Monday, March 09, 2009

Kenya News Update: PM Speaks on Investigations Into the Deaths of Human Rights Activists

Activist died with a heavy heart

Oscar Foundation programme officer Paul Oulu stood at a van used in demonstrations the NGO’s offices in Nairobi on Thursday. He was killed a few hours after the interview.

Posted Friday, March 6 2009 at 20:58
In Summary

King’ara was hard to find, but little did we know we might never talk to him

I arrived at the Oscar Foundation offices at China Centre, Ngong Road, with photographer William Oeri at 10.30am on Thursday.

Two women, one with a baby, and an old man were waiting to be attended to.

We wanted to speak to Mr Oscar Kamau King’ara, the director of Oscar Foundation, but he was out.

The receptionist consulted someone in the inner sanctums of the office and two minutes later, told us that the foundation’s programme officer would speak to us.

We were ushered into the first office which had four desks with computers but only two people - a man and a woman -were working at that time.

In the next office, which looked like the director’s office, we found a man who identified himself as Oulu GPO. He welcomed us jovially and stopped working on his laptop.

On inquiring about his boss, he said he was in the field. “In fact, you are lucky as I just got here. We have been to various places since six in the morning, including Kayole, Huruma and Eastleigh with Kamau,” said a composed Oulu.

Missing or dead

“Were there any problems with the police?” we asked.

“In Kayole there were some confrontations with police at about 7.30am, but so far no arrests have been made. However, it looks like security has been beefed up,” he answered.

Oulu pulled out files of pictures of people either reported missing or dead after an encounter with the police.

He said his office had over 600 files of missing people, most of them allegedly killed by police.

“Many families out there are suffering because they don’t know what happened to their loved ones, and that’s why we are with them right now,” said Oulu.

Although Oscar Foundation had organised that day’s activities, Oulu said, they had not told matatu operators to strike. “I’m told the family members did that,” said Oulu.

So where was Kamau King’ara at this particular moment?

“He should be on his way to Kangemi from Eastlands,” Oulu replied. “Actually, I dashed to the office to email the CNN guys who wanted a report on what is happening. King’ara should be addressing a crowd in Kangemi within the hour.”

We went outside the building, where a branded truck was parked.

“We dare not use this truck now, not with the large number of riot police deployed at City Mortuary roundabout,” he said. The truck is branded with different pictures of “the violent attacks on innocent Kenyans.”

It also has large posters of President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Internal Security minister John Michuki and is emblazoned with the words “Why the silence now?”

After exchanging contact numbers, we took off at 11.30am towards Kangemi shopping centre to catch up with King’ara. We phoned Oulu as we approached Kangemi and he promised to call us back after talking to King’ara.

Kangemi was calm. There were no matatus on the road.

At about 12.20pm, Kinga’ra called to tell us that he had linked up with Oulu.

“We are coming to Kangemi, tell us where to find you and we will be there in 15 minutes,” said King’ara. After giving our location, we waited.

When they had not shown up by 1pm, we called them.

“Sorry, we’ve had to rush to Kameme for an interview. We will meet you later.” After that it was difficult to reach the two on the phone. At about 6.30pm, they were shot dead on Mamlaka Road.

Cooperate with FBI, Raila tells Kenya police

Prime Minister Raila Odinga spoke to civil society organisations representatives in his office March 09, 2009. He directed Kenya police investigating last week’s killing of two human rights activists to cooperate with officers from the United States in finding those responsible.

Posted Monday, March 9 2009 at 13:05

In Summary
Mr Odinga says there is political commitment to find out the people behind the deaths that have caused fear among human rights activists

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has directed Kenya police investigating last week’s killing of two human rights activists to cooperate with officers from the United States in finding those responsible.

The Prime Minister said on Monday that he had written to Internal Security minister George Saitoti to instruct police to work with two officers from the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigations to investigate the fatal shooting of Oscar Kamau King’ara and John Paul Oulu on Thursday evening.

US envoy Michael Ranneberger had on Friday formally requested Kenya to allow FBI to investigate the killings on State House Road in Nairobi. Two officers from the embassy will work with the police.

Police say they have already arrested six people in connection with the killings while three officers’ guns were confiscated to get the one who fired the bullet that killed the student.

“It does not matter the number of people the police arrest or arraign in court, the investigation will not stand the credibility test because in the perception of the people, the police themselves are an accomplice,” he added.

Speaking after meeting human rights activists and NGO Council officials at his office, the PM said police have also been instructed not to interfere with a protest set for Tuesday by students from the University of Nairobi.

Vice chancellors have been asked not to harass or expel students who take part in these demonstrations as some of them have already been threatened with expulsion for being vocal about the killings.

The two activists were shot near the University of Nairobi and one student died after he was shot as irate students protested and prevented police from towing away the vehicle Mr King’ara and Mr Oulu were in.

Centre for Multiparty Democracy head Njeri Kabeberi repeated the demand for the removal of Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, saying that human rights abuses have been most prevalent during his five-year tenure.

Mr Odinga however avoided speaking about the matter, saying instead that police reforms agreed on in the coalition pact would deal with the matter.

Mr Odinga said there is political commitment to find out the people behind the deaths that have caused fear among human rights activists.

The PM however assured them that their lives are not at risk. He said that given the role of civil society organisations in what has come to be known as the second liberation, it is important not to interfere with their activities.

“If the government cannot provide protection to its citizens against an attack or killings, then it has no business being in control. We are not about to compromise on the gains we have made in Kenya,” he said.

NAIROBI 6 March 2009 Sapa-AFP


A senior UN official called Friday for an independent probe into the assassination of two Kenyan rights activists behind protests by a banned criminal gang.

"It is extremely troubling when those working to defend human rights in Kenya can be assassinated in broad daylight," Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, said in a statement.

Oscar Kamau Kingara, head of the Oscar Foundation rights group, as well as the organisation's advocacy director John Paul Oulu were gunned down Thursday after protests by members of the Mungiki group.

Once a quasi-religious group of dreadlocked youths who embraced traditional rituals, the Mungiki were banned in 2002 after the authorities said they had evolved into a powerful crime ring with political links.

Alston had recently released a report charging that the Kenyan security services had carried out systematic extrajudicial killings during their crackdown against the Mungiki, mainly in 2007.

The UN official recommended the sacking of Kenya's police chief and attorney general and Thursday's demonstrations were organised to demand Alston's findings be implemented.

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

Alston, who was invited by the Kenyan government to probe
extrajudicial killings last month, said he had met the two men gunned down on Thursday during his mission.

In 2007, the Oscar Foundation published a report entitled "Licence to Kill: Extrajudicial killings and police brutality in Kenya" that detailed police killings in the country.

BERLIN 6 March 2009 Sapa-dpa


The European Union signed an agreement with Kenya on Friday,
providing for the handover of pirates seized off the coast of Somalia, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The agreement was signed in Nairobi by Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula and the Czech ambassador to Kenya, the spokesman said. The Czech Republic holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

The spokesman said no decision had been made whether nine pirates captured by the German Navy would be transferred to Kenya.

The pirates are on board the German frigate Rheinland Pfalz, which apprehended them on Tuesday when they attacked a German merchant vessel off Somalia with anti-tank missiles and firearms.

A specially convened commission, representing Germany's Interior, Foreign, Defence and Justice ministries, met this week to discuss the legal status off the pirates.

The frigate is part of the EU's anti-piracy mission Atalanta in the Gulf of Aden, which Germany joined in December.

MOMBASA, Kenya 7 March 2009 Sapa-AFP


Suspected Somali pirates opened fire on a merchant vessel in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Kenya during a failed hijacking attempt, a maritime official said Saturday.

"One skiff with six men onboard came within 100 metres of the
merchant vessel and fired what was believed to be a rocket-propelled grenade," Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, said in a statement.

Mwangura did not identify the ship but said the attack took place on Friday, around 265 nautical miles (490 kilometres) east of the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

"The alert merchant mariners took appropriate anti-piracy measures and escaped with no damage to the vessel, crew or cargo," he added.

Mwangura said the attack was the eighth incident in which shots were fired at merchant vessels in the Indian Ocean south of the equator since October.

Since the surge in hijackings by ransom-hunting Somali pirates in 2007, most attacks have been carried out in the Gulf of Aden, where thousands of ships bottle-neck into the Red Sea each year.

Increased navy presence in the area however has encouraged some pirate groups to hunt ships further out at sea.

Despite a slight drop in attacks in recent weeks, Somali pirates still hold 10 ships for ransom.

NAIROBI 8 March 2009 Sapa-AFP


Somalia's hardline Islamist Shebab group on Sunday issued a stark warning for Kenya to refrain from interfering in its administration of southern border regions.

In a statement on one of its websites, the Shebab accused Kenya of spreading propaganda on alleged instability caused by its Somali fighters, who have controlled the Lower Jubba region since mid-2008.

"We are telling (Kenya President Mwai) Kibaki that we have the mujahedin (holy warriors) who fought for the country and who dragged the bodies of Americans and Ethiopians in the streets," the Shebab said.

"Kibaki should know the recent ordeals of Burundians in Somalia," the statement added, in reference to an attack late last month in which 11 Burundian members of the African Union peacekeeping force were killed.

The Shebab compared Kenya's rhetoric on Somalia to the argument of weapons of mass destruction used by Washington to invade in Iraq in 2003 and warned against any military action at the border.

"If Kenyans provoke us, they should know that the violence will not be confined to Somalia. We will defend ourselves like we did against Ethiopia and the United States of America," the statement said.

Kenya has repeatedly expressed concern that the rise of a hardline Islamist administration in the southern port city of Kismayo and surrounding areas risked having negative repercussions on security within its borders.

Former Islamist rebel leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected Somalia's new president earlier this year but his forces are struggling to reclaim control of the capital Mogadishu and the southern third of the country remains firmly under insurgent control.

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