Life cut short: Four shots from police gun killed dreams of top student

Mourners at the burial of Carliton Maina at Kanorero village in Kangema, Murang’a County, yesterday. Maina was shot by police in Kibera, Nairobi, on December 22. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]
The officer who killed Carilton Maina followed him to an alley after shooting him on his left ankle, cornered him between two stalls and shot him on his stomach, chest and face even after the student had surrendered and was pleading for his life.

The engineering student crawled towards the direction of his mother’s house just 50 metres away still insisting he was not a criminal, those who heard the commotion on Christmas Eve, recall.

He never made it. Instead, two holes made by bullets that went through his chest and hit the door of a cyber café are the only reminders of what transpired on the night Maina was killed.

Conflicting reports

Unless the cyber café’s owner repair’s the door, Maina’s mother, Josephine Wangare will have to see those bullet holes everyday as she leaves home as the location of the shooting is on the way out of the slum from her house.

But even as the police and his neighbours continue giving conflicting reports about the circumstances leading to Maina’s death, what everyone agrees on is that the Leeds University student had a bright future.

A student whose only failure in KCSE was the A- he that he scored in Business Studies in 2013 and a B that he scored in science when he sat for KCPE four years earlier, Carilton Maina was no doubt destined for greatness.

“He was an easy, friendly soul. He loved two things in life; academics and football. I cannot recall a day he missed to watch an Arsenal match,” says his uncle Felix Mureithi.

As good as he was in academics, Maina was also a motivational speaker and a young achiever.

In 2013, he was winner of the East African Community Essay writing competition. And while issuing a Ted talk in 2016 just before he joined Leeds University, he talked about how lack of compassion between people is part of the reason the world has been unable to defeat poverty.

“I am not a crier but the terrible things I saw in 2007 are pretty unspeakable,” he told the audience of the global forum where experts talked about business, education, technology and the economy in April 2016.

“I think the underlying reason that is undermining the global fight against poverty is violence and lack of compassion for fellow human beings… Yet education is the only way kids can take their parents out of poverty,” he said.

Yet, Maina’s family is on all accounts not considered as poor as their neighbours at Laini Saba in the sprawling slum.

They live in upgraded houses constructed by Kenya Railways and her grandmother is a well-known landlord with houses in Kibera and Kayole, on the opposite side of the capital. His mother, Josephine Wangare is an employee of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

“There was no way Maina was a criminal. Why would he steal?” says a friend to the slain student who was buried yesterday in Kangema, Murang’a.

Even as Maina was laid to rest, human rights organisations blamed the government for continued extra judicial killings of the youth in slums. 

Activist Moses Okiyi claimed that in the past two months police in Nairobi slums have killed 22 youths in slum areas for no apparent reasons. 

“This must come to an end as details of those killed by police have been compiled as part of seeking for justice,” he said.

Amnesty International and other human rights organisations reprimanded the government to arrest rogue police officers involved in the extra judicial killings, saying those behind the brutal murder of Maina will be pursued. 

An uncle of the deceased, Ephantus Kigundu said the family will pursue the matter to ensure justice is done. 

Kenny Price, a friend of the deceased from the UK described Maina as a star who was dedicated in his education as he pursued an Engineering course in electronics and communication. 

Human rights

Price called on human rights defenders to assist the families whose relatives have been victims of extra judicial killings, saying Maina was a peace maker and not a criminal as alleged.

The police said he was part of a four-man gang robbing people armed with a pistol.

His family says he was on his way home from watching football.

Also in conflict is whether Maina was still a student of Leeds University and had just come for holiday. A family member said he came to Nairobi in August and was supposed to return to school in January. The BBC quoted a spokesman of Leeds University who said that he was a student there from 2016 to 2017.

So why was the bright student killed? What was he doing out at 2am? Was a he a good man caught in the wrong company at the wrong time? These are answers that an investigation by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) is expected to unravel.

The identity of his two other friends who escaped remains unknown.

At Laini Saba in Kibera, those who have an idea of who they were say the two have gone into hiding while the third one is in police custody. Nevertheless, extra judicial police killings in informal settlements have become accepted aspects of life.

“Carilton Maina’s killing at the hands of our police officers during the Christmas season shatters again the myth that only violent criminals are being killed lawfully,” said Houghton Irungu, head of Amnesty International Kenya immediately after the shooting.

“The death is a hallmark of an extra judicial killing that must be comprehensively probed,” he said.

[Additional reporting by Boniface Gikandi]

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Police brutalityCarilton MainaIPOA