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CS Joseph Nkaissery must bite the bullet and quit

COMMENTARY
By Suba Churchill | July 13th 2016
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery

NAIROBI: The Civil Society Reference Group (CS–RG) condemns the brutal murder of lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwendwa and their driver Joseph Muiruri. That the suspected killers of the three are police officers charged with the duty of maintaining law and order; and securing the lives and property of citizens raises questions about the commitment of the Government to upholding the values and principles of governance.

The cruel murder of the three came in the same week that Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery was quoted saying that “the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) does not understand how the police work and cannot therefore vet and reform the service”.

It was not the first time that Nkaissery made statements that undermine efforts to reform the police service. It has become his pet subject to routinely attack the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) in terms that do not conceal his disdain for reforms.

Willie Kimani was among a breed of few lawyers who chose to sacrifice the prestige and accumulation of wealth that comes with private practice to identify with and work for the less materially rewarding civil society in defence of the downtrodden that live in the slums and poor neighbourhoods of Nairobi and its environs.

His was a history of sacrifice that goes back to 2007 when he joined the Rights Promotion and Protection (formerly Release Political Prisoners) Pressure Group as an intern while still a university student. In 2013, Kimani moved to the Independent Medical Legal Unit (IMLU), another human rights and civil society organisation working to protect victims of torture where he worked for about two years, before joining IPOA.

It is from IPOA that Willie joined the International Justice Mission (IJM) that, apart from doing missionary work, supports ordinary people facing threats from law enforcement agents and agencies. That Willie’s life and that of Josephat Mwendwa and Joseph Muiruri were brutally cut short by forces of impunity, the very forces he spent most of his productive life fighting to eliminate, is testimony that the fight against impunity and the very reason Kenyans gave unto themselves a new Constitution are far from being achieved.

Indeed, looked at against the innumerable instances of extra-judicial killings that the police commit with impunity on a daily basis in Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa and other urban and rural parts of the country, the heartless murder of Willie and the other two by people in the police service flies in the face of the collective desire by Kenyans for security services that guarantee the well being of all citizens, their sovereignty, peace, national unity and integrity of the republic.

Nkaissery’s endless attacks on the NPSC and IPOA are clearly designed to embolden men and women in the security services to openly defy constitutional mechanisms that have been put in place to safeguard the rights of ordinary people against any excesses of rogue, overzealous and criminally-minded people serving in these departments.

It is therefore not a surprise that despite the existence and operation of these mechanisms and safeguards, a clique within the police service still maintain mobile telephone numbers that it routinely uses to intimidate and threaten human rights defenders and civil society actors without any action being taken against them when reported.

This is the path that Willie and his colleagues were taken through before eventually being killed in a manner and style that reinforces the publicly held fear that there is a killer squad within the police service that eliminates those who seek to hold State and public officers to account. As an umbrella organisation engaged in the pursuit of establishing and securing an enabling environment for the civil society in Kenya, the Civil Society Reference Group holds the view that the murder of the three is a continuation of what appears to be a carefully planned script by the State to intimidate, malign and cripple the sector and by extension, deny ordinary citizens a voice ahead of the 2017 elections.

The Government’s refusal to enact the Public Benefit Organisations Act of 2013; attempts to amend the law even before it is implemented; arbitrary deregistration of NGOs by the NGO Coordination Bureau and, the recent threat by the NGO Coordination Bureau that it will no longer recommend issuance of work permits for expatriates working in the sector all seem to have been a build-up to the brutal murder of the three..

As the Cabinet Secretary in charge of internal security and one whose every statement seems to glorify extra-judicial killings, Nkaissery should take responsibility for these heinous murders and resign forthwith.

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