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EACC, police seek to clear their names after Kisumu shooting

Monday November 25 2019

Kisumu traffic police at EACC

Traffic police officers are questioned at the EACC's offices in Kisumu over collection of bribes and a scuffle on November 20, 2019, during which one of them was shot and wounded. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JUSTUS OCHIENG'
By JUSTUS OCHIENG'
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Police and the graft watchdog have clashed over a shooting during a sting operation by the latter in Kisumu last Wednesday.

Officials of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) stormed Mamboleo flyover on the Kisumu-Kakamega highway where traffic police were on duty. 

Their attempt to arrest the officer on allegations of bribery resulted in a scuffle during which gunshots rent the air.

In the incident about 7.30am incident, traffic officer Gladys Chemutai was shot in the knee while her colleague Fredrick Matunda fractured his leg. Officers Matunda and Marwa Mwita was apprehended.

A similar operation took place at Riat around Kisumu International Airport, where officers Meshack Munyendo, Wesley Koech and Benjamin Tuwei were arrested.

All the five are yet to be arraigned nearly a week after their arrest.

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NO BLAME

Mr Aura Chibole, the EACC's Nyanza region boss, noted that Ms Chemutai was not among those arrested.

She underwent a surgery at Avenue Hospital in Kisumu, where Mr Matunda was also taken, Mr Chibola said.

The commission exonerated its officers and accused their traffic counterparts of shooting one of their own.

Mr Chibole could not explain what happened that day but said the firearms retrieved from the officers were taken to ballistics [experts] to establish which one fired the bullet that injured Ms Chemutai.

"Our officers did not shoot. That is their allegation," he said.

'SUBDUING'

However, an incident report at Kondele Police Station links the EACC officers to the shooting.

Police station commander (OCS) James Nderitu filed the report vide C/CRI/6/8/VOL II /97.

"The suspected EACC officers shot at them in order to subdue them," states the report addressed to the police headquarters and copied to the Nyanza and Kisumu County crime offices.

It puts the EACC officials who took part in the operation on the spot over "use of excessive force".

CHARGES

Mr Chibole noted the need to wait for the ballistics report.

Meanwhile, the Nation has established that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) launched a probe into the conduct of the EACC officers. So far, several witnesses have recorded statements.

Questions have also arisen over the delay in arraigning the arrested officers.

Nyanza regional police boss Vincent Makokha said the files would be taken to court once the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) gives the EACC the green light.

He added that the suspects had been released on bond.

MONEY

Mr Chibole did not reveal the amount of money the officers allegedly took from motorists in the form of bribes.

He also said the arrest "was not about money per se".

“I haven’t asked, but it was not much. They gave the public the cash and went away with them,” he said.

"It's the bad manners we've been recording over a period of time. It was not just a day’s event. We've been recording them for almost two weeks. It is a repeated thing that can be proven."

He added: "The arrested officers have not been arraigned. We have to complete the file, forward it to the DPP and get concurrence to take them to court."

RISKS

Mr Chibole noted that such operations put officers' lives at risk but said they won't be cowed.

He said traffic police officers are not supposed to be armed.

"Yet you find them armed with guns... that becomes very dangerous.... we will not stop doing our work. We will have to take the risk," he said.

Ms Gladyce Ogonda, Nyanza Regional Traffic Enforcement Officer, said there no law that bars traffic police from carrying firearms. She noted that members of the public and motorists have, in the past, attacked them during routine checks, so unarming them would expose them to danger.

"Investigations over the arrests are ongoing. Let's wait for the outcome," she told the Nation on Sunday.

WITNESS ACCOUNTS

Multiple witnesses, including residents and motorists, said the outcome could have turned bloody.

"At first, the traffic officers felt they were under attack by robbers. The female officer screamed for help, saying, she had been shot by criminals," said a witness, who did not wish to be named.

Another said there was no way a traffic officer shot his colleague as they were all moving in the same direction.

"In future, such operations should be structured as they can easily lead to fatalities," added another witness.

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