Human rights defenders in Kisumu have raised the alarm on the abduction of activist Boniface Ogutu Akach.
According to the Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCWG), Mr Akach was reportedly abducted on Thursday afternoon by plain-clothed police officers and whisked away to an unknown destination.
“He was abducted Thursday afternoon at Kassagam flyover in Kisumu by six plain-clothed police officers on three motorbikes while on his way to Kisumu Peace and Justice Centre. This is a distressing indication of the growing suppression of fundamental rights and freedoms in our society," read part of a statement by the group.
Mr Akach, who has been documenting police excesses during the ongoing anti-government protests, and the rights activists say his arrest is part of the concerted efforts by authorities to curtail and silence through oppressive measures efforts by activists to question the status quo and stand up for justice.
“The arrest of Boniface Ogutu Akach sends a chilling message to others who dare to question the status quo and stand up for justice”, the statement stated.
It add: “The use of intimidation, harassment, and arbitrary arrests against human rights defenders is a clear violation of the principles of a democratic society and undermines the rule of law. Such actions must be unequivocally denounced and halted if we are to uphold the values that define us as a just and equitable nation.”
Mr Akach’s family has lodged a missing person report at Kassagam Police station under and has demanded his unconditional release.
Kisumu East Police boss Joseph Obara said he had no such information but will check with the OCS of Kassagam where the missing person report was lodged.
“We are highly stressed as a family, our search for him in several police stations has borne no fruit,” said his brother, Mr Victor Onyango.
Mr Onyango said the strain on his young family is evident as his wife remains apprehensive as she is taking care of their one-and-half-year-old baby.
Mr Akach first came into the limelight in 2018 when he held a week-long hunger strike in protest of the government’s handling of fiery lawyer Miguna Miguna, his consequent deportation and what he then termed as the government being unconstitutional.
He has had several run-ins with the authorities over his stand on social justice and his continued monitoring of police brutality. His social media pages are full of images of people who have suffered in the hands of police.
The abduction comes just a day after assailants suspected to be police officers launched an attack on Nyando Social Justice Centre in Ahero, Kisumu.
The mid-morning attack saw the centre that hosts community members, victims and survivors of human rights violations, which is located next to Ahero Police station lobbed with teargas that set it ablaze. Two people who were at the centre at the time escaped unhurt.
Defenders Coalition, a national organisation that champions the safety of rights defenders, condemned the unwarranted attack on human rights activists, calling on investigations to apprehend the perpetrators.
The latest attack, they said, adds to the statistics of activists who have come under attack recently. Last week, Mr Collins K’odhek was attacked by goons who masqueraded as protestors, leaving him with severe injuries that will require surgery.
During Saba Saba demonstrations, Mr Mark ‘Generali’ Amiani, another human rights activist, was also attacked by police who left him with leg injuries.