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President must help unravel extra-judicial killings

EDITORIAL
By | March 7th 2009

The Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua claimed on a live television broadcast on Thursday that Oscar Foundation is an appendage of the proscribed Mungiki sect.

He warned the human rights group that it would be dealt with for inciting Mungiki to paralyse public transport. One would have expected that as the mouthpiece of a government that prides itself as a respecter of human rights, and which dismissed accusations by a UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Mutua meant the due process of law.

Shortly after, two members of Oscar Foundation – the founder Oscar King’aru Kamau and Programme Officer Paul Oulu – defended their organisation against the accusations.

At 6:30pm as they drove along State House Road, they were shot dead. Those who accosted them are believed to be police officers. Later in the night, as University of Nairobi students protested, police shot dead one of them. The Oscar Foundation officials were killed at a time they were pursuing justice for victims of the 8,000 cases of execution. It is also believed the organisation gave useful information to the UN Special Rapporteur Prof Philip Alston.

After an audit of police executions last month, Alston called for the resignation of the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General, dismissing them as embodiments of impunity. He also asked the President to declare that extra-judicial killings were not only atrocious but also illegal, and initiate reforms to stem them.

Today we must ask the question: How much do Mutua and Police Commissioner know about the execution of the two NGO officials?

What is not in doubt is that the execution followed the pattern described by Bernard Kiriinya – the police driver whose confessions on 58 executions by the Kwekwe Squad were recorded by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. He was killed while under KNCHR’s "safe house" protection as the rights body sought for him refuge.

Mungiki

KNCHR is an appendage of Government and has documented cases of extra-judicial killings in the name of hunting Mungiki. We reiterate that Mungiki is an extortion, terror and criminal gang that has no place in a society that prides itself as democratic, civil and bound by the rule of law.

But the law is clear on how suspected criminals have to be dealt with. Given that police are human and to err is human, how do they correct their mistakes or flawed intelligence, when it turns out those they killed were innocent?

If the police arrest, judge and sentence, who shall be the arbiter? Questions are now being asked if the hundreds of killings linked to Mungiki were not actually the work of a rogue police unit, which fashioned the proscribed sect’s modus operandi to cover up its tracks.

In normal circumstances police engage criminals who fight back with gunfire and when they kill, they pick up the bodies, log the details in their records, take the bodies to the mortuary and later display weapons allegedly recovered. It is never covert. We must restate that no matter the crime, extra-judicial killings are indefensible, morally abhorrent and illegal. The terror gang has now been handed propaganda victory!

Because it is about the lives of Kenyans, the President should set up an independent body – outside the police force – to probe these killings. His Government must also be told the bullet does not always guarantee victory in war against crime.

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