How Kenyan police get away with murder – report

File photo of GSU Officers beat up one of the protesting youths at Kondele in Kisumu. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

At least one person is killed in cold blood every two days in Nairobi, a rights lobby has revealed in a damning report.

Released last Friday, the Human Rights Watch’s report documented eight extrajudicial killings in three weeks between December 25, 2019 and January 17, 2020.

Five of the cases were in the crime-ridden Majengo slums.

The report titled "No letup in killings by Nairobi Police", reveals how police officers cover their tracks after shooting civilians at will – walking away with slaps on their wrists.

In one of the cases reported on January 16, two police officers on patrol killed 24-year-old Ahmed Majid at Majengo.

Majid was shot as he protested the arrest of his friend Yassin Athuman, 20, who was being dragged on the ground by the charged officers.

HRW said a witness told them the officers attempted to plant marijuana on a defiant Yassin who declined to part away with a bribe.

Protests over Majid’s killings ensued the following day and police responded with excessive force that saw four other people killed.

“Police used a lot of force to suppress the demonstrations. They were using live bullets, in most cases just shooting inside people’s houses or aiming at people who were not part of the demonstrations,” the report reads.

The officer who allegedly pumped the killer bullet into Majid’s body was arrested.

Some 7.9 kilometres from Majengo in Mathare, two other extrajudicial victims were clawed from Good Samaritan Children’s Home on Christmas Day and executed at Amana Petrol station terminus, about a kilometre and a half away.

Peter Irungu, 19 and Brian Mung’aru, 20 were shot dead by plain-clothed officers, HRW notes, adding that witnesses said the duo was pleading with the officers before they were killed.

The rights watchdog reports that police profiled them as robbers but gave conflicting accounts of the killings.

“The Pangani Police Station record says the two were killed in a violent robbery incident in Mathare, but three days after the killings, the Nairobi county police commander described the incident as ‘a shootout between police officers and three thugs’” reads the report.

At least 10 people were injured in the demonstrations over the murders.

“Anti-riot police violently suppressed a protest over the young men’s killings, using live ammunition, tear gas, and beatings. They blocked media outlets from accessing Mathare to cover the demonstrations,” a witness told WRW.

Another victim was a 19-year-old transport worker, Stephen Machurusi, who was killed on January 17 during protests over poor road in Kasarani.

A witness said he was shot at close range by a police officer. 

“He was unaware of the protests. He told the police that was on his way to work but one officer just shot him in the chest”.

Evading justice

In the said cases, the report notes that police used tricks like tampering with the scenes to cripple investigations.

It says they deliberately failed to file a preliminary report on the killings or initiated the process of an inquest as stipulated by the Police Service Act.

The Act requires police officers who use lethal fire to explain the circumstances that necessitated the use of such force.

Police are only allowed to use excessive force when it is unavoidable to protect human life as guided by the National Police Service Act of 2011.

“Police officers also are required to report for investigation any use of force that leads to death or serious injury to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA),” the report explains.  

The report further notes that the police did not allow the victims and their family members to file reports over the incidents.

HRW also notes that police collected and hid bullets casings before investigators arrived at the crime scenes. 

The rights agency says that IPOA only launched investigations into the Mathare killings and Majid’s while other cases are not being investigated.

Since IPOA’s inception in 2011, the oversight agency has only convicted six of the over 2000 cases in its desk.

HRW opines that police do not cooperate with IPOA in identifying rogue officers.