Two police officers accused of torturing two young men in Kericho County three weeks ago over claims of theft are still free, though one of the youths succumbed to his injuries.
Leonard Kipyegon Ngeno was pronounced dead on arrival at Kericho County Referral Hospital on January 3 after allegedly being beaten by the officers.
One of the officers was said to be Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony’s bodyguard while the other is a prison warden in Kitui County.
Mr Ngeno was buried on Friday last week in Manwein village, Ainamoi constituency, as the family demanded justice for the victims.
Emmanuel Kiprotich, the other youth who suffered serious injuries at the hands of the two officers in Kapkukerwet ward, also in Ainamoi, has obtained a medical report and recorded a statement at the Kericho Police Station.
Mr Kiprotich and Mr Ngeno were allegedly rounded up at Brooke Secondary School and Brooke trading centre, respectively, by the officers and tortured over claims they were involved in the theft of beehives last year at the home of the policeman attached to the politician.
The two were then allegedly dumped in a bush near a river, where women fetching water and firewood stumbled on them and raised the alarm.
Mr Kiprotich suffered serious injuries and was treated at Kericho County Referral Hospital and discharged after four days. He was readmitted three days later when his condition deteriorated. He has since been discharged and is recuperating at home.
The family has asked Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Police Inspector-General Hillary Mutyambai and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti to ensure justice is done.
At Mr Ngeno’s burial, attended by hundreds of residents, mourners demanded action against the officers, who are from the same area.
“It is unfortunate that we are here to bury a young man who was eking out a living for his family before his life was cut short by brutal police officers who tortured and left him to die,” said Mrs Lily Mibei.
It is claimed that the beehives were donated to villagers by the county government under the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture programme, which was rolled out across the country.
Mr Stanley Koech said the family feared for the life of the surviving young man as the suspects were well known to them and had gone underground.
“We want an assurance from the police of Kiprotich’s safety as the officers are said to be armed and dangerous and are still at large. We cannot rest until they have been arrested,” Mr Koech said.
Last week, unknown people attempted to torch the house of one of the officers, but the fire was put out by family members before it could spread to the entire structure.
Kericho County Criminal Investigations Officer John Onyango said police were on the trail of the suspects.
“We have information that the suspects are hiding in a neighbouring county, but I can assure you that they will be arrested soon,” Mr Onyango said.
He said the registration number of the vehicle used to transport the youths before they were tortured had been obtained by investigators.
Mr Martin Koskei, a journalist with Citizen TV and who is based in Kericho County, has recorded a statement at the Kericho Police Station after allegedly receiving threats over the incident.
“I have repeatedly received threatening calls after (reporting on) the incident and I have since recorded a statement as I fear for my life,” said Mr Koskei after recording the statement last week.
The incident has shone the spotlight on police brutality in the area, with claims that the suspects were enjoying protection from their colleagues in service.
Incidents of police brutality in Kericho and Bomet counties generally go unreported, with victims fearing reprisals from the officers.
Most of the officers implicated are attached to police stations in rural areas where some residents may not be fully aware of their rights.