Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fury as police shoot dead 7 taxi drivers

A police officer tries to clear the road after residents lit a bonfire on March 11, 2010 to protest the killings of seven taxi drivers who were killed on Wednesday night. Photo/PETERSON GITHAIGA

A police officer tries to clear the road after residents lit a bonfire on March 11, 2010 to protest the killings of seven taxi drivers on Wednesday night. Photo/PETERSON GITHAIGA 

By DOMINIC WABALA and CASPER WAITHAKA

Questions were being asked on Thursday under what circumstances Administration Police officers shot dead seven unarmed taxi drivers in Nairobi's Dagoretti area.

The officers from the nearby AP camp are said to have shot dead the seven after taxi drivers opposed the relocation of boda boda (taxi) operators to their stage and ordered them out. The motorcyclists reportedly made a false report that they had been attacked by gangsters.

A taxi operator who survived the attack, Mr Paul Ngugi, told the Nation on Thursday that after chasing the motorcyclists away, they returned a few minutes later and started provoking them into another confrontation.

Not aware

Mr Ngugi said they were not aware that the motorcyclists had alerted AP officers from the nearby camp. “When we confronted them, all I heard were gunshots and everybody started running, ” he said.

On Thursday, security experts were baffled why the officers opened fire on unarmed people. They said police are only allowed to shoot when a suspect resists arrest, runs away from lawful arrest, threatens an officer’s life or that of another person. Eyewitnesses said the APs could have been drunk as they were seen leaving a bar before the shooting.

Those shot dead were Harry Thuku, Joseph Ngugi, Mugweru Mwangi, Gedion Mbogo, William Gitonga, Joseph Nganga and another only identified as Maina. The victims’ taxis were by Thursday afternoon still parked at the scene.

The incident sparked widespread protests from residents. Mr David Mbogo and Mrs Mary Wanjiku, one of the victims’ parents, said their son was a hard working and law abiding citizen who was not in anyway involved in crime.

For the better part of the day, hundreds of youth barricaded the busy highway with boulders and fires until reinforcements from Kabete police station arrived. Commissioner of Police Mathew Iteere on Thursday ordered an investigation into the shooting.

“The Commissioner of Police identifies with the grieving families and has assured them that a thorough investigation will be conducted and those found to have committed an offence will be prosecuted,” Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

Mr Iteere also warned officers that carrying a firearm is a huge responsibility which should not be abused. Public Health minister Beth Mugo also visited the area and demanded that the police post be moved.

“These were taxi drivers who were known here. They were not young men who could have been mistaken for criminals. The police are lying that they were gangsters and action should be taken against those who killed them,” Ms Mugo said.

The minister said that she had talked to Internal Security PS Francis Kimemia and demanded the arrest of the officers involved in the shooting.

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