No closure for slain journalist William Munuhe's family after 20-year agony

William Munuhe was killed in 2003 as he attempted to help police nab Rwandan Genocide suspected Mastermind Felicien Kabuga. [File, Standard]

The brother of slain journalist William Munuhe has broken silence after the International Criminal Court (ICC) declined to handle the freelancer's murder case.

Munuhe was murdered on January 14, 2003, the day he was to help the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) arrest suspected Rwandan Genocide mastermind Felicien Kabuga.

His body was found three days later at his home in Nairobi's Karen suburbs. The family's last hope for justice and compensation was the ICC after Kenyan courts and government agencies made referrals following Kabuga's arrest on May 16, 2020 in France.

Josephat Mureithi, the brother of slain journalist William Munuhe on April 11, 2023, at his workstation in Nakuru. [Joseph Kipsang, Standard]

Josephat Mureithi, Munuhe's brother, said he sought redress at the High Court in Nakuru, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the American embassy without success.

"I personally delivered letters to the DCI and the embassy from 2014 to 2018 with no success. I also sought a public inquest for Munuhe's death, but it was in vain," Mureithi said.

Afterwards, he filed a case before the High Court in Nakuru in 2019, seeking compensation for his brother's death. He sued the government for allegedly refusing to push through with investigations.

Mureithi also sent several letters to the ICC in 2019, for the prosecution to consider Munuhe's case, once Kabuga is arrested. After Kabuga was arrested, then High Court judge Joel Ngugi advised Mureithi to seek help at Kituo cha Sheria to push the case at the ICC.

Kabuga link

Ngugi said that the compensation case could be handled better by the ICC because it touched on Kabuga, who had been arrested. "The compensation case lacks strength as the High Court in Kenya now has limitations in handling the case," Ngugi said.

A few months later, the ICC dealt a blow to the family. In a response letter dated May 21, 2021, shared with The Standard on Tuesday, ICC said it had no jurisdiction to handle the case.

Mark Dillon, the Head of the Information and Evidence Unit in the Office of the Prosecutor, acknowledged receiving Mureithi's letter dated January 19, 2021.

Mr Dillon said the allegations raised by Mureithi appeared to fall outside the ICC's jurisdiction. "The ICC's Prosecutor has confirmed that there is no basis to proceed with further analysis of Munuhe's case," read the reply.

According to Dillon, under Articles 6 and 8 of the Rome Statute, the court may only exercise jurisdiction on genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

ICC advised Mureithi to consider raising the matter with appropriate national and or international authorities.

For the last 20 years, the family has been holding on to a press statement of February 13, 2003, made by the American Embassy.

In the statement, the embassy said Munuhe was murdered as he tried to give information on the whereabouts of Kabuga to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"We continue to urge the Kenyan authorities to pursue and apprehend Kabuga to investigate thoroughly the circumstances surrounding Munuhe's death," read the statement.

However, since Kabuga's arrest, Mureithi said he has not heard from the embassy, despite writing several letters.

The latest letter was done on January 2, 2023. He said he personally took the letter to the embassy.

"I have gotten no reply to date, and I am afraid we may have hit a dead end. I see no hope for us, and I have left everything to God," said Mureithi.

As the family sought the elusive justice, Munuhe's father Nelson Gichuki succumbed to heart-related complications in December 2018, while his sister died in an accident involving a bus and a train.

Kabuga is alleged to have financed the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that led to the death of more than 800,000 Tutsis and some significant numbers of Hutus.

The US had offered a USD 5 million (Sh400 million) reward for any information leading to Kabuga's arrest.

"We hope and pray that when justice is served, we will be compensated for our brother's death," he said.

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