EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS

The costly executions leaving families in pain and solitude

The government spends close to Sh1 billion each year to compensate families affected by extrajudicial killings. Most are in slums, where they are threatened by the police and forced to pay for bullets

In Summary

• In an investigation by the Star found that at least 210 extrajudicial killings have happened in the last 15 months.

• Slums including Mathare, Huruma, Kamukunji, Eastleigh, Dandora, Kayole, Mukuru, Korogocho, Kibera and Githurai bear the highest wrath of these killings.

Activists in Nairobi during a protest over extrajudicial killings on July 4, 2016
Activists in Nairobi during a protest over extrajudicial killings on July 4, 2016
Image: PATRICK VIDIJA

Sometimes it is the empty bed, an untouched room, an automated horoscope on their Twitter account or a dormant Facebook profile.

Other times just memories, a family photo that no one talks about anymore, things left unsaid, spaces filled with pain and solitude.

Some families choose to keep alive their hopes that justice would be served and their loved ones will someday wake up, but for some, those answers never come.

 
 
 
 

As days become months, and then years, and memories fade, the lingering need to find those they love doesn’t dissolve.

Extrajudicial killings are still resorted to by police to exact vengeance on the voiceless, wreaking pain and solitude on many families.

THE KILLINGS

January 16 was calm and sunny after a series of rainy days in Nairobi’s Majengo slum. There was a beehive of activities as always.

At noon, the atmosphere changed. Running battles, protests, teargas and cries all over… a youth had been shot dead by two police officers.

Ahamed Mohamed, 24, had just stepped out of his compound to buy food for his 10-months-old baby when he met his killers.

Mohamed worked a few blocks from his house in a timber yard. On that fateful day, he woke up in high spirits, bid his wife Rukia Juma and their baby goodbye before proceeding to his workstation.

 
 
 

At around 10am, he left his station and passed by a barbershop, where he shove his three-year dreadlocks.

He then walked back to his house to check on his wife and as always, he was jovial and full of life.

“He came and found me sleeping because I was not feeling well. He picked our baby and spent like 30 minutes playing with her. Since it was heading to almost midday, he stepped outside to buy our baby some milk, and that is how I lost my husband,” Rukia recalls.

She heard some gunshots just outside their gate, and since there were commotion and people running, she could not immediately tell what had happened.

Within minutes, she said, everything had come to a standstill as protests started to build.

“I heard people chanting ‘wameua, wameua’, and out of curiosity, I stepped outside to see what was wrong, only to meet the shock of my life... my husband was lying dead in a pool of blood,” Rukia said and she breaks down in tears.

“My husband loved us so much and wanted us to have a good life. I was to pick some milk and matoke but since I was not feeling well, he volunteered to help, not knowing I was sending him to his grave.”

Mohamed’s only mistake was to intervene in a situation that involved two police officers attached to the Shauri Moyo police station.

Two officers stormed the slum mid-morning hours, looking for bhang.

Being frequenters, they knew exactly the house they would get their luggage.

On arrival, they found the door closed, but they were not convinced. After a few minutes of knocking, they decided to break the door.

They entered the house, picked a small bag and a red basin and left.

Feeling disappointed and duped, they arrested another youth who was selling in a nearby kiosk.

As the youth was struggling with the pain of the handcuffs as he begged for pardon, Momahed intervened, pleading for his freedom.

He asked the officers to take the youth to the station if he had committed a crime.

The officers got pissed off and asked him why he was poking his nose in a matter that did not concern him.

Before he could respond, he was shot in the chest and in the thigh. Mohamed struggled to save himself, he pleaded for his life until he lay still in a pool of blood.

Weeks later, Daniel Mburu, a boda boda rider in Kayole, was shot dead at Mama Lucy hospital by a police officer manning the gate.

Mburu, 24, was at work as usual when he received news that a neighbour whose child had nearly drowned in a nearby river needed to be rushed to hospital. He offered to take the child to Mama Lucy.

Mburu had left his motorcycle at the gate as he hurriedly assisted in carrying the child to the emergency section.

After handing the patient to the doctors, he stepped outside to collect his motorbike, not knowing his goose had been cooked.

The officer manning the gate slapped him and demanded to know why he had parked his bike at the wrong place.

In less than two minutes, a confrontation ensued and the officer cocked his rifle before shooting Mburu in the chest. Mburu died.

HUNDREDS OF CASES

The Star has established at least 210 extrajudicial killings have happened in the last 15 months. Of these, 146 cases involve direct police action, while 39 deaths occurred in police cells.

The statistics come from executions in broad daylight, forced disappearances or death in police cells. These cases are on the rise, especially in slums and informal settlements, where youths aged 14-30 are killed nearly on a daily basis.

Slums bear the brunt of these killings. They include Mathare, Huruma, Kamukunji, Eastleigh, Dandora, Kayole, Mukuru, Korogocho, Kibera and Githurai. 

Residents in these areas told the Star two or three killer cops are stationed in the slums. They operate with impunity, arrest their targets and drain them in torture rooms before executing them.

While some are killed and others left with serious injuries, others disappear, never to be seen.

Wilfred Olal, a social justice coordinator, last week told the Senate Justice Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee that after executing their targets, officers threaten the communities of dire consequences if they speak of what happened.

What is even shocking is that families whose relatives are killed are asked to pay for bullets that killed them. A bullet, Olal said, is sold between Sh3,000 and Sh7,000, depending on the value the officers will impose.

To add salt to injury, the families are not allowed to mourn or bury their loved ones. Funeral gatherings are regarded as illegal and mourners teargassed, all in bid to instil fear and confusion.

Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid said that while some families are lucky to get the remains of their relatives to bury, others never get to see them.

Once these youth are arrested, he said, they are taken to secret places, especially forests, where they are tortured and executed. Their bodies are then left for wild animals to devour to conceal evidence.

The Senate report implicated rangers from Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service in the executions, blaming lack of independent oversight mechanisms to mount accountability.

The same applies to the Kenya Prison Services and the Kenya Coast Guard Service, who do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Independent Police Oversight Authority. 

Most of these killings are said to happen in Nairobi, where police have normalised them.

For instance, within the period of review, 35 people were killed by police, while four died in the cells, totalling 39 deaths in Nairobi.

“In Mathare, Dandora, Kibera and Mukuru, reports are rife of youth losing their lives to the bullet every week. Clear evidence of the targeting is present on social media platforms and threats are made public before the killings,” Khalid said.

He said the targeting of youth from poor areas is disturbing and speaks to the criminalisation of poverty.

“Police have declared youth from slum areas persona non grata, who have no rights or freedom. When human rights activists speak to the wanting security situation, they are targeted and declared enemies of the state,” Khalid said.

We sought confirmation from the police but spokesperson Charles Owino was unavailable for comment. We sent him a couple of questions that the national police service commission, Office of the DPP and Ipoa said he could answer, but he didn't.

But Nairobi Regional Commander Philip Ndolo told the Star on the phone that all the officers involved in the matter had been disarmed and interdicted.

Ndolo said he would not divulge further details as active investigations are ongoing.

However, these officers, although charged, were granted bail and they remain innocent until proven guilty.

According to Ipoa, within five months (January and June last year), 77 deaths were recorded, all involving youth aged 18-30.

The authority’s chairperson Anne Makori told our investigations desk that while 54 deaths had occurred as a result of police shooting, 23 occurred in police custody.

Makori said within the same period, they recorded 25 shooting incidents, where victims had been seriously injured.

She said the authority has completed investigations into 110 of the 210 cases registered. Of these, 75 are currently before courts, 34 are pending at the ODPP and 20 files are set to be submitted to the ODPP.

“There have been six convictions over the same period, with two cases being sentenced to death,” she said.

Makori said the authority’s view of the increasing cases is because the police have become unprofessional to an extent they opt to kill their targets as a shortcut to the lengthy investigation and prosecution processes.

“This is impunity and criminality within the service. It is evident that police officers are involved in crime and cover-ups,” she said.

She said historically before the establishment of police accountability, the service had police officers being a law unto themselves.

“We are of the view that there is lack of progressive training. The Service Standing Orders provide that all police officers shall be proficient in the use of firearms and must also attend an annual Musketry Training,” Makori said.

"The orders further provide that before the annual musketry training, officers will have firing range practice. However, this does not happen as it should. This results in stray bullet fatalities and injuries in incidents of a firearm discharge."

Ipoa has received more than 12,000 complaints about police officers and operations since it was established in 2012.

The authority said after investigating and referring cases to the ODPP for further action, they cannot manage their progress.

The technicalities of the judicial process may lead to delays in hearing and determination of cases.

“We lack control over matters subjected to the ODDP. Sometimes, they may agree with the charges we have recommended or not,” a commissioner at the authority said.

Commissioner Doreen Muthaura says the main challenge with their work is the fear of witnesses to testify when their protection cannot be guaranteed, due to inadequate resources. 

“Intimidation and interference of witnesses by suspected officers or those found culpable jeopardises our work,” she said.

“Failure to suspend or interdict officers undergoing investigations, especially those involved in serious cases that resulted in deaths and serious injuries, may lead to the collapse of the cases.”

The Senate Committee said in its investigations established that the failure by the Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to formulate and gazette regulations on the use of force and firearms is to blame for these killings.

Other factors are non-operationalisation of the National Coroner Services Act, 2017, and the Prevention of Torture Act, 2017, and overlapping mandate between Ipoa and the DCI.

COMPENSATION COSTS

The government spends close to Sh1 billion each year to compensate cases of extrajudicial killings.

The Office of the Attorney General told the Star each of these cases varies. Irene Agum, head of communication at the AG’s office, said, "For instance, last year, as at December, we disbursed Sh822 million to compensate 45 cases.” 

Agum said this is in line with the government’s compensation policy, which caters for all legal claims against the government, which is from court decrees and arbitral awards and all legal fees.

She said the ODPP reviews a file by Ipoa, and if it has solid evidence, it proceeds to a full hearing.

Upon judgment, the ruling is reviewed and the Interior ministry, through the policy, recommends what a particular case is allocated.

The file is then submitted to the AG’s office, which facilitates the compensation from the Treasury.

"It should be noted that the AG does not compensate. The money is channelled to the Treasury account by the Interior ministry, and what the AG does is to get in touch with the affected families through their lawyers,” she said.

Agum said lawyers are given a one-month notification to submit all documentation involved during the hearing, failing which the AG directly contacts the family.