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Execution of NGO officials stirs a firestorm

By | March 7th 2009
By | March 7th 2009

By Standard on Sunday Team

The execution of two human rights activists just hours after the Government spokesman linked their organisation to the proscribed Mungiki sect stunned Kenyans and the international community.

The killings sucked Kenya further into the international radar on gross human rights violations at a time it is grappling with international pressure to constitute a special local tribunal to try post-election violence perpetrators.

It also opened a schism within the troubled coalition government. Prime Minister Raila Odinga condemned the killings and expressed surprise the activists were sprayed with bullets shortly after Dr Alfred Mutua termed their NGO - Oscar Foundation – the resource mobilisation wing of the Mungiki.

"I appeal to the UN, the US and EU and all other friends of Kenya to help unravel this murder,’’ said Raila as he condoled with the families of the slain officials.

America offered its elite team of sleuths – Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) – as the UN called for independent team of investigators to be engaged to unravel the killings.

Prof Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings who has been denounced by a section of the Government following the release of his report on extra-judicial killings, suggested the investigators could be drawn from the Scotland Yard or South Africa.

The embarrassment could be felt far and wide in Government, coming hot on the heels of Prof Phillip Alston’s UN report that indicted the Government over its human rights record and implicated police in extra-judicial killings. It said the Attorney General and Police Commissioner are icons of impunity.

The report demanded the resignation of the two officer’s as well as the President’s declaration of end of police executions.

Raila’s implication of police in the human rights activists’ killing is likely to further widen the rift in the coalition government.

"I wish to state to the people of Kenya that Dr Mutua does not speak for the Grand Coalition Government," said the Prime Minister has he enumerated the role civil society played, and the suffering its members went through, to win for Kenyans the freedoms they currently enjoy.

"This act of heartlessness and lawlessness, murder most foul, came only hours after Dr Alfred Mutua, in the name of the Government, accused the Oscar Foundation of fundraising abroad to support Mungiki activities locally,’’ he added.

Killings were unfortunate

Contacted for comment, Mutua said the killings were unfortunate. Like the Commissioner of Police Maj-Gen Hussein Ali at a press conference a few hours earlier, Mutua said the killings could have been the work of people who wanted to discredit the police and Government.

"It is very unfortunate; this is a man I know (late Oscar). Either somebody took advantage of the situation…’’ said Mutua, without completing his train of thought.

The Government spokesman said he did not want to engage the PM in public: "Issues of security are handled by the Office of the President,’’ he told The Standard on Saturday. In effect he appeared to imply that is where he gets his brief. A few hours earlier Raila had said: "The Grand Coalition Government was founded on the principle of consultation. Whatever goes out as a Government position must have been discussed by the parties and agreed on before it is announced. There is no such agreement that the Oscar Foundation was raising money for Mungiki. It gets even more bizarre when that announcement is followed by murder."

He added: "We therefore want to appeal to friends of Kenya locally and abroad to help in unravelling this murder and help bring perpetrators to justice."

Mutua insisted he was the Government’s official mouthpiece: "There is need for us to find out what happened through investigations…I do not have a personal position, whatever I say is always the Government’s (word)."

Fact-finding mission

Alston confirmed meeting King’ara and Oulu during his February 2009 UN fact-finding mission to Kenya and that they had provided him with testimony on police killings in Nairobi and Central Province. The foundation reported it had documented 8,000 cases of police executions. The human rights activists died shortly after calling newsrooms to deny Mutua’s claim that they were linked to Mungiki.

Alston revealed: "The two human rights defenders were on their way to a meeting with a senior human rights officer of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights when they were shot at point-blank range, sitting in their car in heavy traffic near the University of Nairobi."

He added: "It is extremely troubling when those working to defend human rights in Kenya can be assassinated in broad daylight in the middle of Nairobi". "This constitutes a major threat to the rule of law, regardless of who might be responsible for the killings."

He added: "Those circumstances include a statement attributed to a Government spokesman, Mr Alfred Mutua, publicly denouncing the Oscar Foundation for its links to the illegal Mungiki sect, and another statement attributed to Police Spokesman, Mr Eric Kiraithe, that a major security operation was ‘definitely going to get’ those responsible for recent demonstrations attributable to the Mungiki."

Ali once again dismissed Alston’s report: "Unless Alston is a magician he cannot purport to have investigated these claims for ten days in a society that is compounded with many problems."

He added: "A case of chicken theft takes a little longer than that to investigate. His report sounds like fiction, and a poor one at that. His report is more likely an act of plagiarism, he was given the report by someone else and is therefore a mouthpiece for a local group". woman Admits offence

University student shot

Worse still for the Government, a university student was shot dead by police in the standoff after the two killings. For several hours, the students held onto the bodies, triggering the violent attack. Three policemen were later arrested and their guns confiscated to ascertain whose gun fired the bullet that killed the student. Police accused the students of interfering with the scene where the activists were killed. A security guard walking home, oblivious of the heinous crime taking place a few feet away, was shot in the leg.

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