Three KWS rangers who killed student cleared

Senior Principal Magistrate Benson Nyaga Ireri, during the delivery of Judgement at Makindu law courts following a public inquest into the killing of a student by KWS officers inside Tsavo National Park in 2019. [Stephen Nzioka, Standard]

The court has closed a file in which a Form Four student, Benedict Kyule, 17, was allegedly shot inside Tsavo National Park.

After four years of investigations and conducting a public inquest into the fatal shooting a Makindu law court has closed the file.

The court ruled that the officers acted legally and that the deceased caused his own misfortune leading to unfortunate death inside the protected area.

By the time of his death in 2019, Kyule was a KCSE exam candidate at Kiuani Secondary, Kibwezi East, Makueni County.

The inquest led by Makindu Senior Principal Magistrate; Benson Nyaga Ireri was seeking to establish if there was enough evidence to prosecute three Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) officers based at Mtito-Andei.

The officers were on duty when the young man was gunned down.

According to the court, the shooting happened in the Komboyoo area under unclear circumstances.

Some 11 witnesses testified in the public inquest, among them, the deceased’s father, Kioko Muli, and three officers, Ibrahim Godana, George Otieno and another officer only identified as Kitheka.

While delivering the verdict, magistrate Ireri said that the deceased was actually inside the park, accompanied by other unknown poachers who might have escaped during a shoot-out.

According to the findings, at the scene of the crime, there were four spent cartridges from a 303 rifle, a homemade gun allegedly under use by the poachers.

However, there was no direct link of the gun under question to have been used by the deceased student. 

“During their patrol within Komboyoo section, Tsavo West, the officers testified that at around 3a.m where wild animals frequent for water, they encountered gun shots fired into their direction. They immediately took cover, lay on the ground and started firing back to protect their own life and that of the wild animals,” the magistrate said.

The court, while considering the circumstances in which the shooting occurred, stated that it did not find any unlawfulness or excessive use of firearms.

“My findings are that I didn’t find any omissions or unlawfulness in use of excessive force by the three KWS officers. It is unfortunate that the deceased caused his own misfortune and unfortunate demise inside Tsavo national park at the wee hours of the morning,” Ireri ruled

The court questioned what was the student doing inside the park at such wee hours of the morning.

“The area chief revealed that the boy was a frequent visitor to the park and he would often hunt dik-diks. The court finds that the shooting happened at night, the rangers were shot in the dark, what were they supposed to do? Therefore, in my consideration the three rangers acted lawfully to safeguard their lives and the wildlife. They didn’t deliberately or intentionally cause the death and I direct this file be closed for further action,” the court found

Shortly after the court session, the deceased’s father Mr. Muli expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling saying the court failed connect the boy to the gun.

“My son was such a staunch Christian. He was more into education, if he had no knowledge of using local bows and arrows how could he use a gun?” Muli questioned during an interview

Mr. Mutinda Kimeu, lawyer to the family said they were dissatisfied with the ruling and they will appeal the decision.

“The officers acknowledged to have killed the boy. There was no connection between the gun recovered and the deceased. Justice has not been served. We will appeal in high court,” said Kimeu

In a postmortem report from Makindu sub-county hospital, the boy died as a result of excessive bleeding linked to gunshot wounds on the chest that went through the lungs.