Circumstances surrounding Yebei killing need further interrogation

Public hysteria — and sometimes frenzy — grips the public whenever a senior figure leaves this world for the next. It’s doesn’t matter the departed was a saint or villain. What’s important is fame or notoriety.

That’s why Osama bin Laden’s demise, at the hands of Seal Team Six, caused a global media earthquake. It’s understandable the public would be fascinated by the mortality of demi-gods.

But — and this is critical — every individual is human. It doesn’t matter how big, or small; wealthy, or poor; powerful, or powerless. That’s why in a democracy, every single life is precious — no life sits atop another. Methinks one Meshack Yebei, the ICC witness, was as important as the late Senator Mutula Kilonzo.

A society that doesn’t value the “least” of its citizens values none of them. That’s because the state wouldn’t exist but for its citizens. It’s citizens, not the state, that predate public power. All the power that a state possesses comes directly from the people. By itself, the state has no power — zilch. That’s why the primary obligation of every republican state is to safeguard the life, liberty, and property of the individual. Any state that fails this basic test isn’t worth its name, and must be smashed. My point is that no one — including Mr Yebei — should be savagely murdered and disposed of in the Tsavo like a wild beast. A state that permits such unsolved murders requires serious scrutiny.

Let me tell what my crystal ball tells me. First, the Jubilee state has left the Yebei family in a lurch. Let’s contrast the Yebei death with those of several recent Kenyans, and reflect on the meaning of the state’s callousness. We recall the recent unexplained deaths, or killings, of several prominent Kenyans.

Top on this list are Makueni’s Senator Kilonzo, Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang, Fidel Odinga, the rising son of Cord’s Raila Odinga, and lately the gangland slaying of Kabete MP George Muchai. Each of these tragedies appropriately transfixed the nation, and attracted public mourning of the Jubilee duo of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. Yet Mr Yebei’s murder hasn’t attracted a pip from State House.

The ICC confirmed, and Mr Ruto’s defence team concurred, that Mr Yebei was a witness in Mr Ruto’s case at The Hague. Mr Ruto’s lawyers stated that Mr Yebei was a “critical” witness to his case. Kenya has undertaken in the Rome Statute of the ICC to protect witnesses and co-operate fully with the court. Doesn’t it to stand to reason that Mr Yebei’s murder would cause the state to move heaven and earth to uncover how and why he met his grisly end? Further, wouldn’t the state — and Mr Ruto, in particular — seek to comfort the family of the deceased? Wouldn’t it be humane for Mr Ruto to go to the Yebei home and personally offer condolences?

Second, I know neither Mr Ruto, nor the state, wants to be seen to interfere with witnesses to the ICC cases. But that’s not what’s at stake here. Given the mysterious deaths, disappearances, and recantations of witnesses to Mr Ruto’s case — and the-now defunct case of Mr Kenyatta — you would think the state would want to be seen to be compassionate and upholding the rule of law. One way to do so is to embrace the Yebei family and deploy all instruments of state power to unravel the death of their loved one.

How does avoiding public comment, or any notable act to empathise with the family, help Jubilee? Doesn’t it make Jubilee look callous and cold?
Third, while there’s no evidence that the state was involved in Mr Yebei’s murder, one must wonder who did the dastardly deed. Who stood to benefit from Mr Yebei’s death? In a word, who killed him, and why? The state has reason to disprove the public’s perception that Mr Yebei was eliminated to silence him because he was a witness in the toxic ICC case.

The reason for such a perception lies in the Pre-Trial Brief ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda released after she withdrew the Kenyatta case. In the brief, Ms Bensouda alleged a systematic campaign to eliminate, intimidate, and bribe ICC witnesses. Logic demands that we ask — loudly — if this was the fate Mr Yebei met.

Finally, whoever assassinated Mr Yebei was no ordinary thug. My crystal ball tells me he had resources — and plenty of help. You can take that to the bank.

Either Mr Yebei was murdered near his home in Nandi County and transported to the Tsavo, or he was driven alive to Tsavo and killed there. Why kill him so far away boggles the mind. Perhaps the killers wanted to cover their trail if wild animals devoured his body. The state must uncover Mr Yebei’s killers.