Friday, March 06, 2009

Kenya News Bulletin: Tensions Rise After the Killings of Two Human Rights Activists

Police launch investigations into activist's killing

By Nicholas Kigondu,
Fri, Mar 06, 2009

Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali directed the arrest of three police officers involved in a confrontation with UON students in which one student died

Police were Friday trying to piece together facts to unravel the controversial murder of the Oscar Foundation director Kamau King'ara.

Police commissioner Hussein Ali says they are exploring various options to establish the motive behind the incident.

This comes amid calls by human right groups for an independent inquiry into the killings.

The civil right activist together with his communications and advocacy director Paul Oulu were shot dead Thursday evening along the city's Mamlaka road by unknown gunmen in an incident that sparked unrest among University of Nairobi students.

Ali says the police force has instituted investigations to establish whether the murders could have been a set up by criminal gangs that aim to portray the image of the police in bad light.

Ali also directed the arrest of three police officers who used live bullets during a confrontation with university students which left one of them dead.

The guns the officers were using have since been confiscated and are being subjected to ballistic tests to isolate the one used in the murder.

The killing came at the end of a day when the outlawed Mungiki sect re-asserted itself with widespread protests, paralyzing transport and shutting down businesses in some towns.

UN special rapporteur on extra judicial killings Phillip Alston called for an independent investigation into the murder of Kinga'ra.

In a statement Alston said that it was inevitable under the circumstances that suspicion would fall on the police in relation to the killings.

Alston released a report last week which implicated security officers in extra-judicial killings, a report which the Mungiki purported to support.

Kingara's foundation was accused of funding Mungiki's activities as he was seen to be a sympathizer with the gang.

More condemnation to the killing came from Prime Minister Raila Odinga who called for the establishment of an independent agency to carry out investigations into the murder.

US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger insisted on credible investigations into the killings and pledged assistance in bringing those responsible for the murders to justice.

The UN special rapporteur's call also reverberated among human rights groups with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights supporting the opening of an inquest.

Alston, who carried out a fact-finding mission on police extra judicial killings last month, had in his report termed the killings as systematic, widespread, and carefully planned and called for the resignation of Police Commissioner Hussein Ali and Attorney General Amos Wako.

However, the police commissioner Friday dismissed the report as inaccurate saying it was hurriedly prepared.

He said the report has acted to sanitize outlawed outfits operating in the country and threatened to name organizations with close associations with criminal gangs and vowed that police will enforce the rule of law as mandated.

Kingara was killed as he left a meeting at Ufungamano house. Eyewitnesses said four vehicles blocked the car he and his colleague were in before two people stepped out of one of them and sprayed his car with bullets

Students reportedly removed Kingara's body from the scene of crime to their Halls, prompting a confrontation between the students and police officers deployed to retrieve it. One student died at Kenyatta National Hospital from bullet injuries sustained during the confrontation.

Friday, March 06, 2009
19:00 Mecca time, 16:00 GMT

Kenya human rights activists killed

Alston called for an independent investigation into the killings

Two human rights activists who had accused the Kenyan police of running death squads have been killed in the capital Nairobi.

Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulu were shot dead on Thursday night while their car was waiting in traffic near Nairobi University.

The two worked for the Oscar Foundation, an organisation whose main activity has been to defend the rights of members of the Mungiki, a crime gang known for extortion rackets and murders.

Just hours before the activists were killed, the Kenyan government accused the foundation of having direct links with the gang.

Organised protests

Kingara and Oulu had mobilised protests on Thursday against what they said was the illegal killing of 1,721 people and the disappearance of 6,542 suspected Mungiki sympathisers.

Njuguna Gitau, a spokesman for Mungiki's political wing, said the Oscar Foundation had no links with Mungiki.

"These people were innocent, but the [police] killer squad went for them," he told Reuters news agency.

The two activists met last month Philip Alston, the UN's special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, and provided him with testimony on police killings in Nairobi and Central Province.

Alston accuses police of carrying out extra-judicial executions on "a regular basis" and demanded an independent probe into the assassination of the Oscar Foundation officials.

"It is extremely troubling when those working to defend human rights in Kenya can be assassinated in broad daylight," Alston said in a statement on Friday.

"It is imperative, if the Kenya police are to be exonerated, for an independent team called from somewhere like [London's] Scotland Yard or the South African police to investigate."

'Serious investigation'

The Kenyan police commissioner, whose sacking has been called for by Alston and the Oscar Foundation, dismissed Alston's demand for a foreign-led investigation.

"We have investigated many murder cases previously and we will investigate this one with the seriousness it deserves like any other case and it does not, therefore, require that kind of treatment," Hussein Ali said.

"The killings may have been carried out to tarnish the reputation of the police force."

After Thursday's killings, students from the university of Nairobi clashed with police and one student was killed.

Students pushed the activists' car into the university compound and refused to hand over the bodies to the police who they accused of complicity in the killings.

Police said more than 100 protestors were arrested on Thursday in Nairobi and several other towns across the country.

Mungiki banned

The Mungiki gang presents itself as a quasi-religious organisation whose members are drawn from Kenya's biggest tribe, the Kikuyu, whose Mau-Mau fighters battled to rid colonial Kenya of the British.

The group was banned in 2002, accused of extortion rackets and gruesome killings, including beheadings.

It is also alleged of involvement in last year's deadly violence in the wake of a disputed national election.

A former police driver was shot dead last year after he told the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights he had witnessed over 50 suspects being executed by police.

In January, a Kenyan journalist who said he had been threatened by officers after writing about police malpractice was found decapitated in a forest.

Source: Agencies

Activist killed as Mungiki returns

Police cleared a road that was blocked by suspected members of the outlawed Mungiki sect in Nairobi on Thursday

Thursday, March 5 2009 at 21:19

The leader of an NGO which organised Mungiki protests that paralysed transport in many parts of the country on Thursday was later in the evening gunned down near the University of Nairobi.

Mr Oscar Kamau King’ara, the executive director of Oscar Foundation, an NGO with links to the Mungiki, was shot dead by unknown assailants, sparking unrest among University of Nairobi students.

Mr Kingára was in the company of a colleague, identified as a former official of the Students Union of the University of Nairobi, who was also killed.

The killing came at the end of a day when Mungiki re-asserted itself with widespread protests, paralysing transport and shutting down some towns for long periods in the course of the day. Sect members blocked roads using hijacked long haul trucks, burning barricades, and stones and forced public transport operators off the roads by intimidation. They also forced businesses to close in many parts.

The worst affected towns were Nairobi, Kiambu, Nyahururu, Nyeri, Naivasha, Embu, Nakuru and Molo, among others. In Thika, members of the public lynched two young men whom they accused of being Mungiki members.

Meanwhile, police early on Thursday moved in to clear the roads and arrested 125 suspects, including 52 in Nairobi, 35 in Molo, 18 in Kajiado and 5 in Naivasha.

Police said known Mungiki members had circulated notes to business people and matatu (public minivan) owners threatening to kill those who did not shut down their business. The sect has in the past beheaded matatu crews to extort money.

Serious threat

Kenya National Youth Alliance, the political arm of the Mungiki, said it did not call the protests. Its spokesman, Mr Gitau Njuguna Gitau, said: “If our members participated, it was on individual capacity. The two people killed at Thika are thugs and not our members.”

The Mungiki has grown from a quasi-religious organisation advocating a return to traditional Kikuyu values to a large, complex criminal organisation with multiple leaders and rival factions.

On Thursday, Police Commissioner Maj Gen Hussein Ali described “Mungiki is the single most serious threat to internal security today”, adding that the sect was “very vicious” with a blood-soaked history of “beheadings, extortion and carjackings”.

He said Mungiki had “drawn encouragement from the report” of a UN Rapporteur on Human Rights and “pro-Mungiki civil society groups”.

Criminal gang

Prof Philip Alston, the UN official, in his preliminary report, accused police of executing suspects without trial and recommended Gen Ali’s sacking and the resignation of Attorney-General Amos Wako.

Following the criticism and public pressure, the police disbanded a the Kwekwe Squad, a specialist unit set up to stamp out the sect, which was accused of brutality and illegal executions. The police also their softened approach in dealing with the protests on Thursday, with many of the officers confronting the mobs unarmed and focusing on clearing the roads.

Following the shooting last evening, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the killing was the work of criminals, adding: “Judging by the timing and the place of the incident, it was designed to cause student unrest.”

Mr Kingára had become the most vocal defender of the rights of the Mungiki and it is not unknown for rivalries within the sect to end in gangland executions.

The Alston report accused the police of setting up death squads to unlawfully kill suspects. Commenting on the report on Thursday, Maj Gen Ali dismissed it as having “a credibility problem”, “fiction” and “most probably an act of plagiarism” because the rapporteur had not allowed himself sufficient time to investigate complaints.

“It is inconceivable that Prof Alston, unless he is a magician, could have investigated issues that are broad and complex and issued concrete recommendations in 10 days. A case of chicken theft takes a little longer than that to investigate. His report sounds like fiction, and a poor one at that.”

“His report is more likely an act of plagiarism, he was given the report by someone else and is therefore a mouthpiece for a local group,” he said. The police boss asked KNHCR to “show as much concern for families whose bread winners have been beheaded as they show for the rights of the members of organized crime”.

He lamented the “deafening silence from church leaders and politicians”. Police said the Mungiki protests had been contained but by last evening there was no transport between Kangemi and the Nairobi City Centre.

Ghost town

Nyeri, the administrative headquarters of Central Province, remained a ghost town with public service vehicles parked and businesses closed. Over 1,000 matatus belonging to 2NK, 4NT and Nyena saccos that ply the Nairobi, Nyahururu and Nanyuki routes remained grounded. There were also chaos in Murang’a, Kerugoya and Mukurweini.

In Embu, residents woke up to find leaflets condemning police and urging the youth to rise and demonstrate against security agencies. Police fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse mobs which engaged them in cat and mouse games.

The Mungiki protests erupted in spite of increased police patrols, less than 24 hours after the government said it had received reports of impending protests by “illegal groups.”

In Nairobi, youths took over sections of the Nairobi-Mombasa highway near the city before 6 am and forced truck drivers to park across the highway. They also placed boulders and lit tyres on the roads.

Mr Kiraithe described the security situation as “very serious.” Matatu operators on routes 102 and 2, that ply the route, also withdrew their vehicles from the road. Others parts of the city affected included Kayole, Githurai, Kahawa West, Kikuyu, Kawangware, Dagoretti and Kinoo.

Energy assistant minister Charles Keter was forced to stop at one of the illegal roadblocks near Naivasha and his guards had to draw their pistols. The minister was travelling to Ol-karia. A statement by Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua on Wednesday evening said the chaos was planned by Mungiki with the support Non-Governmental Organisations.

Police said even though the specialist unit dealing with Mungiki had been disbanded, “we will stay the course, we will enforce the law and we will bring them to book”, according to Gen Ali.

In Dagoretti, police engaged the protesters in cat and mouse game and then arrested six men. The protesters would disappear into their homes anytime the police lobbed tear gas, watch the officers clear the road, then emerge and erect fresh barricades. “We finally had to flush them out of their homes,” Dagoretti District Officer Cornelius Wamalwa told the Nation.

In Thika, local police boss Patrick Mwakio said the two young men lynched in Kiganjo village were part of a group that had been demanding Sh200 from kiosk owners and matatu operators. In Kitengela, 13 suspected Mungiki members were arrested and accused of barricading a section of the Nairobi-Kajiado highway.

Kajiado OCPD Francis Sang said police were on high alert. Matatu operators stayed away while in Kiambu, most matatus stayed off the roads for the better part of the morning.

Additional reporting by Oliver Mathenge, Casper Waithaka, John Njagi and John Muchiri

Wako tells off UN Special Rapporteur

By Nickolas Kigondu/Emmanuel kola
Wed, Mar 04, 2009

In his preliminary report, Alston had called for the resignation of the attorney general as the first step towards restoring integrity in the state law office

Attorney General Amos Wako has snubbed calls by the UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Phillip Alston for his resignation, saying he has executed his mandate expeditiously.

Speaking after the launch of the Witness Protection Program Wednesday, Wako called on the UN Special Rapporteur to present specific cases that his office had not prosecuted.

In his preliminary report, Alston had called for the resignation of the attorney general as the first step towards restoring integrity in the state law office and ending impunity in the country.

Wako said he is studying the report to establish specific instances where he has failed in his prosecutorial mandate.

Wako also took issue with Alston for failing to recognise efforts to set up the witness protection unit.

The Witness Protection Unit is to be headed by Senior Principal State Counsel Alice Ondieki.

Waki called for international cooperation saying some witnesses might be required to relocate to other countries in the course of certain cases.

The Witness Protection Programme aims at protecting vulnerable witnesses from threats, intimidation and death by criminals for cooperating with law enforcement and protection authorities.

Meanwhile business came to a standstill in Thika town after matatu operators embarked on a peaceful demonstration to protest against Prof Alston's report.

The matatu operators said the report on extra judicial killings was biased as it did not indict the outlawed Mungiki sect members who have for long unleashed a reign of terror on citizens.

They decried harassment by members of the outlawed sect saying besides terrorising residents, the sect members demand 100 shillings daily from each matatu to allow them operate along the route.

Juja MP George Thuo also condemned the investigation, saying that the author of the report should advise on what to do, not dictate.

Meanwhile, a non governmental organization, the Regional Centre for Stability, Security and Peace in Africa is calling for immediate action on the report.

The Organization's Trustee Peter Oriare says appropriate action on the report will pave way for the proper implementation of Waki Commission's Agenda Four.

Oriare says it will be hard to act on the Waki Commission's recommendations on the post election violence, which forms the basis of Agenda Four, if wayward police officers are not first dealt with.

"We cannot expect anything to be done on Waki report Agenda 4 if the same law enforcers accused of engaging in extra judicial killings, arbitrary or summary executions were to be charged with the responsibility," he said

He was addressing participants during a debate on the way forward towards the implementation of Prof. Alston's report on extra-judicial killings at a Nairobi Hotel.

Elsewhere, Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) Deputy Commissioner Hassan Omar Hassan called for the amendment of the Secrets Act to allow the easy flow of information about corruption and other criminal cases to eliminate impunity in the country.

He called for amendment of the Secrets Act to allow for easy flow of information about corruption and other criminal cases for elimination of the lingering impunity in the country.

Omar regretted that some Government officials were dismissing the Alston report as nonsense yet the UN rappoteur had been invited to carry out the investigations by the same government they were serving.

The move, he said, defeated the essence of justice and called on the opposing officials to allow for debate of the report by Kenyans paving way for its implementation.

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