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'Mavoko Three' were doomed thanks to failed witness protection

The Mavoko Three were kidnapped, tortured, and killed because there was no Sh50 operator protection charge.

According to traders and boda boda drivers in Syokimau, their colleague Josephat Mwenda was shot while evading police officer Fredrick Leliman out of fear of being arrested and being forced to pay a Sh50 bribe.

“You were supposed to pay Sh50 if you are in business or Sh100 after being arrested,” a trader at Syokimau Stage told The Nairobian. She requested to remain anonymous.

“You realise most of the people who were witnesses have run away or are hiding, and I don’t want a hard life,” she said.

A boda boda operator, Job Kabinga, who operates at the Syokimau bus stop said Mwenda was detained at the Syokimau police station by Leliman for three days without treatment before he was taken to court and/or for treatment.

“The two were well acquainted because Leliman used to operate from here.”

Since Leliman’s arrest, we haven’t heard much about gunshots or people being killed in this area, Kabinga said.

According to the International Justice Mission, Leliman charged Mwenda with three counts: drug possession, gambling, and resisting arrest after being shot. The traders believe the charges were intended to humiliate Mwenda into complying with police demands.

“He was a good person who wasn’t doing drugs and was focused on his boda boda business,” said David Momanyi, another boda boda operator.

Meanwhile, Mwenda filed a complaint against the officer with the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) regarding the shooting and subsequent charges. On February 4, 2016, the International Justice Mission (IJM) officially took over the case.

Mwenda’s protection was requested by IJM.

“On February 24, the same year, IJM wrote to the Inspector General’s Office, the IPOA, and the Witness Protection Agency (WPA) to complain about Leliman’s misconduct and to request protection for Josephat,” IJM said.

Leliman later filed six new traffic counts against Mwenda. As a result, IJM opened a second case on his behalf and continued to represent him in the second set of charges. “The injury was serious enough for Mwenda to suspend driving his boda boda (motorbike) and seek long-term medical treatment, but Leliman went ahead to charge him for a traffic offence,” the Mission said.

Leliman detained Mwenda and IJM lawyer Willie Kimani following a court hearing in Mavoko to question them about a robbery with violence that occurred in Meru.

“Josephat was then harassed and threatened by the officer until he was abducted along with his lawyer Willie Kimani and a taxi driver Joseph Muiruri and killed on June 23, 2016 as they left the court,” the IJM said.

“They were held several hours and then released with no further explanation.”

“The driver called Josephat’s wife, but she didn’t recognise the number. By that evening, the IJM team had launched a search for them, going to police stations and calling their names, but they had been removed from the station at 7.30pm, before IJM staff arrived,” IJM added.

It went on to say that the three men were killed around 10pm on June 23, 2016.

On June 30, 2016, the bodies of the three were recovered from a river.

Leonard Mwangi, the fourth accused, was acquitted due to a lack of sufficient evidence to convict him.