WAR ON CRIME

OMWENGA: Why Ahmed Rashid should be pardoned

It is not in dispute the two individuals Rashid killed in cold blood were part of a criminal gang

In Summary

• The facts are not in dispute as even Rashid himself has admitted he summarily executed two young men.

• He was part of what became known as the “Pangani Six,” a police unit that was created to stop a wave of crime and violence in Eastleigh 

At a recent Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, the case of Ahmed Rashid came up for a discussion, which had me questioning my own views and position on the debate. Rashid is the officer behind bars pending trial for extra-judicial killing.

The facts are not in dispute as even Rashid himself has admitted he summarily executed two young men. He was part of what became known as the “Pangani Six,” a police unit that was created to stop a wave of crime and violence in Eastleigh area.

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It is also not in dispute that the two individuals who Rashid killed in cold blood were part of a criminal gang that terrorized the Eastleigh community with violent robberies ostensibly for their own survival. Indeed, Rashid would later say he singled out these two for elimination because he believed they were the ones who killed constable Adbi Aziz, Rashid’s colleague.

One of the deceased individuals, Mohamed Dahir Kheri, posted a photo on Facebook of him wearing a police jacket sitting next to ostensibly his partner in crime, Jamal Mohamed. On full display besides the two was a wad of cash. Rashid believed the jacket belonged to his murdered colleague and unbeknownst to the two individuals, he saw that act as a death sentence would later hunt them down and execute. 

It is also not in dispute that the Pangani Six were effective in drastically reducing crime in Eastleigh, Mathare and Pangani, where the squad permanently got rid of the criminal thugs who were terrorizing these communities.

However, even though Rashid reeked terror to these criminals many who would breathe no more after an encounter with him and his men, not everyone approved it. So he became loved and hated at the same time, especially following the killing of Dahir and Mohamed.

What Rashid did is “extra-judicial” killing, which is prohibited in our Constitution and laws. It is a cousin of “mob justice”.

A common type of extra-judicial killing is one that involves law enforcement officers unnecessarily using lethal force to apprehend a suspect or to protect life. The law itself recognizes situations when force can be used by the police. There are many close calls where establishing whether use of deadly force is justified. Rashid’s case is not one of them. Deadly force was not justified.

The question then is, should Rashid be prosecuted for the killings?

When a video of the street killing went viral, there were those who demanded that Rashid be arrested and charged. But an equal number, if not more, said he should not because what he did was justified, even if it was not how the law contemplates use of deadly force by police.

For this reason, nothing was done to Rashid, and he continued serving. Five years later, and with a new sheriff in town, the ground has shifted beneath Rashid, who now finds himself locked up facing criminal charges for the deaths.

“Extrajudicial killings must come to an end,” President William Ruto, who pledged to end the vice during the campaign, told police chiefs when he met them a few weeks ago at State House. “It’s illegal, it’s unconstitutional, it offends every principle of the right to life,” added the President, who put action to words by dissolving a police unit accused of extra-judicial killings.

Eastleigh Business Community wants the Independent Police Oversight Authority and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to drop charges against Rashid and most Kenyans hold this view, at least going by comments in social media.

There is a middle ground; release Rashid, have him go through a quick trial and be promptly acquitted but if convicted, have the conviction set aside on appeal in the interest of justice and in recognition of the doctrine of laches in our Kenyan jurisprudence. It’s a legal mouthful but those who know, know.

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