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Raila on the warpath

Saturday March 7 2009

 

By SUNDAY NATION Team

Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Saturday tore into the country’s security agencies over extrajudicial killings and said acts of impunity must be brought to an end and the rule of law restored.

Mr Odinga spoke a day after the US Embassy in Nairobi offered help in investigating the latest killings – those of Oscar Foundation director Oscar King’ara and official Paul Oulu.

And the matter threatened to throw the struggling grand coalition government into a fresh crisis over the strong positions taken by cabinet ministers.

The Prime Minister, one of the two principals in the coalition, has twice this week lashed out at the same government he serves and half of whose Cabinet members belong to his ODM party.

Mr Odinga appears to be growing frustrated with the government he helped form a year ago and this week asked for a renegotiation of the deal that brought his ODM and President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity together.

On Friday, he fired a salvo at government spokesperson Alfred Mutua saying that he did not speak for the grand coalition government.

Mr Mutua issued a statement on Wednesday alerting the public that the Oscar Foundation and members of the proscribed Mungiki sect were planning to paralyse transport the following day and warned that the law would take its course.

The protests went ahead Thursday, but the day ended tragically with the execution-style killings of Mr King’ara and Mr Oulu.

On Saturday Mr Odinga called for a halt to the “rule by the gun the security officers have displayed while purporting to discharge their duties in recent times. People should not be shot without following the due process of the law. We have had cases where the officers shoot dead innocent citizens before they plant a gun on the body of the deceased.”

He attributed the lawlessness to the collapse of the country’s justice system and said the office of the Attorney-General was guilty of abetting the practice after officers implicate defenceless people with trumped up charges to justify their actions.

On Saturday the police said they were questioning six people in connection with the killings Thursday evening near the junction of Mamlaka Road and State House Road

Intense scrutiny

Two weeks ago, the police and the AG came under intense scrutiny in a report prepared by UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston who accused the force of engaging in such killings, sparking outrage from the public.

Speaking in his Gatundu South constituency, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta called on security forces to ensure that the killers of the two human rights activists were apprehended immediately.

“We need justice, and police should speed up investigations. People should also stop politicising the killing and instead seek the truth … you cannot politicise everything,” Mr Kenyatta said.

“We should stop persistent wrangles in the coalition and concentrate on solving problems that face Kenyans for development. We should stop shouting at each other every now and then. ODM should accept whatever the party has been given and serve Kenyans.”

The Sunday Nation learnt that the US government has offered the services of Nairobi-based detectives from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate Thursday’s killings. A diplomatic note to the Foreign Affairs ministry says the American detectives are ready to “offer immediate assistance.”

“The FBI within the US Mission (Nairobi embassy) is standing by and is able to begin working immediately on the investigation,” read part of the note dated March 6, 2009

In Kirinyaga, Justice minister Martha Karua said calls by political leaders and other Kenyans to bring the FBI and other foreign police agencies into the investigation were a sign of grave national concern.

“The public is losing faith in us who are in the government and now want foreigners to carry out probe into crimes committed against humanity in our country,” she said. She said the reaction of Kenyans was a wake-up call to the government.

“For Kenyans to have confidence in what we are doing, then something should be done to improve the performance of the institutions in the spotlight,” she said.

But Public Health minister Beth Mugo insisted the country’s institutions were strong and Kenya did not need foreigners to help solve the killings of Mr King’ara and Mr Oulu.

Criminal activities

“We are a mature nation with strong institutions which we have faith in. We must trust these institutions to look into these criminal activities and take legal action as fast as possible,” she said.

On Friday, Mr Odinga appealed for international investigators to take over the case, but Police Commissioner Hussein Ali said his officers are competent and would continue handling the matter.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that two teams of local detectives have been assigned the investigation. Police say they have been fighting to contain Mungiki, a secretive group accused of beheading and mutilating their victims and levying illegal taxes on the matatu industry and other businesses .

Earlier on Thursday Mr King’ara had spoken by mobile phone to an official of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHCR) complaining that he was being trailed by people he suspected to be police officers.

“But little did we know that it would end so tragically,” the KNHCR official, who declined to be named for his own safety, told the Sunday Nation.

According to people who are said to have witnessed the early evening shooting by several men who had blocked the victims’ vehicle with their cars, the attackers grabbed the men’s phones, removed the SIM cards and smashed the sets.

The victims had visited various parts of the city during the day to assess the success of the protest that sought, among other things, to force Maj-Gen Ali and Mr Wako to resign.

The protest paralysed transport in various parts of Nairobi, especially Kayole, Kangemi, Banana and Kawangware.

It also affected towns in Central Kenya including Thika, Nyeri, Murang’a and Nyahururu.

Proposed reforms

On Saturday, Mr Odinga told mourners in Siaya district during the burial of historian Prof Atieno Odhiambo that it was time the proposed reforms in the police force were put into effect to redeem the waning public confidence in law enforcement agencies.

Speaking at Alliance Girls’ High School, Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba said, “any help that can support the course of justice is welcome, especially at a time when the police have been accused of incompetence.”

The MP also asked the government to demonstrate a serious legal effort to destroy criminal gangs that threaten the peace and security of citizens. “We can fight crime legally without killing people,” he said.

On Thursday night, a University of Nairobi student was shot dead in a confrontation with police after Mr King’ara and Mr Oulu were killed.

Story by Dan Otieno, David Okwembah, Fred Mukinda and Augustine Oduor