MUNYAGA: Kenya should hasten justice for Kimani

MUNYAGA: Kenya should hasten justice for Kimani

Police in Kenya have announced the arrest of three officers suspected in the extrajudicial killing of Nairobi based human rights lawyer, Willie Kimani, his client, Josephat Mwendwa and taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, apparently after they were picked by law enforcers from the precincts of a courtroom on June 23 and went missing until their badly mutilated bodies were found some 70 kilometres north of the city a week later.

Human rights activists and NGOs say it is common for Kenyan police to kill suspects with impunity and many people fear to come forward with complaints because they dread police harassment and other reprisals. In the killing of Kimani and the two others, their worst fears have been vindicated.

The case that Kimani had taken up cannot even remotely be considered sensitive or one that endangered the safety of the state. Kimani was only defending Mwendwa, a motorcycle taxi rider, who had accused the police of harassing him in a bid to have him withdraw a complaint against a senior officer with the local Administration Police unit who he says shot him without provocation during a traffic stop in April 2015.

So, in Kenya if an ordinary citizen files a complaint against a police officer, it is like signing his own death warrant. Impunity can never have a better definition.  Inspector General of Police (IGP) Joseph Boinnet has promised thorough investigation of the case, saying “the law shall take its course.” Those are soothing words to ordinary mortals but fall short by far, of the action needed.

In the first place, Boinnet himself should resign together with the minister for home affairs. The three officers, whose names have not been released, should be charged in court with murder. Also, their commanders should be charged too with neglecting their duties or even as accomplices in the crime of the three officers. Certainly, the officer whom Mwendwa complained against in the first place should not even be in his office by now.

It is hard to imagine what crime Kimani committed by merely taking on the case of a client such that his body should be found with his hands tied behind his back by ropes, some fingers chopped off and nails plucked out. Also, his eyes appeared to have been gouged out. The brutality and violence to which the lawyer and the other victims were subjected defies description. Indeed, it could only be the result of police officers who have no regard at all for the sanctity of human life.

It is unfortunate that police violence goes on unabated in Kenya where the President and his Deputy narrowly escaped being tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for genocide and crimes against humanity. The court dropped charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto not because there are no graves in Kenya to prove people were killed but because witnesses simply evaporated.

What the three officers in Kenya have done is not the kind of conduct that Africa wants and surely not what an integrating East Africa aspires to be. Above all, it is not the kind of behaviour desired for and in a politically federated region. What happens in Kenya has consequences throughout the region and men and women of conscience cannot afford to simply keep quiet. The police throughout the region are supposed to be the machinery for the people’s safety and security and not to act to the contrary.

On the other hand, Kenya simply doesn’t seem to understand its leadership role in Africa, East Africa and the world in general. It is economically one of the most progressive places on earth and to have that quality contaminated by rogue policemen, as Boinnet called them, is simply the height of tragedy. Kenyans should reject that curse and work to rein in the excesses of their wayward public servants.

So far, the public anger and outrage have been encouraging. What remains is for justice to be done and be seen to be done. True, all suspects have their natural rights also guarantee by law and the constitution but failure to use the Kimani case as an example, shall have ripple effects in the region. Businesses shall suffer and so also shall person to person relations.

One NGO said it had documented over 70 cases of extrajudicial killings by police in Kenya between 2012 and 2014 alone.  If so, the people have indeed lived under an official reign of terror. Every rope though has its weak point. The cords that were used to tie Kimani’s hands behind his back, are the same lashes that shall now be used to bind the actions of the “rogue” police officers in the Kenyan police force. Hopefully, with the innocent blood of the three men crying from the soil, Kenyans shall for once be keepers of their brothers.

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Story By Mboneko Munyaga
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