Kenya: Surging Police Killings Put Service on the Spot

16 February 2019

The National Police Service (NPS) is once again on the spot after a Nairobi court handed the death sentence to former Ruaraka police station commander Nahashon Mutua over the murder of a suspect in 2013.

On the same day, a judicial inquiry sitting in Kisumu indicted five senior police officers for the August 2017 murder of six-month-old Samantha Pendo, in a growing trend that shines the light on extrajudicial killings carried out by law enforcement officers.

Nahashon Mutua

Before his conviction for the murder of miraa trader Martin Koome, Mr Mutua's career was flourishing, having risen to the position of Officer Commanding Station (OCS) while still in his mid thirties.

On the fateful day, Mr Mutua beat up Mr Koome, who had been locked up at the Ruaraka Police Station for threatening to kill his daughter, with a metal rod before immersing his head in water. Mr Koome would die of his injuries the following day.

Titus Yoma

Mr Yoma was the Kisumu county commander during the 2017 general election when armed police officers stormed the shanty in which Baby Pendo and her parents, Ms Lencer Achieng Sege and Mr Joseph Oloo Sege Abanja lived at Nyalenda slums in Kisumu on August 11, 2017 and bludgeoned the infant to death.

Kisumu senior resident magistrate Beryl Omollo in her ruling placed responsibility for baby Pendo's murder on Mr Yoma and the police command under him.

"The security officers know or ought to have known the consequences of using tear gas in a family house, breaking doors and indiscriminately assaulting unarmed persons. It was quite obvious that they had formed malice aforethought and they knew use of force would likely cause death or grievous injuries but nevertheless proceeded to use force that killed the infant," she noted.

Mutune Maweu

The then Kisumu East and Central OCPD, told the court that his responsibility was to ensure seamless elections.

He indicated that he was instructed by Mr Yoma, his boss, to move around town and update him about the situation and also inform sector commanders to guard vital installations.

An allegation he made that put him at a crossroads with Mr Yoma during the hearing was that the county commander ordered them not to venture out since it was dangerous and remain in their homes.

He told the court that he learnt of Baby Pendo's death through social media three days later and offered the necessary support to investigative agencies such as Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa), the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and the Internal Affairs Unit.

John Thiringi

The then Kisumu OCS, was deployed to the Kisumu Central Business District, an area flagged as a hotspot with a likelihood of looting, where he had 15 officers under his command.

He told the court they received reports of Baby Pendo's death but carried on with their duties as there was no official report at the police station in regard to the said incident but was later directed by Mr Mutune to find out from Nyalenda police post.

Mr Thiringi said he tried accessing the child and her family in vain and even cited "customary beliefs" barring him from accessing the family until after the deceased was buried.

He is quoted to have said in an event the officer who committed the crime never admitted liability, the supervisor under whom the officer is placed would be held responsible.

Linah Kogei

She was in charge of Nyalenda police post. She said that on that eventful day, they had protests that ran into the night after the presidential election results were announced. She, however, denied being at the scene of the incident.

She also denied knowledge of the operation order which placed her as head of command operations at Sector 1 Nyalenda Tumaini stretch, saying Mr Mutune the OCPD asked her to be in charge of the station and let her deputy, Mr Mohammed Ali, to lead the sector.

She never produced any document supporting her assertions and later admitted that she was aware of the order.

Benjamin Koima

The deputy sub county AP commander said that before the General Election, he received communication from the Deputy Inspector in charge of the Administration Police instructing him to plan and ensure all the vital government installations and VIP residences were secured.

His role was to assist the OCPD in overseeing and supervising the officers who were drawn and deployed from different formations of the police force.

"He denied ever seeing 'Post-election mipango' and was only aware of another order 'Operation Uchaguzi 2017' which put him and his officers at polling stations and tallying centres on August 8, 2017," said the magistrate.

He produced other documents to show where his officers were on August 8 to 12 and stated he was not at Nyalenda on the night Baby Pendo died.

Kyengo Masha

He was in charge of a platoon of 29 GSU officers who manned Kachok roundabout Ring Road, Kachok Fly Over area.

Mr Kyengo testified that his platoon advanced towards Nyalenda area to contain the riots for about 200 metres but the members of the platoon did not get into people's homes.

The arms register showed that some members of the platoon had not surrendered back their batons after the operations were called to a stop. In addition, a number of batons and helmets had no serial numbers.

Benjamin Kahindi Changawa and Stanley Okoti

The two former corporals were found guilty of fatally shooting AP constable Joseph Obongo Onchuru, Mr Geoffrey Nyabuto Mogoi and Amos Okenye Makori, in cold blood.

The three were shot dead at a nightclub in Kangemi on the night of October 7, 2014. They were in a club and a bar maid called the police saying there were people inside who were armed. The police officers who were on patrol arrived shortly and Mr Onchuru introduced himself as a police officer but his pleas fell on deaf ears.

Titus Ngamau Musila alias Katitu

In April 2018, High Court judge James Wakiaga sentenced Mr Musila to 15 years in jail for gunning down Kenneth Kimani Mwangi on April 14, 2013 at the Githurai 45 bus stage.

In a pre-sentencing report filed in court, people interviewed in Githurai stated that Musila had brought down the crime rate in the crime-infested area.

But in his judgment, Justice Wakiaga said the case was not about whether Mr Mwangi was a criminal or not but it is all about use or misuse of firearm by Musila in the cause of his duties as a police officer.

"Whereas the police in their fight against crime faces challenges, no police officer has the right to take away the life of any citizen in the Republic of Kenya, whether criminal or not save for in compliance with the law as stated herein," he said.

The Judge added it didn't matter that Mr Mwangi was involved in criminal activities, but that he did not deserve to die in the hands of an officer who did not make any attempt to apprehend him and subject him to judicial process.

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