Azimio to parade caskets of people killed in demos

Azimio la Umoja Leader Raila Odinga attended Burial of David Ofwaya 34 years old Fanuel Okello 18 years, the two from Gem Siaya County were killed by the police during the protest. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya will today hold prayers for supporters killed in anti-government demonstrations in Bondo, Siaya County.

In a rebuke of utterances made by Police Inspector General Japhet Koome that Azimio "hired bodies" to portray the police negatively, the coalition plans to parade caskets of the deceased.

An invite by the opposition outfit yesterday said Azimio leaders would use the event to seek the arrest of police officers involved in the killings and ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to look into allegations of "crimes against humanity".

"Leaders will use this occasion to condemn the Kenya Police Service and demand that individual police officers who were involved in the killings be held personally responsible," the invite read in part.

"Caskets of those who were killed will be laid for public viewing before being transmitted to their respective homes for interment," it added.

The prayers will be held at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Park in Bondo. The Raila Odinga-led coalition has repeatedly called for prosecution of IG Koome locally and internationally and has already written to the ICC over the matter. On Tuesday, the police boss claimed Azimio colluded with mortuary attendants in hiring bodies that they would allege were of victims of police brutality.

"Senior members of the society are going to mortuaries and hiring bodies and calling the media to tell them that the people were killed by police officers," Koome alleged.

Raila dismissed the claims, which have been condemned as insensitive in several quarters. "I don't know which world he lives in. The bodies we buried had bullet wounds and death certificates confirming the cause of death," the former PM said.

The IG has also faced condemnation over his remarks, with family members of the deceased seeking an apology. The association of morticians has also called out the police chief, challenging him to present evidence.

"Mortuary technicians are governed by ethics, chiefly among them being, respect and confidentiality of the deceased and respect for the loss, feelings and the right of the bereaved to mourn their loved ones in peace," the morticians said in a statement.

Azimio leaders have also hit out at the IG. "What the inspector general is saying is a lie. He is being economical with the truth," said Homa Bay Woman Representative Joyce Osogo.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna slammed the IG for being insensitive. "It is already known that most people in the Kenya Kwanza regime are neither competent nor suitable to hold any office, public or private. It is time for Kenyans to question their sanity," Sifuna said. Koome has been mum about the deaths of protesters as documented by various rights groups, showing more than 20 people died in the hands of police.

The groups, led by Amnesty International and the Law Society of Kenya last week said they would pursue individual responsibility of security officers involved in the killings.

Yesterday leaders continue to condemn Koome claiming that his utterances were reckless and unfortunate. Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o condemned Koome and challenged him to visit JOOTRH to confirm the records of those killed.

"Koome must stop mocking the families of those killed and maimed during the protests. He must stop politicising grave security issues involving the killing of innocent civilians," said Prof Nyong'o. ODM chairman John Mbadi said they have been attending funerals for those people shot during the demonstrations.

"People were dragged from their houses and killed. It is sickening. He should stop talking like that," he said.

Mbadi gave an example of the woman from Busia who lost two children after they were beaten by police at their home.

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang' accused Koome of turning police into a government militia adding that the IG's statement was unfortunate and should never be made by a person leading the National Police Service. He accused Koome of engaging in politics. "Koome is turning the police service into a government youth wing. He should desist from politics. The conduct of police during demonstrations should also be included in the talks between the government and the opposition in Bomas of Kenya."

Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi said Koome's utterances went against Chapter Six of the Constitution.

"Chapter Six of the Constitution requires state officers to be guided in their day-to-day conduct by principles of leadership and integrity. They should remain objective and impartial in ensuring that decisions are not influenced by nepotism, favouritism and other improper motives," he said.

A spot check by The Standard at the homes of some victims established that some are still unable to foot burial bills. The bodies of their loved ones are still at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital mortuary.

Human Rights Watch, Regional Director, East Africa Otsieno Namwaya said it is absurd for such a statement to come from an IG.

He said Koome had failed Kenyans and added that the number of people killed by police was higher because they have been hiding evidence. "For instance, people who were shot and were in hospitals in Kisumu were removed and taken to other places like Bondo, Vihiga and Kakamega. We also had two registers in mogues. One for police and another for public viewing. The figures of people killed were not issued by opposition but Amnesty International and LSK," said Namwaya.

[Additional reporting by Anne Atieno, Clinton Ambujo and Benjamin Imende]

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