The Star (Nairobi)

6 June 2014

Kenya: Politicians Blamed for Busia, Bungoma Killings

POLITICIANS and businessmen were involved in the violence that saw the killing of more than 10 people in Busia and Bungoma last year. A report released by Human Rights Watch states that the businessmen and politicians organised the violence to intimidate rivals and protect sponsors.

Although the police said the violence was ordinary crime carried out by unknown criminals, the report blames politics just before last year's general election. But the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko yesterday said no politician was implicated in the violence.

He said an attempted escape case and a robbery with violence one are pending before a Busia court while three cases of robbery with violence and one of murder (although the culprit is still at large) are pending at the Bungoma law courts.

"The entry of the Amani Alliance into the presidential race in December 2012 contributed to tension especially in Western Kenya, because (Musalia) Mudavadi hails from the former Western Province and was expected to wrest support from Odinga's Cord, which had a commanding lead there," the report reads.

It states that although Amani tried to assume a middle ground, Cord supporters, "citing Kibaki's association with Amani as its founder, saw it as a front for Jubilee to undermine Cord's support in Western Kenya and deny Odinga crucial votes".

The attacks were carried out in homes in Busia and Bungoma counties. The attackers injured, maimed, and killed men, women, and children with machetes, clubs, and axes. Some attackers also raped and sexually assaulted women and girls.

"In some incidents the attackers demanded money and mobile phones from victims, but theft did not appear to be the primary motive of the attacks," the report states. It states that many victims interviewed said they pleaded with the gangs to take money or other valuables and spare their lives.

"In some cases, attackers said they were sent to kill, not steal. In all the cases, the victims told Human Rights Watch that the attackers had promised to return at a later, unspecified date." The organisation says that business owners and politicians within and outside the two counties were involved in recruiting gangs in the former Western Province since late 2007 up to mid-2013.

The police have also been mentioned in the report for not adequately investigating the attacks.

"In most cases, police failed to visit the scene of crime or take statements from victims and witnesses. In some cases, police did not collect the weapons used in the attacks, clothes, or other evidence left behind by the attackers," the report states.

In some instances, the police are accused of colluding with the gangs and ignoring useful information from the public, "undermining the ability of the government to deal with organised gangs".

The human rights organisation says the police failed to investigate possible election-related motivation, including gangs being recruited to intimidate rivals or allegations that politicians and businessmen were implicated in recruitment and financing of the gangs.

"The largest failure appears to lie with the police. Human Rights Watch research indicates that police have failed to investigate, apprehend, or bring charges against suspects in many of the attacks. They have instead released most of those arrested, spread misinformation about the reasons for attacks, and ignored the scale of the problem," the report released last month states.

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