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"Taking Injustice Personally"

A citizen’s take on Kenya’s extrajudicial killings

Civil Society Organizations protest the extrajudicial executions of Lawyer Willie Kimani, his client and their taxi driver in Nairobi.

By Justus Nyang’aya

I look forward to a reformed Police, one that is at our service, is professional, fair, disciplined and competent

A couple of weeks ago, Willie Kimani, a lawyer with the International Justice Mission in Nairobi; his client Josphat Mwendwa, a motorcycle taxi operator; and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, were abducted while driving from the Mavoko Law Courts, some 20 kilometres south east of Nairobi. They had attended a court session in a case where Mr. Mwendwa accused an Administration Police (AP) Officer of shooting and injuring him.

Their dead bodies were found one week later in the Ol Donyo Sabuk River in Machakos County.

Images of the pain they experienced at the hands of their abductors, the torture, the smell of death and their eventual execution, have been flashing through my mind. I cannot believe that a normal human being, one who is imbued with feelings of sympathy and has family, can kill another in cold blood. However high the stakes were, certain things just don’t make sense.

I am deeply outraged by data from the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU), a human rights organization in Nairobi. The data shows that 520 people were executed by police officers between January 2013 and April 2016. That translates to an average of 13 people every month.

I am aware that these figures refer only to those cases which were reported and recorded by various human rights agencies. During the same period, an unknown number of people may have been tortured, forcefully disappeared or killed. Their stories will never be told because their family members were too terrified to make a report. The police officer who carried out the act could have sent out a chilling message to the family: “If you want to live, shut up. I am watching you.”

These victims of police brutality lie in unmarked graves in little villages across Kenya. Their blood cries for justice in vain. Their children won’t experience a father’s love, anymore. The murderer was angry that a ‘mere mwananchi’ (ordinary citizen) called him out. He was embarrassed that a powerless man was ‘stupid enough’ to complain to the authorities. In his mind, he is above the law. He is used to having his way.

“Don’t they know we rule this country? How can a small person cause me to face justice or to lose my job,” the arrogant hypothetical officer tells himself.  “Oh! That’s a small job. We shall finish it in a few days. Or even hours! If they are lucky, their relatives will find something to bury. Else, they will wait for eternity. They will never know what happened. If he cares about his wife and children, he should be wise enough to shut up. When we come for you, no one will help you. Not the Police boss. Not even the President,” the hypothetical officer continues. “Oh! And once we are done with you, we will be right here. We will continue to prosper as you rot in your pitiful grave. Uta do?”

I know there are people out there who are a thorn in the flesh of the government. They speak out too much. They expose corrupt dealings by government officers. Yes, their interest is to protect taxpayers’ money. But they are taking on big people. Very big people! Don’t they realize the risks they are taking? Don’t they care about their children? But someone got to do this job.

Then there are the bad guys. They have been captured on camera supporting or glorifying terrorist acts. Their preaching makes all of us uncomfortable. They, too, deserve their day in court. No one, not government, domestic or foreign, not intergovernmental agency, indeed no authority on earth, is justified to waylay a human being and take his life. There is no legal rationale to support it. Every civilized society has put in place a court system to hear accusations against suspects and determine their guilt or innocence. Punishment is handed down according to the law and not on the whims of another human being or authority.

People, let’s stand up and speak out. Let’s not put our heads in the sand when victims’ families are going through unimaginable pain. Sometimes, we console ourselves that “it is none of my business. They will never get to me.” How ill advised! A rogue officer can go for anyone. They can come for me or my wife or children. I may have witnessed something that they don’t want exposed or it could be a case of mistaken identity.

Let’s not give these police officers too much power over our lives. They are our employees. We pay them to protect lives not to take it away at will.

I look forward to a reformed police, one that is at our service, is professional, fair, disciplined and competent. But that won’t come through a wish. I got to fight for it. I got to speak out even when it is seemingly dangerous to do so.

Mr. Nyang’aya is the Amnesty International Kenya Country Director Justus.nyangaya@amnesty.or.ke

 

 

 

 

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