Your death will not be in vain, family of man shot dead in tax protests says

Activists, friends and family of the late Rex Kanyike at Nairobi City Mortuary waiting for post-mortem on June 21, 2024. [Robert Tomno, Standard] 

The drumbeats of Thursday’s anti-Finance Bill protests in Nairobi died down, so did the life of a young protestor.

Twenty-nine-year-old Rex Kanyike Masai was silenced by a bullet, his only mistake, protesting against the government’s increased taxes.

A distraught Kanyike’s family camped at the City Mortuary yesterday as they witnessed the post-mortem of a son who had left home full of life just a few hours earlier.

In a solemn and moving account, the family shared their story of pain and agony as they struggled to come to terms with the murder of a son they loved and cherished.

An autopsy conducted by a family pathologist and his government counterpart at City Mortuary indicated that Kanyike died from excessive bleeding and muscle fractures caused by a gunshot wound on his left thigh.

The report showed that the bullet entered from the back. The incident attracted the attention of Kenya’s opposition leaders who have condemned the killing.

Speaking at Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka Command Center in Nairobi, Azimio leaders called for the resignation of top security chiefs. They also called for the prosecution of Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome and Nairobi police boss Adamson Bungei over the death of Kanyike.

“Rex was unarmed but was senselessly killed by a police bullet, this is the return of a police force,” said Kalonzo Musyoka, Wiper leader.

Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) said it has taken up the investigation pledging to get to the bottom of the matter.

The authority also affirmed that they are also investigating serious injury incidents documented during the recent demos.

Embakasi MP Babu Owino said he would institute private prosecution against Koome and the police officer who shot Kanyike.

Speaking in Mombasa, the MP asked Kenyans who either captured the incident on camera or witnessed it to come forward.

“We shall institute private prosecution against the officer who killed the protestor. We ask the other protestors to identify him and come forward as witnesses,” said Owino adding, “The Director of Public Prosecutions should charge the officer and order for the investigation of Koome of the offence of commission or omission. If not, we will also sue the IG,” he said.

While recounting the events leading to his son’s death, Kanyike’s father, Chrisphine Odawa, said his son suffered a painful death.

“He left work, branched into town with a friend and joined the demonstrations. Unfortunately, as he scampered for safety, he got shot and sadly we lost him,” said Odawa.

According to Odawa, Kanyike succumbed to excessive bleeding while lying on the ground as everyone else dashed for safety.

He was told that one of his friends, with the help of others, eventually took him to hospital. “It is said that he bled a lot. The friend even asked for help from police, but they gave a deaf ear,” Kanyike’s friend, who did not want to be named, confided to the father.

According to Odawa, his son, who was full of life, had been working at a Casino in Hurlingham before joining his fellow youths in protests, where he met his death. Odawa learned the news of his son’s death from his wife, Gillian Munyao, around 7pm.

“I got the news from my wife through the phone. I went home early. I didn’t believe her at first and hung up,” said Odawa amid sobs.His doubts were later confirmed when they arrived at Bliss Hospital on Moi Avenue, where Rex had been taken after the incident.

“At the hospital, we were welcomed with the news that Kanyike died before reaching the hospital,” he stated.

Ian Karanja, a fellow protestor who helped carry Kanyike to the hospital, said he saw the 29-year-old lying in a pool of blood.

“Kanyike was lying down helpless with his eyes still open when his friend came asking for help. I volunteered to help,” said Karanja. He recounted how officers still teargassed them as they carried Kanyike to the hospital.

“It was chaotic. I was here trying to help, but the police came close to me and even hit me with the butt of the gun on the shoulder,” recalled Karanja. The family said their late kin was humble, hardworking and generous.

The late Kanyike went to Bondeni Primary in Kayole, Nairobi before proceeding to Muvuti Secondary and later to Kenya Institute of Highways and Building Technology.

His mother said: “The only crime my son committed was to fight for the rights of fellow citizens. I ask the government to give justice to my son.”

Human rights crusaders also weighed in, “What happened to Kanyike was unnecessary, uncalled for and a clear use of excessive force by police,” said Hussein Khalid of Vocal Africa.

(Additional reporting by Joackim Bwana)

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