DCI seeks to detain five KFS rangers for 14 days over student's death

KFS rangers Zipporah Chepkurui, Charles Korir, Stanley Njoroge, Simon Mwaura and Francis Lemasio were presented before the court on May 15, 2024. [Joseph Kipsang, Standard]

A Magistrate’s court will rule Thursday whether five Kenya Forest Service (KFS) rangers accused of allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old student will remain in custody.

This follows an application by the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to have the rangers remain in custody for 14 days to complete investigations.

KFS rangers Zipporah Chepkurui, Charles Korir, Stanley Njoroge, Simon Mwaura, and Francis Lemiso are accused of assaulting Stephen Mwangi, who succumbed to injuries at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Nairobi on May 14.

The five were arrested on Tuesday and appeared Wednesday before Eldama Ravine Senior Principal Magistrate Richard Koech. 

The deceased was a Form Three student at Maji Mazuri Secondary School in Eldama Ravine constituency, Baringo County.

Police Constable Elkana Mariita said the five KFS rangers were murder suspects.

The DCI, through prosecution, counsels Vena Odero and Moses Ng'ang'a in the application, said they are undertaking investigations relating to the offence of murder.

The prosecution said the DCI are seeking more time to record statements, especially from the deceased's mother.

"The mother is traumatised by the events of this week and last week," said Ng'ang'a. 

He said they need 14 days to peruse the file after investigations and issue further directions.

"There is a high likelihood of interference of witnesses, and it is demonstrated, that the offence was registered on May 9 and arrest made on May 14," he said. 

Ng'ang'a noted that the ground at Maji Mazuri is still hostile following demonstrations by the locals where the suspects' homes were torched.

The State requested that the five rangers be held at Mogotio Police station to avoid conflict of interest as they were stationed at Eldama Ravine, where the witnesses also reside.

Through their lawyer, Ruth Kerubo, the rangers said they were not served with the application, however, they are opposed to the same.

They argued that they are rangers with police powers under the National Police Service Act. 

She requested the court to release her clients on favourable bond terms. Kerubo said the prosecution had enough time as the matter was reported on May 9.

She argued that the High Court had ruled it is a breach of fundamental freedoms to continue holding an individual without disclosing the offence.

"The respondents are rangers, and the service is considering redeploying them they are disciplined officers and cannot interfere with the investigation. They will avail themselves each time required before DCI," said lawyer Kerubo.

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, through lawyer Bilha Ikani Omulama, opposed the application to move the body from MTRH to Eldama Ravine for post-mortem.

The commission also opposed the bond and bail application saying the case against the five rangers raises critical human rights concerns.

"It is only in the interest of justice that the suspects remain in custody pending expeditious investigations by the police," she said.

The late Mwangi had responded to his mother’s call to take to her Sh2,000 that the rangers had allegedly demanded to release her after she was found fetching firewood in Maji Mazuri forest.

The rangers allegedly descended on him after he intervened to stop them from assaulting his mother. 

Mwangi succumbed to the injuries at MTRH where he was undergoing specialised treatment.

The court directed that the five be held at Mogotio Police Station pending ruling on the application.