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Widow of nurse shot dead at work sues State over guns' regulation

Nairobi
Faustine Mwadilo was shot dead by a psychiatrist patient in a hospital. His widow has sued the government for failing to regulate gun use.

On the morning of December 6, 2017, Faustine Mwadilo left his home for work at Chiromo Lane Medical Centre.

Mwadilo was a nurse, taking care of psychiatrist cases at the hospital.

His wife Doreen Akinyi and two children hoped to see him back home in the evening as it was the norm.

However, their morning parting rituals—a kiss and a warm hug were the last. He was killed at his place of work.

Mwadilo was shot dead by a Psychiatric Alcohol Disorder patient he was attending. The patient shot him in the head at close range.

He died at the age of 46, in what his widow now claims to be government’s negligence in regulating firearms use and closely monitoring persons who are licensed gun holders.

Akinyi has now sued the Firearm Licensing Board, Ministry of Interior, Inspector General of Police and Attorney General, arguing that it was absurd for a person who was mentally ill to be allowed to hold a gun license.

Akinyi’s case was filed before High Court by lawyer John Mwariri. She was of the view that dozens of Kenyans are either maimed or killed in cold blood by others who misuse firearm.

Her case comes as the country is mourning Makadara Court magistrate Monica Kivuti who was shot in court premises by Londiani Police Station Officer Commanding Station (OCS) Chief Inspector Samson Kipchirchir Kipruto, after she cancelled his wife’s bail.

Akinyi said that the misuse of guns is no longer a headache in areas prone to cattle rustling. Instead, she said, more cases are being reported in urban areas more than before.

According to her, data indicates that on average, there are over 4000 cases of misuse of firearms in the country, out of which,550 deaths occur.

“I am aware of the fact that misuse of small arms is a major challenge in our country. While initially, the menace was more pronounced in the pastoralist areas of the country which were perceived to be bandit stricken, in the recent past however, major urban centers have witnessed increased firearms-related crimes,” said Akinyi.

Lawyer Mwariri in his argument said that guns are today easily accessible to anyone. He observed that in 2021 alone, former President Uhuru Kenyatta burned at least 5,144 illegal firearms.

In addition, he stated that the country is on its knees as those who are licensed to carry are now the culprits. He stated that Members of Parliament, police officers and licensed private citizens rank up in senseless shootouts that result to either deaths or maiming.

He cited a case involving an MP who allegedly drew a gun at a political campaign, two others who are accused of murder, and another who had a long-running case over gun incident as classic examples of government’s failure to tame gun misuse.

“Misuse of guns by civilians continues to cause untold suffering to many innocent and unsuspecting Kenyans who are fatally or seriously injured by the civilian gun holders. Particularly in my case, the patient who was being attended by my deceased husband was suffering from a psychiatric medical condition,” argued Mwariri.

In the case, Akinyi claimed that the patient who killed her husband was legally licensed to hold a gun. She stated that the license issued by the government agency was to lapse on November 25, 2017. He shot her husband a week later.

She accuses the government of failing to follow up or immediately requiring gun holders to surrender them pending clearance. She argued that failure to recall guns amounts to exposing Kenyans to danger.

At the same time, she said that the firearm licensing body should be required to conduct regular and impromptu mental status tests to ascertain that the holders are sound.

“It is my firm belief that in view of the fact that my husband was killed by a psychiatric licensed gun holder, it is important that a fresh vetting of all licensed civilian gun holders and particularly a mental assessment is carried out with view to certifying suitability and fitness of the gun holders/ or owners and to avoid similar circumstances,” said Akinyi.

The widow stated that her husband's life was taken away at a young age. She added that there was no justifiable reason why he was killed at work and by a person he was seeking to help.

According to her, death would have been avoided if the psychiatrist patient had not been authorised to hold or carry a gun in the first place.

Guns licensing is regulated by the Firearms Act Cap 114.

In the application form, one has to indicate his or her age and explain reasons for requiring a firearm.

Getting a gun license is a rigorous process. For one to be vetted, he or she will need a copy of national identification card. In addition, one has to get police clearance by getting a certificate of good conduct from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

Further, one has to submit a psychiatrist report from a government hospital and a tax compliance certificate obtained from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

The last crucial document is a six-month bank statement.

In the application form, it is indicated that the license is issued for three conditions only; to be kept in a secure place in order to keep it off unauthorised persons. In addition, if it is lost or stolen, one is required to report to an officer of the nearest police station.

Lastly, if one changes his or her permanent address, it should be reported within 21 days to the licensing officer who gave the certificate.

The process involves first filling in the form then the person who is expressing interest obtains a certificate of good conduct from the DCI.

Then, the applicant takes the form to the nearest police station and pays a Sh2,000 fee.

After the application, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Firearms Licensing Board (FLB) vets for approval or rejection of the application.

Later, the names of successful persons are sent to the Inspector General of Police by the FLB. He can either decide to reject or accept a name. If the IG gives the green light, then the board issues the applicant with the license.

Rejection is based on insanity, temper, and failure to store a gun safely.

It is required that the license be renewed each year. A gun cannot be transferred to another person and when a holder dies, the family is supposed to report immediately.

In the meantime, a gun license can be revoked if one misuses it while drunk. In addition, storing it carelessly, removing the serial number, misconduct, failure to renew the license or when it is believed that it will be a danger to the public could be a reason for the license to be revoked.

“Provided that, when the offence for which the person is convicted (not being an offence in relation to a prohibited weapon or to any ammunition therefor) is failure by neglect to renew a firearms certificate such person shall be liable to pay a fine at the rate of five hundred shillings per day for every day or part hereof during which his default continues but so that no person shall be liable to pay a fine greater than the maximum provided by this subsection and if such fine is not paid then to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years,” the law reads in part.

In court, Akinyi said that the sole person who was taking care of her family was eliminated because of simply being at work.

“My husband was the breadwinner; I am now left with no choice but to fend for the two children who at the time of the untimely death of my husband were and are still in school. Following the event, I face extreme difficulties in shouldering the expenses of putting food on the table, housing and providing education to the two children,” she said

She wants the court to establish a monitoring mechanism for all civilians legally issued firearms and ammunition. At the same time, the widow wants the court to find that issuing a firearm license to an unfit person is a violation of the constitution.

Akinyi is also seeking compensation for the death of her husband.

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