20 December 2012

Kenya: Six APs to Hang for Kawangware Taxi Drivers Murder

Six APs convicted of murdering six Kawagware taxi drivers have been sentenced to death. Justice Fred Ochieng who convicted the policemen said he had no option but to hand out the maximum sentence in a murder conviction as it still existed in the statutes even though there has been pressure to remove it.

"I have been told that they are remorseful. That they have young families and that I should set a precedent and let them go because they have served sufficient time in custody. But I have also to consider those who died. They too left their families who depended on them" said Justice Ochieng.

He said the six APs--Ahmed Mohamed Omar, Ahmed Abdallah Shaffi, Michael Ngungu Lewa, Moses Lochich, Nelson Kipchirchir Too and Erick Ebere Melchizedek had a common intention of killing the taxi drivers and they therefore should suffer death.

He said they could not escape criminal responsibility because they used excessive and unreasonable force. "He who accepts great authority must also accept great responsibility" Justice Ochieng said in a courtroom packed with friends and relatives of the policemen and their victims.

The policemen fired 61 bullets killing the drivers--Harry Thuku, James Mugweru Joseph Maina, George Ng'ang'a, William Gitonga, Joseph Ngugi and Joseph Thiong'o-- on March 11, 2010.

The policemen were responding to reports that a group of about ten armed people were harassing boda boda operators.

The court was told the dispute was a business rivalry between the taxi and boda boda operators several of whom were employed by the policemen who owned the motorcycles.

"I do appreciate the difficult job police do, it is possible the stress may have caused them to behave the way they did, nonetheless am persuaded to hold that any person who is given the responsibility of holding a gun, must also act responsibility "said Justice Ochieng.

The six policemen said they would appeal the ruling. It is unlikely that they will be put to death and will join the more than 4,000 prisoners on death row.

While the death penalty remains in law, no executions have been carried out in the more for close to three decades. In 2010, President Kibaki said the failure to effect the executions did not in any way suggest that the death penalty has been abolished.

However, a Court of Appeal ruling has since found it unconstitutional as it violated the right to life and amounts to inhuman punishment. They said it did not provide those convicted with an opportunity to mitigate their death sentences.

"It is a good judgment. Justice has finally been served for my beloved husband," Esther Waithira widow of murdered taxi driver William Njau said as she walked out of the court smiling.

But life has not been smooth sailing for her and her family.She was forced out of her home in Kawangware due to threats and intimidation from policemen who did not want her or other family members to testify in the case in which six administration policemen were sentenced to death for murder six taxi drivers including her husband.

Peter Muigai Thairu, the brother of another victim George Nganga Thairu said the family was happy with the sentence."Justice has been done and we can now rest because everything has been completed,"he said putting aside the struggles the family has undergone in their efforts to ensure that the policemen were punished.

Harry Mbogo's father David Kimemia sighed with relief as soon as the judgement was passed. "I am glad that justice has finally come.

It will serve as a lesson to other policemen who are prone to misuse their firearms and engage in extrajudicial killings. They will have to be very careful now, " he said .

James Mwangi's father Wilson Mwangi Mugweru was full of praise for the judge whom he described as "courageous and just".

"The judgement is good.It did not favour any of the parties .Justice has been served well," said Mwangi who is now responsible for supporting his second born son's family.

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