The recent brutal killings of seven women in Nakuru County horrified the nation. Within weeks, police had arrested over a 100 youth and are now being accused of summarily executing four suspects. Yesterday, three police officers were convicted for killing the Mavoko 3. As the Jubilee regime prepares its handover, will extra-judicial killings be its darkest stain?
Over the last month, Susan Wambui (36) and Diana Opicho (25) were brutally murdered in their homes by several assailants. Grace Wanjiku (20) was also killed at home and like Susan, her killers then set her home on fire. Investigators have argued that the same killers probably also killed Nancy Wanjiru, Sabia Cheupe, Judy Nyambura and Beatrice Akinyi.
According to the 2021 Annual Crime Yearbook, robbery, and murder in Nakuru is almost double the national average. Confirm gang members have been the artery for these statistics. First noticed a decade ago, the gang notoriously carried out house robberies, sliced women and girls with razor blades and extorting money from the public. Their name comes from the text message “Confirm, you have received.”
The murder of the women provoked a community security hearing hours before the recent Nakuru gubernatorial debate. Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui and Senator Susan Kihika joined security officers, community leaders and human rights defenders to address the rise in criminal gang activity. Interior Cabinet Secretary and the Police Inspector General announced stern measures would be taken, and Peter Mwanzo was appointed Nakuru County Commander.
On July 5th, Evans Michori Kebwaro, Dennis Alusiola, Dicky Wanjala, Julius Omondi, Isaac Kinyanjui and Josphat Simiyu were arraigned before Nakuru principal magistrate. Over a hundred young men from Nakuru’s informal settlements have also been arrested and detained. Nine days ago, the police response took another dangerous turn. Collins Kibet (16), Collins Kipkorir (21), Kevin Kipyegon (20) and Dennis Kipchirchir (23) were arrested at Kia Maiko and shot dead.
Family members, neighbours and witnesses testify the four were collected from their homes and executed in cold blood. Post-mortem examinations reveal the victims were shot in the head, chest, and abdomen at close range and then dragged to a secondary place. IPOA have taken up the case and it seems likely the incident has signalled another spike in summary executions by the police.
Under Article 26, 29 and 50 of the Constitution, all suspected criminals have the right to a fair trial and are protected from cruel and inhumane treatment. All effective criminal justice systems are founded on the principle that all suspects are innocent until convicted. IMLU and Haki Africa have condemned both the murder of the six women and the killing of the four suspects.
Some 160km from the Kia Maiko killings, three police officers Fredrick Leliman, Stephen Cheburet, Sylvia Wanjiku and police informer Peter Ngugi were convicted of killing lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and driver Joseph Muiruri in 2016. It has taken six years to conclude this case that implicated the officers in other cases of police misconduct and extra-judicial killings.
Their conviction carries the most powerful of cautions. Despite all evidence to the contrary, we live in a moral universe. Unlawful actions by police officers will land them in a court of law and appropriate sentences under our law will be handed down. In the wake of the killings, human rights organisations have demanded the Nakuru County Commander be immediately suspended and investigated. The killings occur within a month of him assuming office and less than two months after similar executions in his immediate former jurisdiction.
The IPOA and the Internal Affairs Unit must now investigate the killings and the allegations that journalists, family members of the deceased and witnesses are being threatened.
Both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja have manifested their intention to reform the criminal justice system. Recent incidents provide textbook examples of the transformation needed should either alliance be elected on August 9.
Serious crimes cannot be resolved by police officers committing other serious crimes.
First published in the Saturday Standard on the 23rd July. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard.
Irũngũ Houghton is Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director and writes in his personal capacity. Email: [email protected]