How 'passion for work' is landing police officers in the dock

Residents of Githurai 45 blocked Thika Highway for the better part of today protesting the arrest of police officer accused of murder,travelers used different ways of transport to reach their destination today 09/09/14 PHOTO Moses Omusula

Nairobi; Kenya: When protestors blocked Thika Road at Githurai demanding the release of police constable Titus Musila, alias Katitu – a crime buster who had become a darling of locals for fighting crime – the country got talking.

It was the first time that Kenyans were siding with the police, who are usually accused of being greedy and trigger-happy when it suits them.

Interestingly, the pro-Katitu protestors claimed the officer had single-handedly fought crime in Githurai 45, Zimmerman and Githurai Kimbo, by killing criminals who “did not heed his calls to reform”.

The outcry of the locals was that Katitu was “just doing his job” – something that did not go down well with the Independent Policing Authority (IPOA), which accused of him of perpetrating extrajudicial killings.

Katitu was facing murder charges for the death of Oscar Muchoki in Githurai on April 14 last year – whom locals claimed was a criminal the crime buster had eliminated in line of duty.

The officer was also being accused of eliminating Muchoki’s younger brother, a witness in his murder trial. IPOA claimed Katitu had shot him six times on August 24, this year.

Strange as Katitu’s story may sound, he is not the first officer to find himself in the dock over extrajudicial killings “in the line of duty”.

Recently, the Court of Appeal sitting in Nairobi ordered the retrial of a police officer accused of killing two protestors in Kisumu at the height of the post-election violence in 2007/2008.

Police Constable Edward Kirui had been let off the hook by the High Court over a mismatch of the serial number of the firearm he had allegedly used to kill the protestors.

But as Kirui goes back to the dock, Kenyans will probably remember the 2010 Kawangware incident in which six police officers were accused of killing seven taxi drivers in cold blood. 


During the March 10, 2010 incident, there were skirmishes between Kawangware boda boda and taxi operators, who had convened to reconcile after a growing dispute over customers.

But the deployment of police attached to the Kawangware Administration Police Post to quell the skirmishes only culminated in the death of the seven who were felled by police bullets.

A public outcry for the prosecution of the suspected rogue cops ensued, culminating in the arrest of six police officers who were subsequently charged with seven counts of murder.

Justice Fred Ochieng of the Nairobi High Court – who sentenced the six to death in 2012 before the verdict was overturned by the appellate court – wondered why police would kill unarmed civilians.


“If the taxi drivers were armed with more superior fire power than the officers, it would have been expected that there should have been some injuries among the officers. But none of the officers was injured at all. The bodies of the victims were found in three different positions; two of them were under a lorry,” said the judge before slapping the police with a death sentence.

In the Court of Appeal, however, the judges ruled that the officers may have acted in self defence and that their firearms were at risk of theft.

Appellate judges Daniel Musinga, Erastus Githinji and Jamila Mohammed, said the officers ran the risk of losing their rifles or even their lives, since the slain taxi drivers reportedly defied orders to surrender.

“In these recent days when so many officers are being killed in the line of duty by armed criminals, the appellants ... could have reasonably believed that their lives were in danger and decided to open fire,” ruled the judges.

As Katitu’s trial continues, and Kirui goes back to court, the country will no doubt get talking again about extra-judicial killings and the duty of the courts to dispense justice.