Photo: Willie Kimani was representing a client who had been assaulted by a police officer. Source: BBC - Photo: 2022

Unsolved Cases of Police Brutality on The Rise in Kenya

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — For Kenyans who waited six years and one month for justice, a Nairobi court finally handed them a decision—finding three police officers guilty in the kidnapping and murder of a human rights lawyer, his client and their taxi driver—all of whom disappeared after being locked up at a police station.

The mutilated bodies of Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwendi and the driver Joseph Muiruri were found two weeks after their disappearance in June 2016. They had reportedly been taken to an open field at night, executed and dumped in a river.

The public outcry that followed the discovery of their tortured bodies rekindled public interest in addressing the issue. The case highlighted the many extrajudicial killings and disappearances linked to the Kenyan police. 

Kimani had been working for the Washington, DC-based International Justice Mission when he was abducted. This global organisation combats trafficking and slavery, violence against women and children and police abuse of power. At the time he was representing Mwenda who accused policeman Fredrick Leliman—one of the three officers found guilty—of shooting him for no reason at a traffic stop in 2015.

After the court ruling, Kimani’s wife Hannah spoke of six difficult years waiting for a decision. “I would like to say that us getting justice today offers a source of comfort to our hearts,” she said. “Although it may not bring Willie Kimani back, it may bring comfort to our hearts.”

Benson Shamala, the Kenya director of International Justice Mission where Kimani worked said: “No-one should go through what our friends… went through and especially from the very people mandated to protect them.”

Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) has received and processed 20,979 complaints in the 11 years since it was established, but only 3,437 investigations have been completed. By the end of last year, there had been 17 convictions and 141 cases filed before courts, the Guardian newspaper reported.

When the murder of George Floyd sparked global uprisings against police violence, Kenyans also mounted greater public demands for accountability through grassroots organizing and a series of anti–police-brutality demonstrations. However, these protests have not been met with fewer killings or a significant change in police operations.

In 2020, police killed or abducted 167 people, according to Missing Voices Kenya, a consortium of human rights groups tracking extrajudicial killings. They wrote in their annual report of 2020: “When confronted with human rights reports or media accounts, Kenyan authorities continue to either deny or dismiss the existence of what appears to be a government policy on enforced disappearances and police killings,”

“We want to honor every life, but there are so many [killings],” said Wangui Kimari, an urban ethnographer who co-founded a social justice center in Mathare. “They become blurred in your mind because there are so many. Some we don’t even announce because it just happens so fast.”

Kenyans have also turned to cell phone videos to record police violence and many can now be seen on YouTube.

Sentencing of the three officers and a police informer will be announced at a later date. [IDN-InDepthNews – 26 July 2022]

Photo: Willie Kimani was representing a client who had been assaulted by a police officer. Source: BBC

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