Kenyan police accused of killing activists

University of Nairobi students demonstrate on Uhuru Highway in Nairobi on March 10, 2009 following the shooting of one their colleagues. The US believes the Kenyan Government was behind the killing of Oscar King'ara and John Paul Oulu. Photo/FILE

On the second anniversary of the death of two human rights activists in Nairobi, the US believes the government was behind the unsolved killings, according to leaked diplomatic cables.

Mr Oscar Kamau King’ara and Mr John Paul Oulu of the Oscar Foundation were shot dead on March 5, 2009, hours after government spokesman Alfred Mutua accused the group of aiding the outlawed Mungiki sect.

They were killed in their car near State House. (READ: Varsity student killed in standoff with police)

In the latest cables released by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, US ambassador Michael Ranneberger told his superiors in Washington that the two were shot dead by government undercover security agents.

Human rights groups had said they would hold the government responsible for the deaths and demanded speedy investigations into the killings.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga also condemned the killings. The UN investigator of extra-judicial killings in Kenya, Mr Philip Alston, at the time also pointed a finger at the police.

“Just five hours before the killing, GOK spokesman Alfred Mutua had branded the Oscar Foundation a front for Mungiki activities, and accused the organisation of fundraising abroad for the group. We do not find the GOK’s accusation credible,” the cable reads.

The cable recorded witness accounts of the killings, which suggested that Mr King’ara and Mr Oulu were shot by two well-dressed men who emerged from a matatu that had blocked their car.

A bystander was wounded in the incident the US classified as an assassination. The two shooters then fled in a car.

King’ara died on the spot while University of Nairobi students rushed Oulu to the university hospital, where he died 30 minutes later.

According to Mr Ranneberger, at the time of their deaths, the two men were travelling to meet a Kenya National Commission of Human Rights official, Kamanda Mucheke, to discuss a common strategy to deny the government’s accusation.

Mucheke, too, is said to have received threats. “Mucheke told Poloff (a political officer at the US embassy) that he had received threatening SMS messages and that police contacts had advised him to lay low and change his residence, travel routines, and his car.”

In a statement from the US embassy in Nairobi, Mr Rannnerberger offered to the government “effective immediately, the service of the Federal Bureau of Investigations to assist in the investigations” into the killings.

Whether the government accepted the offer is not stated in the cable. The envoy was emphatic that the murders were a big test on the credibility of the coalition government, particularly with respect to its commitment to end the culture of impunity. He called for a full and credible investigation into the killings.

On Sunday, lawyer and former Kikuyu MP Paul Muite accused the government of failing to bring to justice those responsible for the murders.

“Right now we are trying to stop the ICC, the next issue might be the extra-judicial killings,” Mr Muite said.