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Kenya: Crisis Renewed

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Mar 25, 2009 (090325)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"I am shaken. I am shocked. And that is, apparently, the intent. For all of us to be shaken. For all of us to be shocked. For all of us to hear the threat, heed the warning. The threat and the warning implicit in last week's assassinations of Kingara Kamau and John Paul Oulu of the Oscar Foundation." - L. Muthoni Wanyeki, Kenya Human Rights Commission

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a report of the killing of two human rights activists in Kenya early this month, and excerpts from statements on the recent situation in Kenya, both from the March 6 special issue of Pambazuka News "Kenya: The bomb waiting to go off ... again," One is by L. Muthoni Wanyeki, executive director the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and the other a press statement by Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary, or Summary Executions.

Additional articles, including a more extensive systematic analysis of the current situation in Kenya by Wanyeki, is available on the Pambazuka website at

A March 13 open letter by Kenyan human rights organizations is available at :

For a variety of current analytical reports on Kenya, including statements from the Kenyan Council of Churches calling for new elections and a survey on public views of corruption from Transparency International Kenya, see and

A related report released in February by two London-based organizations, "Kenya and Counter-Terrorism: A Time for Change," documents Kenya's collaboration with the United States in rendition of some 150 people of 21 nationalities, seized near the Kenyan border with Somalia during the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. See or

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya, from 2008 and before, with excerpts and links of reports during last year's crisis, and links to relevant recent books, visit


On March 20, President Obama announced his intention to nominate career diplomat and three-time U.S. ambassador in Africa Johnnie Carson as the next U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Among other posts, Carson was U.S. ambassador to Kenya from 1999 to 2003.
See For an earlier report, with additional background on Carson, see
See also the February article by correspondent Kevin Kelley in The East African, at

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Assassination of Kenya human rights defenders

Kenya National Commission for Human Rights and other Kenyan CSOs

March 5, 2009

Pambazuka News 422, March 6, 2009
Special issue on "Kenya: The bomb waiting to go off ... again"

This evening, two leading human rights defenders, Mr. Oscar Kamau King'ara and Mr. John Paul Oulu (also known as GPO), both of Oscar Foundation, were executed in cold blood by a group of men in two vehicles. The two were driving to meet Mr. Kamanda Mucheke of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights at his office. Eyewitnesses have said that the assassins were policemen. In fact, the minibus driver was in police uniform.

An eyewitness at the scene was also shot in the leg and was later taken away from the scene by policemen. We are calling upon the police to reveal the whereabouts of this man since he might be the only one who can positively identify both the assassins and their vehicles. Therefore, we fear for his life.

Oscar was a trained lawyer and a human rights advocate who was the Chief Executive Officer of Oscar Foundation. He was a member of the Law Society of Kenya.

Mr. GPO Oulu was a former student leader, and an educationist who has worked for many human rights organizations, including the Youth Agenda. He left the Youth Agenda recently to join the Oscar Foundation as the Communications and Advocacy Officer.

Oscar Foundation is a registered charitable organization that offers free legal services to the poor. Some of its major projects include organizing caravans to offer free legal aid to the poor around the country. They have a strong track record researching corruption in the police force, the prisons, and police brutality against the urban poor. The latest activity was researching and documenting cases of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

The Oscar Foundation has been a major source of information to Parliament on atrocities playing out against the poor in the country. On February 18, 2009, before Parliament debated the motion on extra-Judicial killings, he presented Oscar Foundation's findings on ongoing extra judicial killings to Hon. Peter Mwathi, the motion's mover. Their last engagement with Parliament was a presentation to the Kioni Committee investigating organized gangs a couple of days ago.

We believe they were killed because of the sensitive information they had shared with both the Prof. Philip Alston the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, and with the MPs.

Where we are in Kenya today is where the Jews were in Nazi Germany shortly before the Holocaust. The Nazis stage-managed a smear campaign that made the public hate the Jews and allow for their extermination.

During the Emergency the colonial government hired collaborators to commit atrocities which they blamed on the Mau Mau to give them a bad name so that they could exterminate them.

We hold the Government Spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua complicit in the two murders for making wild allegations that the Oscar Foundation was a civil society front for Mungiki, and they were going to deal with it. What does he know about the assassinations? Was this what he meant by dealing with the Oscar Foundation?

As we condole with the families of the deceased, we assure them, and the nation that their deaths are not in vain.


Kenya National Commission for Human Rights and other Kenyan Civil Society Organisations

Headed for the Grave

L. Muthoni Wanyeki

Pambazuka News 422, March 6, 2009
Special issue on "Kenya: The bomb waiting to go off ... again"

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is the Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)

I am shaken. I am shocked. And that is, apparently, the intent. For all of us to be shaken. For all of us to be shocked. For all of us to hear the threat, heed the warning. The threat and the warning implicit in last week's assassinations of Kingara Kamau and John Paul Oulu of the Oscar Foundation.

Let me be clear about this. I had questions about the Oscar Foundation. Last year, it appeared to me to be one of human rights organisations partisan to the Party of National Unity. I did not understand when or why it had made the shift from children's rights work to human rights work more generally. I had questions about the methodology through which it arrived at its figures of disappearances and extrajudicial executions of those supposedly associated with the mungiki. I remember us all laughing when Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, questioned them as to the sources of their funding - concerns apparently raised with him by the security services. For, unlike many of us within the human rights movement, the Oscar Foundation does not receive grants from the bi/multilaterals or foundations.

But ... I found some of the ways they did their work innovative. Such as running free mobile legal aid clinics in low-income areas not just in urban areas, but also in rural areas. I knew too the solid backgrounds of some of its staff. trusted that they - just as the rest of us - had information worth sharing with the UN SR as to the extent of disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Kenya. And I certainly never imagined - not in my wildest dreams - that their staff would pay the ultimate price for bringing that information forward. Death.

I see now I should have read the signs, the writing on the wall. We all must do so. For the build up was clear. Let me sketch the outlines.

Reports, many reports, from both national and international human rights organisations into the joint police/military operations against the Sabaot Land Defence Force in mount Elgon. Denial, denial, denial - increasingly angrily so. Finally, questions and pressure from governments with whom our government has security agreements and arrangements. Suddenly, a flurry of activity. A public propaganda campaign - with a state sponsored documentary focused on the atrocities and crimes committed by the SLDF being aired, repeatedly, on almost all television channels over several weeks. A parliamentary probe. A joint police/military investigation. The verdict? Nothing's wrong. All the human rights organisations pointing accusing fingers are wrong. And their motivations are base. They don't care about the atrocities and crimes committed by the SLDF.

They don't care about the people. They did it to raise money.

Somehow, the issue dies down.

But then comes the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Post Elections Violence (CIPEV). It is brutal in its treatment of the failures of the state security agencies. It notes that the Administration Police and the Kenya Police Force used such extraordinary force that no less than a third of all deaths are attributed to them. It notes that they also committed crimes ranging from looting to rape. It issues a set of recommendations for security sector reform, including the fast tracking of investigations into and prosecutions of individual members of the security services who committed rape.

The response? Preemptively, the institution of a supposed police oversight body that is not worthy of the name. The creation of a task force to investigate claims of sexual violence - from which all women's organisations coopted into it quickly resign. Silence. Then the announcement by the minister of Internal Security of Kenya's supposed security architecture - a plethora of new laws and policies supposedly addressing the CIPEV report's recommendations. But not a word about either individual legal or collective political accountability - which the CIPEV report had stressed.

Again, somehow, the issue dies down - helped in no small measure by the clamour for individual accountability of politicians for the violence through the Special Tribunal and the International Criminal Court.

But then comes the report of the UN SR, which finds the Kenya Police Force and the military in mount Elgon guilty of torture, forced disappearances and systematic extrajudicial executions. The response is predictable. Denial, denial, denial.

And more. The dis/misinformation and propaganda begins. The Vice Chair and a staff member of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights are accused of being on the mungiki's payroll. The build up. Matatu operators accuse human rights organisations of not caring about citizens and businesses affected by the mungiki's extortion and protection rackets. We are informed that the mungiki have decided to demonstrate in favour of implementation of the UN SR's recommendations. The media does not question this - despite the fact that the mungiki's spokesperson denies that they are involved and despite the fact that, strategically speaking, it would be ludicrous for the mungiki to do so at this time. The demonstrations supposedly happen. The supposed government spokesperson parrots the claims, informing Kenya that the Oscar Foundation is raising money for mungiki through the human rights organisations that support mungiki. He blithely ignores the facts that: a) the mungiki make so much money through their extortion and protection rackets that they hardly need external assistance and b) the Oscar Foundation does not receive external funding. Hours after his statement, the two staff members of the Oscar Foundation are dead.

For the record, the human rights movement has consistently and repeatedly called for the disarming and demobilisation of all armed groups, criminal gangs and militia in this country as per Agenda Item One of the mediation process. It has also said, however, that disarmament and demobilisation will entail far more than a heavy-handed security response. And it has said that even that heavy-handed security response must be within the boundaries of the Constitution and the law - not to mention the regional and international human rights instruments we are party to.

If armed groups, criminal gangs and militia still exist in this country, they do so because of their relationships - complex and ever-changing with the political powers that be and the security services that those political powers control. This is obvious. This is why disarmament and demobilisation is so apparently difficult to achieve. And this is why it is simply ludicrous to claim that they exist because of the 'support' they get from the human rights movement.

We are clearly in dangerous times. The Kenyatta and moi regimes reserved assassinations for those among the political powers that be. Human rights defenders and other intellectuals contended instead with illegal detentions, torture, forced exile. In the Kibaki/Odinga regime, the goalposts have shifted. Backwards. This does not portend well. For any of us. For any of us.

To his credit, Odinga came out loud and clear following the assassinations, calling for independent, external investigations. We wait to see what Kibaki will do. And that will tell us whether we're all headed to the grave.

UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions in Kenya

Press Statement

[Excerpts only. For full statement see link]

Pambazuka News 422, March 6, 2009
Special issue on "Kenya: The bomb waiting to go off ... again"

Following his mission in Kenya over the period 16-25 February, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions Philip Alston issued a press statement outlining his findings. Drawing attention to the entrenched impunity of the country's police force, Alston questions the complete absence of an accountability mechanism around police killings and the force's broad reluctance to engage with detailed and comprehensive civil society concerns. The rapporteur likewise underlines the concerted efforts to block his access to records around security force activities, and need for independent investigation around events in Mt Elgon.

Alston also argues the lack of any form of witness protection programme to be a key factor in the persistence of a culture of impunity, and states that the government must move to providing adequate reparations for families left unable to meet their needs through the deaths of husbands and fathers.

I conducted a fact-finding mission to Kenya from 16 to 25 February 2009. The aim of my visit was to investigate allegations of unlawful killings, and I focused on three issues of critical importance to the people of Kenya: killings by the police; violence in the Mt Elgon district; and killings in the context of the post-election violence.

Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the Kenyan government for having invited me to the country. This willingness to cooperate with the international community in its human rights endeavours is admirable and Kenya deserves full credit.

The biggest challenge for me has been to ascertain the facts in relation to each issue. In terms of post-election violence, the Waki Commission report has made my task much easier. In relation to police killings and Mt Elgon I have engaged in a painstaking and careful process of gathering information. There are, of course, competing accounts of what happened, along with various official denials that any human rights violations have occurred. My work began several months ago as I analysed all of the available government, parliamentary, police, and civil society reports on issues related to unlawful killings.

Upon arrival in Kenya I held meetings in Nairobi, Rift Valley Province (Nakuru, Eldoret, and Kiambaa), Western Province (Bungoma and Mt Elgon), Nyanza Province (Kisumu), and Central Province (Nyeri). I met with government officials at all levels, including the prime minister, various ministers and assistant ministers, several permanent secretaries, the chief justice, the chief of general staff, the police commissioner and the heads of the Administration Police (AP), the General Service Unit (GSU) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), as well as provincial and district commissioners, police and NSIS [National Security Intelligence Service] officers in the various provinces and districts.

I also met with a wide range of members of parliament, members of the diplomatic and donor communities, and the UN country team. In addition, my team and I interviewed well over 100 witnesses and victims on an individual basis. They included victims of militia and gang violence, criminal violence, and police and military violence.

Before announcing my preliminary findings I wish to address several important preliminary issues relating to my mission.

It has already been suggested by some officials that I have been unduly influenced by human rights groups and other civil society organisations. But the breadth and diversity of my information sources belie this allegation. I would add that the quality of reporting and analysis by the leading human rights groups in this country is extremely high by international standards, and I have benefited from the comprehensiveness and professionalism of their work.

Undoubtedly the greatest obstacle to my efforts to obtain detailed information from all sources and perspectives has been the failure by the police in particular to provide me with virtually any of the information I have assiduously sought. I will return to this problem below. Closely linked to this refusal to provide information is the argument, put to me by the police commissioner in particular, that allegations of human rights abuses by the police or the military should only be investigated if the relevant information meets the standards that would be required to secure a conviction in a court of law.

This is a fundamental misconception of the nature of human rights reporting. It is also a convenient one since it would render it all but impossible for anyone without the resources of government at their disposal to meet such an artificial threshold and thus trigger the responsibility of government to investigate. In fact, the task of a human rights investigation is to obtain credible and well-founded information which is sufficient to give rise to an obligation on the part of the government to undertake its own comprehensive, impartial, and effective investigation of all such allegations. Human rights reports are not required to demonstrate as a prosecutor must, or judge as a court would. But that does not mean that their contents can be ignored by the police or other relevant government agencies.

Another important preliminary issue concerns the atrocities committed by militias, armed criminals and organised crime gangs in Kenya.

There is no doubt in my mind that such criminal groups have committed the gravest of offences and have terrorised the citizens of Kenya. This knowledge was reinforced in my many meetings with the victims of such criminal groups. But the existence of criminality does not explain or excuse killings by government forces. All governments have to deal with criminals, and it is one of the central duties of a government to protect its citizens from such persons. But a democratic government operating under the rule of law does not respond to terror with more terror. Surely we have moved beyond the point where it needs to be stated that the proper response to criminality is not to shoot a suspect in the back of the head and dump the body in a forest, but to investigate, arrest, and try the suspect in accordance with law.

[for details, including a section on killings by police, police death squads, lack of accountability for police killings, the broader context, violence in Mt. Elgon district, post-election violence, witness protection, and preliminary recommendations, see Alston's full report at]

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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