved under very miserable conditions was amazing. With his uneducated Turkana wife helping him in a little shack, the local ‘doctor’ scraped the dead flesh from Meshack’s right leg and transplanted skin from the thighs to patch both legs. The result was far from pretty, but at least one of Meshack’s legs was salvaged.
Joseph had worked at a Red Cross hospital for many years, where he assisted their doctors in severe cases of injuries, e.g. gunshot wounds. When the government took over the hospital, they wouldn’t give Joseph a job because he had no academic credentials, but he took his knowledge with him and the locals prefer his help to the help that is offered at the hospital where there are no doctors and no health workers who have skills that match Joseph’s — particularly in the area of orthopaedic surgery.
In November 2018, Children’s Mission, an organization working in Lokichoggio, got MAF involved to fly Meshack to Nairobi for a prosthesis at Jaipur Foot Trust. Unfortunately, the centre could not deliver the prosthesis, and Meshack had to wait for months. Finally, they received good news: the prosthetic limbs were back in stock and Meshack and his mother, Hellen, could board a MAF aircraft on 25 February.
Both the flight and the prosthesis were free of charge, and Children’s Mission would try to raise the funds for Meshack’s and Hellen’s stay in Nairobi. A taxi driver met the two passengers at Wilson Airport, Meshack was lifted from the cargo side of the Cessna Caravan into a wheelchair and the next day the taxi driver took Meshack and his mother to Jaipur Foot Trust. A volunteer advised them about getting a free wheelchair in Nanyuki, she ensured Meshack got his access card for disabled, and then took them to another centre to get extra support for his right leg. Now Meshack is back in Lokichoggio, learning how to use crutches, and finally smiling!
‘Meshack was lifted from the Cessna Caravan into a wheelchair and the next day the taxi driver took Meshack to Jaipur Foot Trust’
What happened to the attackers?
What happened to the angry student? After the attack, the killers escaped and fled towards Kakuma refugee camp, some 90 kilometres away. ‘We tracked the assailant and located him at Kakuma where security officers arrested him and took him to the police station,’ the Turkana County Police Commander said. ‘Angry members of the public stormed the police station and got hold of the boy, and stoned him to death and then burnt the body. The other three attackers were yet to be identified and they remained at large.’ The local head of police also had to flee from an angry community who was ready to lynch him for not reacting to the gunshots at the school before the gunmen were long gone.