Scene from the police-Mungiki wars. Photo credit: BBC/AFP.
Samwel Mohochi, director of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit believes it is not just the police, but Kenya’s government that is involved. “Our take is that there is state complicity,” he says. … Maj.-Gen. Ali gives a long, intimidating stare when asked if the reports will lead to internal investigations in his force. All those are horror stories, he says. We don’t investigate horror stories. We don’t have time for that. —Globe & Mail, Dec. 25, citing Maj-Gen. Hussein Ali of the Kenyan police
The Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU), a leading human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO), reported that police officers killed 196 persons as of June(compared with 47 in 2004). The IMLU concluded that all 196 of these deaths were unlawful. Thirty of these occurred while the deceased were in police custody and showed evidence of torture‑‑compared with 40 in 2004 (see section 1.c.). There were reports of summary police executions. On March 15, several witnesses reported that Nairobi police officers dragged three robbery suspects out of their car, forced them to lie down on their stomachs, and then shot them to death. There were no arrests or charges against the police by year’s end. On March 21, the minister of internal security issued a “shoot‑to‑kill” order against anyone found in possession of an illegal firearm; later that month, the minister explained that he meant for officers only to defend themselves if fired upon. In June the Parliamentary Committee on National Security summoned the commissioner of police to explain why the police had recently killed so many individuals. No reports were published by year’s end. –State Dept. Human Rights Assessment, Kenya, March 8, 2006
In March, armed police, acting on government orders, raided the offices and presses of the Standard group, a leading media company, and the studios of KTN television. They set fire to the 2 March edition of the Standard, damaged equipment at both sites and confiscated computers. The raid provoked widespread protests both nationally and internationally. Three Standard journalists had been arrested before the raid and charged with producing “alarming” articles for reporting that the President had held secret talks with a political opponent. The Standard group filed a complaint against the Internal Security Minister and the Police Commissioner in connection with the raid, and a Parliamentary Committee held hearings to investigate it. In September the charges against the three journalists were dropped. –AI
The December 25 story fom the Toronto Globe & Mail was posted to soc.culture.latin-america.
It bears on a crucial question in assessing the current situation in Kenya: Are police diligently and responsibility controlling post-election violence, or are they more likely to be perpetrating or instigating it? See
Fears of a “Rwanda effect” have been fanned by anonymous police officials quoted in the foreign press — with great success: Time magazine headllines its coverage with the “tribal war” meme, for example — but there are counterclaims that have not been investigated.
The Kenyan human rights commission has raised the strong possibility of that state-sponsored summary executions were a routine occurrence right up until the elections.
The incidents were reportedly related to a shantytown protection racket scheme with ethnic overtones, the Mungiki, that has reportedly doubled in the past as an, ahem, gunpoint campaign consultancy.
NAIROBI — For the past six months, corpses have been bobbing up in Kenya’s rivers and rotting in forests; they have been dumped unceremoniously beside roads and in morgues — hundreds of young men, most dispatched with a single bullet to the head.
In its chilling preliminary report on the subject late last month, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said 454 alleged members of a violent gang called the Mungiki had been summarily executed in a massive, extra-judicial crackdown, and it suggested the police were linked to the deaths. Since then, they have done 60 more postmortems on corpses, all with similar wounds.
Residents of affected areas allege to human rights observers that quite a few of the 454 were not members of the Mungiki.
Like many here, Henry Njuijuna isn’t particularly troubled by the revelation.
Some of us work too hard and get thrown out of school for lack of money for tuition, so when someone takes the shortcut of being a Mungiki to make money, I don’t have sympathy with that, says the 33-year-old filmmaker, who grew up in the same poverty as the gangsters. I sympathize more with the police. In a society where an honest road from poverty to comfort has emerged for those outside the ruling elite ” and where the Mungiki have victimized people for decades ” what might have created outrage in the past has the growing middle class here shrugging its shoulders.
Even with an election scheduled for Dec. 27, the killings have not become a high-profile issue. Only a handful of opposition MPs has mentioned the issue during their campaigns.
The police crackdown that human-rights groups believe is behind the alleged executions was the response to a murderous Mungiki rampage earlier this year. Hundreds of people were killed, some of their severed heads left in downtown Nairobi, the skin peeled back as though they were bananas. Men with automatic rifles opened fire on motorists, killing dozens.
“Hundreds” may be an exaggeration. A quick review of coverage suggests that targeted Mungiki “score-settling” killings were at issue.
There are some striking parallels with the PCC Wars we saw here in São Paulo in 2006, and the Rio “van wars.”
A lot of the violence reportedly came from a struggle for control of the matatu minibus transportation system, for example.
The two Rio city councilmembers arrested recently were charged with commanding militias who extort black-market van drivers. Among other things. And conduct summary executions of suspected drug-gang members.
And one another.
And here in São Paulo, the perueiros, for example, complain that the are extorted by both police and criminal organizations.
A first-person account of the police-Mungiki crackdown from an eyewitness Reuters correspondent.
Back to the Globe&Mail:
The calls for retaliation were immediate. By June they had become so fierce that President Mwai Kibaki swore he would wipe out the Mungiki. His is the first regime to take on the gang, whose name means the multitude in Kikuyu. Former presidents have collaborated with the
group to tighten their grip on power.
Mr. Njuijuna does worry that police may be killing whomever they please — he blames them for the deaths of several friends — but he also says there is no other way to contain the Mungiki. Kenya’s judicial system has been unable to rein them in, he says. Police are in a Catch-22.
Kenya’s police reject the human-rights report and have called for it to be retracted unless there is concrete evidence. We don’t kill, we don’t murder; I hate to disappoint you, the force’s chief,
Major-General Hussein Ali says. Mr. Ali promised to provide detailed information about investigations into the bodies being found, but has yet to do so.
In truth, no proof exists that police are the killers, but the force’s lack of interest in investigating hundreds of execution-style deaths is telling, says Maina Kiai, head of the human-rights commission. If the police are not responsible, why are they unable or unwilling to investigate? he asks, adding that the commission’s findings remind him of Idi Amin’s Uganda.
Samwel Mohochi, director of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit believes it is not just the police, but Kenya’s government that is involved. “Our take is that there is state complicity,” he says.
The group has provided independent postmortem reports on 18 bodies that turned up after the crackdown. All of them found that the victims were shot at near contact range, including cases where police agree they’ve killed a suspect but claim to have been engaged in a shootout.
Shootouts occur at distance. These were gunshots to the back of the head. That indicates a summary execution, Mr. Mohochi says.
Al-Amin Kimathi, chair of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, says dozens of witnesses have come forward to the Forum to tell their stories, including one man who survived an attempt by a killer squad to gouge out his eyes, and who later saw several people executed who had been arrested with him. Others have seen people lined up above Nairobi’s sewage lagoon and gunned down by police and pushed into the depths, he says.
What’s most disturbing, he says, is the lack of outrage from the wealthy because the victims are from the slums or countryside.
Isn’t it really a statement of what kind of society we are living in now? We don’t care when people are disappearing and turning up dead. The problem is that everyone’s yearning for space upwards and you very fast want to cut off where you came from.
Human-rights groups have asked the Kenyan government to invite the United Nations rapporteur on extra-judicial killings to investigate. But there is concern the election could derail that. And the dearth of political interest combined with a lack of a civilian oversight body for police means there could be no fallout from the commission’s final report, which is due in January.
Maj.-Gen. Ali gives a long, intimidating stare when asked if the reports will lead to internal investigations in his force.
All those are horror stories, he says. We don’t investigate horror stories. We don’t have time for that.