Koome: Opposition chiefs hiring dead bodies to portray officers as killers

Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome at the KICC in Nairobi on June 8, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Opposition leaders have been accused of conniving with rogue mortuary attendants who reportedly hire out dead bodies which are then used to taint the image of police officers who have been accused of killing protesters.

Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome has alleged that some of the images and videos of dead bodies being circulated on social media have been taken by mortuary attendants, who are paid to do so, and published by opposition operatives ostensibly to soil the image of the National Police Service (NPS).

"Our investigations have revealed that opposition leaders have engaged in a propaganda campaign to taint the image of the police service and to demoralise and intimidate our diligent police officers. However, none of their plans will succeed," said the police boss who spoke at Kenya Police Training College Kiganjo on Tuesday.

However, Azimio La Umoja leader Raila Odinga dismissed Koome's claims saying: "It is disappointing for IG Koome to claim that opposition leaders hired dead bodies. I do not know which world the IG lives in. Bodies of all those who died during the protests had bullet wounds."

Raila, who spoke at SKM Command Centre in Karen, Nairobi, where he was accompanied by other Azimio officials including Jeremiah Kioni and Kalonzo Musyoka, said: "These people were killed by Koome's goons. The IG cannot turn around to claim we hired dead bodies."

Koome also denied allegations that anti-riot police officers stormed Nyalienda village in Kisumu to kill and maim innocent Kenyans.

"The video and photos that were circulated over the alleged incident were from other countries, while others were taken during the 2007/2008 post-election violence," said the IG.

He termed reports by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance that it has written to The Hague-based International Criminal Court to investigate the conduct of police officers during the anti-government protests as an effort to intimidate them.

A protester during the anti-government protests at Makina, in Kibra, Nairobi, on March 27, 2023. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

"The officers used justifiable force to counter the violent protests, even as the youth pelted them with stones. Some of the protesters attacked police stations. You cannot injure an officer and expect him to be nice to you. He will use the gun and teargas on you, to defend himself," Koome said. 

He said police officers remained professional as they protected life and property during the demos. 

"We are warning opposition leaders against resuming protests. We will deal with them firmly and decisively. We will not allow what is happening in the neighbouring countries to happen in Kenya," Koome said.

Two weeks ago, Azimio leaders, Martha Karua, Kalonzo Musyoka, Eugene Wamalwa and Jeremiah Kioni, announced plans to take legal action against police officers they accused of using excessive force on protesters, resulting in injuries and deaths.

Karua said police officers who violated their constitutional duty to protect lives and property during protests would face the law.

Mr Raila Odinga, joined by other Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Alliance leaders, address the media at SKM Command Centre in Karen, Nairobi, on June 14, 2023. The other officials present were Jeremiah Kioni, Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua, Wangi Wa Iria, George Wajackoyah and Eugene Wamalwa. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) reported that at least nine people were killed during last month's demonstration.

“We have instructed our lawyers to prepare and institute legal proceedings against police officers who have gone against their constitutional duty of protecting lives and property of Kenyans during protests,” said Karua.

The Narc Kenya leader called citizens to document instances of police brutality and abuse and share the same with their legal team.

Azimio leaders said the responsibility for protecting Kenyans and their properties lies with the state and its agencies.

President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua have defended the police saying they would protect them from any move by the Opposition to sue them. 

"Those who plan, fund and incite youth to carry out violent protests are the ones who are in the wrong. Violent protests are unconstitutional, illegal, undemocratic and unpatriotic," the President said. 

"The police have done a commendable job in dealing with violent protestors. They require promotion," Gachagua said on Monday.