Kenyan activists’ assassinations, a possible police complicity?

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Renowned Human Rights activist and director of the Oscar Foundation, Oscar Kamau Kingara, who fearlessly spoke against the Kenyan government accusing the system of perpetuating extra-judicial killings, was gunned down yesterday in the city of Nairobi. The foundation’s programmes coordinator, Paul Oulo, was also killed in the attack. The question raised all over Kenya today is ‘Who is behind the killing of Oscar Kamau Kingara?’

Many Kenyans have accused the Kenyan judiciary arm of government- the Kenyan police, of carrying out the murder. Observers have said that the kenyan police is a law unto themselves and often kill with impunity: Their abuses have been described as systematic and widespread. Only last week a United Nations report called for the attorney general of the Kenyan police to resign for failing to address the alarming violence used by the police.

Mr. Oscar Kamau Kingara has been a fierce critic of the police. Trouble began last year when Mr. Kingara’s Oscar Foundation Free Legal Aid Clinic published a report which accused the Kenyan government of executing or torturing to death over 8,040 young Kenyans since 2002, in what has been described by the police force as a crackdown on a sect known as the Mungiki.

In a recent interview, Mr. Kangara had claimed responsibility for the mobilisation of protests by families of victims reportedly killed by the police in the suspicious crackdown of the mungiki sect. According to other rights groups some five hundred people were killed in 2007. The United Nations also released a report only last week condemning the extra-judicial killings. The Kenyan government, however, accused the Oscar Foundation of raising money for the alleged criminal sect, Mungiki. Only a few hours before the assassinations, government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, was quoted as saying that the Oscar Foundation is a “front” for the Mungiki group. Mr. Kangara denied the funding allegations and swore to take the matter to court. Observers say that this dispute could have resulted in the death of Messers Oscar Kamau and Paul Oulo.

Police complicity?

Addressing the subject of a possible police complicity in the assassinations, police spokesman, Charles Owino said “given the fact that there was a (UN) report on extra-judicial killings just last week. So you would expect some people to say we can be involved in this”.

But despite many fingers pointing to the Nations police force, the killers have yet to be identified. Eyewitness reports claim that Mr. Oscar Kamau Kingara and Paul Oulo were driving in a street close to the State House, where the Kenyan president resides, when two cars drove by, blocked his car and shot them to death. Meanwhile several groups, including students and members of the mungiki tribes have protested against police violence in the capital Nairobi and other towns.

Earlier, University students in the area had approached the scene of the murder and denied the police access to the corps, engaging in further clashes with the law enforcing authorities. A passer by was hit by a stray bullet during the assassinations while a student was killed in the police intervention.

“It would be too cheap for the police to get involved with people involved in protecting rights. We have no reason whatsoever to kill people, even if they are against us. We consider it either rivalry or thuggery, and we are committed to bringing the perpetrators to book,” Charles Owino continued.

The gunmen are yet to be identified.

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