DCI revisits 2007 poll violence, sparks uproar from politicians

DCI Head of Protocol Winrose Mutinda, University of Nairobi Psychologist Caroline Rukunga and DCI boss George Kinoti at DCI headquarters in Nairobi yesterday. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has reopened an inquest into the 2007-08 post-election violence (PEV) in which more than 1,100 people were killed and thousands others displaced. 

Yesterday, the DCI received 118 cases from victims who recorded their statements at its headquarters along Kiambu Road in Nairobi. The cases include those who lost members of their family, property or were displaced.

DCI boss George Kinoti said the move, coming 12 years after the country recorded one of its darkest moments, was sparked by threats that the victims had been receiving in the recent past.

He said his office received a complaint on September 15 that some individuals had started profiling certain communities, causing fear among the victims.

New threats

“We went there for three weeks to investigate. The locals confided in us that they were receiving threats,” Kinoti said while addressing the victims who were recording statements yesterday.

“The government has given us firm instructions that what happened in the past should not happen again.”

He said detectives would prepare evidence and prosecute the cases locally.

“We will take action. Those who were afflicted, we ask them to come and record statements,” he said.

When asked why the cases were being revived 12 years later, Kinoti said “criminal cases were never closed” and that perpetrators who committed “heinous extremism” will face the law.

He said the files were still active and suspects would soon be arrested and arraigned in Kenyan courts.

“The core mandate of the police is to be proactive at all times, not reactionary,” said Kinoti.

The DCI boss said victims who recorded statements had their names withheld for security reasons. However, a number of the victims agreed to be interviewed by journalists on camera yesterday.

The DCI headquarters was busy with officers recording statements from the victims in one tent, while another had a PEV museum where photos of victims of violence were displayed. A third tent was marked for counselling services.

Violence erupted towards the end of 2007 after former President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential elections by then electoral agency boss Samuel Kivuitu. His close contestant, ODM leader Raila Odinga, disputed the results.

The protests that followed led to the death of more than 1,100 people, with thousands of others losing their homes and taking refuge in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

In the aftermath, six Kenyans, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, former Police Commissioner Major General Mohamed Ali and former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura were indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over their perceived roles in the violence.

Others were radio journalist Joshua Sang and former Cabinet Minister Henry Kosgei. The cases were later dropped over a lack of evidence.

Influencing witnesses

Kenya has recently found itself before the ICC again after lawyer Paul Gicheru surrendered to the court early this month. The court had earlier sought Gicheru's arrest over allegations of influencing witnesses.

As the country burned in December 2007, leaders from across the continent, including Tanzania's former presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete, Ghana's John Kufuor (the then chair of the African Union) and Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda flew into the country to resolve the impasse.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan would later broker a deal between Kibaki and Raila that resulted in the formation of the Grand Coalition Government in 2008.

Other efforts were also made to probe the violence, including the formation of a commission that was headed by Justice Philip Waki, also known as the Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence, in February 2008. The team would later hand over a report to Kibaki and Raila and a list of alleged perpetrators to Annan, who passed it on to the then ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.

Locally, there were hardly any updates on cases, with many flopping over a lack of evidence. Others were dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) after witnesses failed to show up to testify.

With the lapse of time and many of the victims saying they found closure on a dark chapter of their lives, the move by Kinoti yesterday will be viewed by many as an act of awakening the ghosts of the violence that were long buried.

Although Kinoti defended his move as necessitated by fresh complaints of threats to the victims and the need to protect them, it will be difficult for him to fight off allegations that he is playing to politics, as some politicians alluded to yesterday.

Yesterday's developments, which came at a time when the country is caught up in the political debate over the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, sparked instant reactions from politicians who took to social media platforms.

The report, which proposes measures that include an expansion of the Executive to include the office of a prime minister and two deputies, as well as other changes to the Judiciary and Legislature, has elicited mixed reactions.

A group of politicians allied to DP Ruto have opposed it, maintaining that it ought to accommodate more views from the public, while those allied to the president and Odinga, proponents of the 2018 handshake that would later birth the BBI report, have maintained that the document is good for the country.

Political tale

"The statement by DCI is a desperate move by the system after failing in all their efforts to bring down the DP. They want to incite violence against communities in Rift Valley to weaken DP’s political strength in Mt Kenya," tweeted Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen.

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika said DCI was "engaged in the comedy of the absurd but not without the support of desperados in highest offices".

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr also took to Twitter, saying: "The re-opening of post-election cases on account of threats to individuals must be interrogated. When it was convenient, the State set up a task force which found no evidence to prosecute anyone in the 2007/08 violence. Have they discovered they were wrong after all?"

For Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, Kinoti was out to weave another political tale using victims of the PEV.

"He cannot claim to have the capacity to do a better job than KNHRC and Waki. Government should activate those reports if they are genuine."

Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina posted: "So in 2007/8 there was no evidence of PEV? I would love to see the new evidence in place! We must be very careful on the direction we choose to take politically! From a distance one might argue that BBI is dead. Now what next? Let’s scatter the succession debate with new PEV talks."

Addressing the media yesterday, Kinoti said the perpetrators of the heinous acts were known by investigators and would soon be apprehended.

"We know them. They got what they wanted after the chaos. Some even took the lands of the victims and are walking on the graves of their victims," he said.

He spoke of the victims of the Kiambaa KAG church fire massacre, saying perpetrators were brutal in their actions.

"We shall protect you. We can assure you that. It will not happen again," he told the victims.

Victims who spoke to The Standard said they wanted to be compensated for the losses they incurred.

"We lost so much. We need to be compensated so that we can get back on our feet," said one man who had accompanied his elderly mother.