Autopsy: Men killed near barracks were tortured

Angry locals mill around a scene where bodies of men suspected to have been killed during confrontations with the military in a maize farm in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu yesterday November 26, 2023. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

Four young men killed near the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Recruits Training School in Eldoret last Saturday were tortured to death, an autopsy report revealed on Thursday.

A postmortem conducted by Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor found that the slain men, Cornelius Kipkoech, Daniel Kiprotich, Kenneth Kipkemei and Shadrack Kipkemei, were tortured.

The autopsy, witnessed by human rights activists and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers, was done at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH).

Oduor said the four men died as a result of internal bleeding after repeated beatings. According to Oduor’s findings, the men aged between 19 and 27 years were hit severely on the lower part of their bodies with blunt objects.

“The internal bleeding was caused by blunt trauma mainly on the lower parts of their bodies – behind their buttocks and the legs and their lower backs,” the chief pathologist said.

The postmortem ruled out gunshot wounds in the night attack. Oduor said there was no single gunshot wound on the four bodies, except the signs of blunt force trauma.

“It looked like they were beaten repeatedly until they died. There were no gunshots on the bodies. There were extensive areas of bleeding under the skin. The bodies were pale, meaning they lost a lot of blood internally,” he said.

The autopsy was conducted amidst calls by victims’ parents and human rights activists for the arrest of the perpetrators of the killings.

Speaking after the autopsy, Benjamin Lagat, who lost his son and a nephew during the beatings, said he was yet to receive an apology from KDF over the deaths on their farm.

Lagat said the KDF soldiers and farm guards on duty during the day were known, and should be prosecuted.

“Residents in our locality are planning and attending marriage ceremonies during the festive season, but here we are, as a family, preparing to bury two of our sons,” Lagat said.

Eldoret-based human rights activist Kimutai Kirui described the killings as disheartening and called for a probe. Kirui said testimonies had revealed the men were tortured for several hours until they died.

The bodies were dumped along an access road within the KDF training school and Kenya Ordinance Factory after the night ordeal at Ngano farm in the military territory and were discovered on Sunday morning.

“We are asking the police and homicide detectives to do their work. We want to see the culprits brought to book and families (of the deceased) to get justice,” Kirui said after witnessing the autopsy.

The activist asked locals living adjacent to the military school to remain calm as DCI continued with investigations. He further asked the government to compensate the families of the victims.

“It is painful to witness a lifeless body bleeding from the anus. The killings were horrific,” said Kirui.

Survivors who escaped the beatings narrowly, and whose identities can’t be revealed for safety reasons, said the youth were surrounded in the farm as they collected remains of maize cobs left behind after harvesting, at the military farm.

According to the survivors, after they were surrounded by soldiers and farm guards, those who did not manage to run were rounded up and hit by clubs and other blunt objects.

Sally Mare, a squatter living in disputed land near the military barracks, disputed allegations that the men were stealing maize, saying it was normal for locals to collect maize left behind during harvesting.

“They were poor young men struggling to make ends meet. Collecting mrokoto (maize remains) was a sign that they were poor and needed to be assisted but not be killed,” Mare said.

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