UN's Alston urges independent probe over deaths

Kenya Police Commissioner Hussein Ali addresses the press at Police Headquarters in Nairobi March 06, 2009 . Photo/ANTHONY OMUYA

UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Prof Philip Alston has urged Kenya Government to establish independent investigations into the killing of two prominent human rights activists.

Prof Alston said the way the Oscar Foundation’s officials were killed was likely to raise suspicion upon the police.

“It is extremely troubling when those working to defend human rights in Kenya can be assassinated in broad daylight in the middle of Nairobi … this constitutes a major threat to the rule of law, regardless of who might be responsible for the killings.”

He said it was the responsibility of the government to arrange for independent investigations, given the circumstances.

“It is imperative, if the Kenyan Police are to be exonerated, for an independent team to be called from somewhere like Scotland Yard or the South African Police to investigate”, he added.

But in a rejoinder, Police Commissioner Hussein Ali said local police had cracked murder cases before and the latest one should not be accorded “special treatment.”

Maj Gen Ali, speaking to journalists on Friday at Vigilance House, the police headquarters, said Prof Alston portrayed “activist mentalism,” and his ideas should not be “proscribed to.”

On Thursday evening, the chief executive of Oscar Foundation, Oscar King’ara and its advocacy director John Paul Oulu were gunned down by unknown assailants near the University of Nairobi.

The killings sparked unrest among the university students. Kenya Police spokesman says the students took the bodies into the University’s Halls of Residence and consequently, one student was killed as police fired in their bid to retrieve the body ‘for further investigations.’

The Police Commissioner, however, condemned the varsity students’ killing, saying their initial investigations indicated the use of lethal force during the confrontation was “unprofessional and uncalled for”

Prof Alston, who carried out a fact-finding mission on police extrajudicial killings in Kenya from 16-25 February 2009, said in his report that the killings were “systematic, widespread, and carefully planned”.

He called for the resignation of Police Commissioner Hussein Ali and Attorney General Amos Wako over the killings.

Alston has said he met the two Oscar Foundation’s officials in February 2009, adding that they provided him with testimonies regarding police killings in Nairobi and Central Province.

Oscar Foundation, which has links with the outlawed Mungiki sect, organised Thursday’s widespread protests by the sect members, which paralysed transport and shut down some towns for hours.

The human rights organisation is listed among NGOs under police investigation allegedly for being linked to the outlawed Mungiki sect. Police Commissioner Ali revealed on Friday that several other NGO's are under investigation and said action would be taken against the organisations found culpable once the probe is completed.

“We are not shedding more light now but we shall disclose them once investigations are completed,” he added.

Suspected Mungiki sect members blocked roads on Thursday using hijacked trucks and stones and lit fires, forcing transport operators off the road. They forced businesses to close in several areas.

Some of the towns affected were Nairobi, Kiambu, Nyahururu, Nyeri, Naivasha, Embu, Nakuru and Molo. In Thika, suspected Mungiki adherents were lynched on accusations of extortion and harassment of motorists and traders in the area.