Outrage: Country reacts to police killings


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By Standard Team

The Government appeared cornered on the eve of the first anniversary of the National Accord as the outrage over police extrajudicial killings hit a crescendo countrywide. From diplomatic circles to the civil society, they were as unanimous as they were eloquent in their rejection of gross human rights violations that have gone on for years. But even in the wave of criticism, the Government appeared divided over what to make of the findings of UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions Philip Alston.

Residents of Sasur Location, Cheptais Division, Mt Elgon, protest at Cheptais market, Thursday. They rejected a report by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on extra-judicial killings. Some of the placards read: ‘Prof Alston, you did not come to Mt Elgon!,

[PHOTO: BENJAMIN SAKWA/STANDARD]

Whereas the Ministry of Defence dismissed the report released on Wednesday by Prof Alston as “full of lies”, the Justice ministry said the Government agreed with some of the findings.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said the Government would not implement recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur.

In Nairobi, the civil society sounded war drums and demanded immediate action on Alston’s findings or else they organise mass action to demand the resignation of Attorney-General Amos Wako and the sacking of Commissioner of Police Hussein Ali.

Thirteen diplomatic missions in Nairobi welcomed the findings of the now controversial report and asked the Government to consider what action it would take.

“We consider his mission an important element in efforts to ensure that the Kenyan reform agenda remains on track,” they said in a statement read by the Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya, Laetitia van den Assum.

The envoys said ending impunity for acts committed by State officials forms an indelible part of the commitments undertaken as part of the Kenyan National Reconciliation Act.

The diplomats said action on the report and security reform elements of the Waki Report and Agenda Four, particularly the formation of the police reform group and Independent Police Complaints Commission, would constitute the Government’s commitment to reforms.

“This would constitute a clear signal that the Government is committed to reform and that it does not hesitate to show leadership in eradicating impunity and its pervasive effects on the country and citizens,” read part of the statement.

Diplomats from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States attended the Press conference at a city hotel.

One of Alston’s far-reaching recommendations was AG Wako’s resignation and sacking of Commissioner Ali, saying they were faces of impunity. Alston also called on President Kibaki to acknowledge extra-judicial killings and address the problem.

And in a move that is likely to ruffle feathers in sections of Government, the envoys vouched for the establishment of a local special tribunal to try suspects of post-election violence.

“We share Dr (Kofi) Annan’s sentiments that failure by the Government and Parliament to create a special tribunal will constitute a major setback in the fight against impunity and may threaten the whole reform agenda,” said Ms Assum.

The envoys said the raging debate on whether suspects of post-election violence should be tried locally or at The Hague lacked transparency and inclusivity, and urged for wider consultation.

The tribunal should be independent and reinforced by international representation with a protection programme, they said.

“Judicial reform and action against corruption should be urgently considered as a further means to rebuild confidence,” said the diplomats.

Yesterday, the National Civil Society Congress demanded the resignation of Ali and Wako or else they organise mass protests.

Congress President Morris Odhiambo and Release Political Prisoners Executive Director Stephen Musau threatened to call nationwide demonstrations if the two do not quit.

Master of denial

Musau said Wako could not be trusted to deliver much-needed reforms. “Under his watch, many high profile cases have been lost and individuals killed while little is done to arrest suspects,” he said.

Musau called Ali “a master of denial” for dismissing claims that police officers were behind the killings.

“It is in black and white: The police force is guilty of the killings. Kenyans cannot be fooled in a bid to protect the image of a tainted force,” said Musau. But Defence Assistant Minister Joseph Nkaissery denied that the military was involved in human rights violations in Mt Elgon District.

“Our soldiers are by any standards very disciplined and well-trained in human rights. Alston’s findings were amazing and, indeed, unacceptable. In fact, he lied,” Nkaissery said.

He explained that the role of the military in situations like that in Mt Elgon is well explained in the Constitution. “We were facilitators. The rest was the work of the police. We do not fight internal wars. We did not kill anyone,” Nkaissery claimed.

He said military officers in the district dealt with logistics as is stipulated in the Military Act.

“This man went touring and collected information from a bunch of liars who do not understand how we operate,” the minister said.

Alston said the military, police and the Sabaot Land Defence Force militia engaged in killings in Mt Elgon.

But yesterday, Mt Elgon residents demonstrated against the UN report. Waving placards, the residents held a peaceful demonstration denouncing some human rights groups in Bungoma town for allegedly feeding the UN official on lies.

Some of the placards read: ‘Prof Alston, you did not come to Mt Elgon!, The UN: These are lies!’

The peaceful demonstrators marched for six kilometres from Sasur trading centre to Cheptais market, where their bid to meet local DO Timothy Tirop flopped.

“We waited for a whole day for the arrival of the UN team, only to be informed that he was seeing a selected group of people in Bungoma. How can we trust his report yet we are the real victims and we weren’t visited?” a demonstrator asked.

But Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi said the report was a true reflection of how security personnel oppressed Kenyans.

Stories by Martin Mutua, Isaac Ongiri, Mutinda Mwanzia, Robert Wanyonyi, Roseline Obala and Cyrus Ombati

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