Azimio wants ICC to probe Koome over 'targeted' killing of protesters

Police officers block protestors from barricading Juja Road during the Azimio's high cost of living demonstrations in Nairobi on March 30, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition Party wants the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome over the alleged killing of protesters.

In a letter to the ICC dated yesterday, Azimio accuses Koome of ordering attacks on opposition protesters and journalists, among the nine crimes Azimio wants The Hague-based court to investigate.

The letter came a day after Azimio leader Raila Odinga said his coalition was compiling a list of the particulars of police officers allegedly involved in the killing of protesters, with a view of presenting a case to the ICC.

In the letter addressed to ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan, Azimio lawyer Paul Mwangi accuses Koome of allegedly committing crimes against humanity in the police’s handling of the demos, which resulted in deaths and injuries, as well as what he terms “indiscriminate arrests”.

The apparent basis of Azimio’s assertion that crimes against humanity took place is the alleged attacks by police on its supporters and their persecution through the denial of fundamental rights.

Mwangi lists the IG as the main suspect in the said crimes, the first of which is allegedly establishing a special squad of rogue police officers whose alleged job was to carry out systematic attacks on protesters during three demonstrations late last month and earlier this month.

“The squads are reported to be dressed in plain clothes, to operate outside the normal command
structure and to take direction directly from select commanders appointed for that purpose by
Japheth Koome,” Mwangi writes, as he lists nine people who lost their lives in the protests.

Among the dead include police officer Ben Oduor, who was reportedly run over by a police vehicle in Kisumu. Seven of the protesters who Azimio says died on diverse dates - Kevin Magero, Elijah Okumu, Ezekiel Makau, Derrick Nyamwange, John Doe, William Mayange and Steven Oduor - have been listed as succumbing to gunshot wounds. The cause of death of another protester, Julius Oduor, has not been stated.

By the time of going to press, The Saturday Standard was yet to get a response from the National Police Service on Azimio’s allegations against Koome.

Appearing before the National Assembly on Wednesday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said the Internal Affairs Unit as well as the Independent Policing Oversight Authority were investigating incidents of alleged police excesses. He, however, denied shoot-to-kill orders, saying it is unclear whether those who suffered gunshot wounds were shot at by the police or other individuals.

Koome, too, has previously denied ordering attacks against civilians and journalists, even as he revealed that the police was investigating an officer caught on camera vandalising Azimio’s press vehicle and firing tear has canisters into the vehicle that had occupants. Azimio also lists persons injured in the demos, a list that includes protesters and eight journalists from various media stations, among them the Standard Group, even as it seeks to have Koome investigated for an alleged attempt on Raila’s life.

“On 3rd April 2023 at 1630 hours, at around the Pipeline area of Embakasi South Constituency in Nairobi City, a contingent of police officers approached the motor vehicle in which...  Raila Odinga was being ferried in and fired approximately ten rounds of live ammunition with a clear intention to kill him.

“A report of the attack was made the next day and a complaint lodged the same day but no action was taken. Prior to this assassination attempt, the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya had publicly stated that it was necessary that Raila Odinga be “dealt with” and “removed” permanently.” Mwangi adds, even as he seeks to have the ICC investigate Koome over the attack at former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Northlands farm and the vandalism at his East Africa Spectre. He accuses the IG of allegedly withdrawing “police protection” prior to the attacks.

Azimio also accuses Koome of unconstitutionally and illegally banning its demonstrations contrary to Article 37, which guarantees the right to protest. Further, they claim that Koome had publicly threatened “to kill and maim protesters”.

“At the time he commanded the actions aforesaid, the suspect Japheth Koome knew that he was acting as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, to wit, members of the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition party...”

Other allegations are the delegitimisation of Azimio’s members as Kenyan citizens and the alleged existence of an organisational policy of attacks against the opposition.

Mwangi requested Khan to submit the information to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authorisation for an investigation.