Killing innocent people radicalises victims' families, friends

Protesters allied to NASA coalition stand on a road barricade in Kisumu on October 24, 2017. (Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard)
I have seen trigger-happy police shoot innocent people. Recently, I was in Bungoma County, weeks before the August 8 General election when Kadogo, a woman who sold groceries by the road side, was felled by a stray bullet.

Before the incident, tension was palpable in the town. You could cut through it with a razor blade. But I was not worried. Residents of Bungoma town are some of the most peaceful people I know. I grew up here. So I had nothing to worry about. But still on this day, I knew that something was odd.

At the time, Governor Kenneth Lusaka was headed to the offices of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to return his nomination papers.

He had to make sure the street was painted red with Jubilee campaign paraphernalia. He was the incumbent and he had to make his weight felt. 

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But supporters of the current governor, Wafula Wangamati were not happy with this show of might by Lusaka. They had to do something, so they also arrived in the tiny central business district of the crowded town to also display their might. They met face to face. I was going to find my means back home when the clash started and I had to run. Without warning, the all-too-familiar gunshot sounds filled the air.

Everyone had to scamper for safety and I had to find cover. I saw the Cooperative Bank door still open, but the security guard was hurriedly locking it. I ran into the bank as fast as I could and was lucky to get in below the shutters a few seconds before the entrance was fully closed.

Perhaps out of the adrenaline rush that had built inside me, I found myself taking the stairs to the first floor of the bank, to be as far as possible from the firing. When the commotion had died down, I went downstairs, and walked back into the streets that were now calmer.

Kadogo did not make it. She had been shot in the chest as she tried to run for her life as well. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital, another victim of a stray bullet. She was now just another statistic.

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Another stray bullet from our trigger-happy police killed a man this weekend in Westlands. Bunty Shah was shot dead by police in his house. In his bedroom; one of the places he thought he would be safe. Bunty, 32, was a young father. His son was just five months old.

He came from a wealthy family that could afford a moderate level of security. Nevertheless, some policeman pulled the trigger, acting on fake intelligence and killed the wrong man. It will be a miracle if anyone will be held accountable for this death.

Diversionary tactics

But there shall be some 'fake investigations' that will be launched whose findings may never see the light of day. I am certain even the CCTV footage that would show the killer has now been destroyed. In their defence, police claim someone shot at them and they were forced to return fire.

How convenient! This reminds me of nine-year old Moraa Nyarangi who was killed on a balcony in Mathare as she played, and the small nursery school pupils who were teargassed as police moved to stop protests in Kisumu County. 

I must be fair to the police and admit that not all officers are rogue. In fact, most of them are just patriotic Kenyans serving this country the best way they know how. But if our security agencies do not come out to condemn the rotten ones amongst their ranks, how can this stop?

If the security agencies do not operate within the law, how do they expect the public to obey laws? Kenya spends billions of shillings every year to recruit, train and modernise our police service. Surely, there are more civil ways of dealing with unarmed protestors than using live bullets.

We have water cannons, horses, teargas and rubber bullets for this.  These very policemen will be out this week to 'create law and order' in the forthcoming controversial election. If this is how they will be responding to crisis - with live bullets - how many people will die?

The problem with killing an innocent person is that it radicalises their family members. Their children. Brothers. Sisters. Parents. People who had trust in the Government all of a sudden become radicalised.

Mr Wafula is an Investigative reporter with The Standard

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Bungoma Countyanti-iebc demospresidential electionpolice