Last week, Kenyans and the world were horrified at the sadistic and brutal murders of three young men. Human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, and client Josephat Mwendwa were abducted and slain gangland style after a hearing at Mavoko Law Courts. Their bodies were pulled from Ol Donyo Sabuk River. They bore signs of torture and a grisly end. The manner of the killings suggests a gross disregard for human life and a visceral hatred for the victims. It is the textbook definition of impunity. Once again, Kenya landed on international news media for the wrong reasons. I didn’t know the victims. But I wept from my perch overlooking the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.
Kenyans knew instinctively whodunit — the Kenya Police Service. The operative word is the perversion of “service.” Inspector General Joseph Boinnet and Interior Secretary General Joseph Nkaissery rushed to contain the public relations damage. The public outcry — led by civil society and the Law Society of Kenya — reached fever pitch. As emotions ran raw, even key Jubilee legislators, like Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, uttered the unthinkable. It was time for IG Boinnet and CS Nkaissery to resign if they couldn’t protect the public from an ogre of a police force. I say “amen.” The gruesome killings revolted even the most partisan hearts. But IG Boinnet and CS Nkaissery missed the point by attributing the murders to a few “rogue” officers.
LSK President Isaac Okero mobilised the legal community to protest the assassination of Mr Kimani and his two comrades. As Mr Okero rightly asked, “if advocates are now vulnerable, who is safe?” That’s a leading question which requires no answer. As they say in law, “res ipsa loquitor,” or “the thing speaks for itself.” Judges and magistrates supported the protest, a first for Kenya. The outrage reached a boiling point. That’s because Kenyans have been murdered — in cold blood — over years by the State without any recourse. UN special rapporteur Philip Alston detailed the wanton killings in a widely publicised report. All the government could do was attack the messenger after lame denials that couldn’t pass the laugh test.
Clearly, the most vulnerable targets for elimination are the so-called “small people”— Wanjiku. These have included the Mungiki who were subjected to extra-judicial killings on a mass scale. Then came the Muslim clerics who have been struck down in broad daylight, at one point within the precincts of a court. No killers have ever been caught, or subjected to prosecution. But the murders don’t end with hoi polloi. Prominent Kenyans have been silenced with extreme prejudice. Businessman Jacob Juma met his end in a hail of bullets recently. The case has gone “cold.” No trails, no arrests.
Such killings go back to the founding of the republic. Virtually all have never been solved. How is that indeed possible — really?
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One can be forgiven for surmising that there is a deep state in Kenya, one that operates beyond the law and isn’t accountable. And that the deep state is protected from any exposure. I agree that all states — including advanced democracies — have a dark side. But in most democracies, the “dark side” exists to protect the republic in the shadows. It conducts surveillance and dark operations outside the public view. That’s what the American CIA and the National Security Agency do. The drone programme, which President Barack Obama admitted, has killed hundreds of innocent civilians in the war against Islamic extremism, is an example of dark operations. But it would be another thing for those organs to abduct and murder Americans.
That is precisely what the evidence points to in Kenya — state agents are involved in murders of citizens. It is chilling Mr Kimani was murdered for simply doing his job as a lawyer. Who’s next? Let’s remember Nazi era German pastor Martin Niemoller. He wrote: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
We know what happened in Germany. One of the worst mass murders of a people was implemented in the Final Solution, the Nazi plan for the extermination of Jews. Luckily, the Third Reich was destroyed before it could fully succeed. Imagine what the world would look like if Hitler had triumphed. Today, I see Kenya going down a dark path. There is an existential struggle for the soul of the republic. There’s an existential threat. Let’s say never again — nyet!