Kenya: Activist's Phone Was Used Three Days After She Went Missing

Photo: Capital FM
Members of the public protesting after the murder of human rights lawyer Willy Kimani, his client and a taxi driver (file photo).
11 February 2019

Nairobi — It has now emerged that someone used missing human rights activist Caroline Mwatha's phone to call her husband in Dubai.

The call that was made three days after Mwatha went missing was however not answered.

Police have since retrieved her call logs and are focussing on the people who last spoke to her.

Mwatha, a human rights defender based in Dandora was last seen on February 6 walking to her house.

The mother of two, according to witnesses was walking alone and nothing seemed amiss - at least from their judgment.

"We know each other around this place," a woman who saw her on Wednesday evening and did not want to be named told Capital FM News.

She added, "Carol is known by everyone here because of her work. She has helped so many people more so the youths who are usually prone to police brutality."

What happened between the main road and her home, a stretch of 1.5 kilometres? Has it got anything to do with the nature of her work?

Is she dead or alive? And who accessed her phone 72 hours after she went missing?

It is a series of questions family members and colleagues are asking even as a cloud of anxiety over her safety lingers.

- We want her dead or alive -

As the clock ticks and minutes turn to hours and days, Mwatha's family is gradually losing patience with the police and want them to find their daughter dead or alive.

A feeling of desperation, more so in a country where human rights defenders live in fear after exposing police brutality, extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances of suspects.

Memories of the brutal killings of lawyer Willie Kimani, his client and driver in 2016 are way too fresh for them to be at peace.

Capital FM News caught up with Boniface Kilonzo, a younger brother to the human rights defender as he was heading to Dandora Police Station in the company of Mwatha's sister-in law and they were distraught.

"We want to be treated the same way a prominent family missing their daughter would have been," a visibly agitated Kilonzo said yet in a contrite tone.

According to him, local detectives have been frustrating them and have not offered any help.

"We want DCI Kinoti and (CS Fred) Matiangi to issue an order. They (officers) will only work then," he said.

Kilonzo said: "We are willing to give anything. If you have her, please just contact us."

Sentiments shared by her sister in-law Ruth Kalunda, who said the family knows no peace since they discovered that Mwatha was missing.

On the fateful day, Kalunda had tried to reach her but the phone was not going through.

"I thought she would call later," a teary Kalunda said. "All along, I knew she was at her workplace. Her phone has never been off due to the nature of her work."

Detectives were on Monday taking statements from the last people Mwatha spoke to on phone before she went missing.

"We are asking whoever might be holding my sister in-law to just let her free," she said before breaking into prolonged sobbing.

Police are yet to make an official statement in the ongoing probe.

"Director (CID boss George Kinoti) is on our case. We are doing everything to find her," a senior detective privy to the ongoing probe and who sought anonymity told Capital FM News.

- We live in fear -

At her work place, the mood was tense as representatives of other human rights organisations gathered to contemplate the way forward.

Colleagues could be seen hugging, others sobbing while others engaged in low tones.

"She was handling sensitive cases. One was a case where an Administration Policeman assaulted a driver and his conductor. While we are looking at many angles, this could have led to her missing," a colleague who sought anonymity said.

Mwatha, according to colleagues led last year's documentation of 24 cases of extra-judicial killings in Mathare, Dandora and other informal settlements in Nairobi.

And this, they say has led them to a "wanted list of killer cops."

Wilfred Olal, the coordinator of Dandora Community Justice Centre describes Mwatha as "a key human rights defender and a founding member of this centre."

Mwatha was keen on documenting cases of police brutality and extra-judicial killings.

"She was also coordinating the families of victims so that they can get justice," he said.

A search at the City Mortuary, major hospitals, and police stations over the weekend proved negative.

"Lately, we have been receiving a lot of threats including myself because our work has been focusing more on police accountability," he said.

"Even if we doubt the police, it is them who can investigate and find her whereabouts."

- Right groups outcry -

Amnesty International (Kenya) has challenged DCI boss Kinoti to "thoroughly investigate Carol's disappearance, establish her whereabouts and deliver her to family and friends."

Amnesty International Executive Director Irungu Houghton, called "on any person who may have information on the disappearance of Carol Mwatha to share such information with the nearest police station or Dandora Social Justice Centre on 0722746164. We also call on Kenyans to continue using social media and all other means to help #FindCarolineMwatha."

Houghton called on the government to come up with " deliberate and specific policies that implement the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and to recognise, work with and protect human rights defenders in Kenya."

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