DCI, DPP under fire over handling of anti-tax protest suspects

Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters in Kiambu Road, Nairobi pictured on March 28, 2024.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) have once again been put on the spot over their handling of suspects in the ongoing nationwide anti-government protests.

The DCI has come under public scrutiny for shoddy investigations before the arrest of people suspected of looting during the anti-government protests.

The DPP has also come under criticism for preferring false and ridiculous charges against some of the suspects.

Police say they have already arrested more than 270 people who were disguised as protesters but went on a criminal rampage during the anti-government protests.

Widespread looting and property damage were reported during the youth-led demonstrations in various cities across the country, which security officials say were infiltrated by "goons".

The protests were initially peaceful but degenerated into anarchy and police suspect that goons infiltrated the demonstrations and went on a vandalism and looting spree.

Normally, the DCI is supposed to rely on concrete evidence, including CCTV footage and identification parades.

However, their recent crackdown on the alleged "goons" shows the DCI relying on unconventional sources, including social media, in their investigations, which has drawn sharp criticism.

On Wednesday, for example, the DCI was left with an egg on its face after it was forced to apologise for mistakenly publishing the face of a Kisii-based pastor as one of those wanted for looting during the protests.

Pastor Dennis Basweti's face was published alongside 38 others who were allegedly involved in lawlessness during the protests against the Finance Bill.

"As the manhunt for wanted suspects involved in criminal activities during the anti-Finance Bill 2024 protests continues, the DCI wishes to exonerate Mr Dennis Basweti, whose photo was wrongly listed among the wanted persons. We have established that the circulated photos of him as one of those who occupied parliament during the protests period had been taken earlier on June 10, 2024, where he had visited (Parliament) upon the invitation of his Member of Parliament Sylvanus Osoro," reads part of a statement by the DCI on their social media platforms.

"The DCI has since confirmed that the face of Mr Dennis Basweti was wrongly captured and has reached out to him with an apology."

Investigators said they had mistaken Basweti for one of the protesters who had illegally entered parliament.

A month ago, Basweti had taken photos and videos of his visit to South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro, who is also the Chief Whip of the National

Assembly, and posted them on social media.

The photos were later circulated on social media and portrayed as having been taken during the invasion of parliament by protesters.

This indicates that the DCI detectives picked the photos from social media without due diligence before posting them on their sites.

The admission that they published the wrong person's face among the wanted criminals has exposed the DCI and raised questions about their investigations and the evidence they relied on.

While publishing the faces of the 38 suspects, the DCI asked members of the public to call the Fichua Kwa DCI hotline number 0800-7222-03 with any information that could lead to their arrest.

Information can also be sent to the police hotline numbers 999, 911 or 112.
This is not the first time the DCI has been criticised for publishing false photographs.

In March 2023, the DCI published fake photos taken more than 15 years ago, claiming they were from the opposition Azimio anti-government protests the previous week.

Investigations by Nation.Africa revealed that some of those photos were old and could not be linked to the unrest.

In addition, some of the photos were taken in other countries, while others were manipulated to create a fake image of the situation on the ground.

The DPP has also come under fire after prosecutors made mistakes in filing charges against people arrested during the protests.

On Wednesday, a court in Nyahururu released a man accused of chanting anti-Ruto slogans during Tuesday's protests.

Nyahururu Principle Magistrate Evans Kiogo cited a lack of sufficient evidence.

In a redacted charge sheet, the man identified as Robert Maina Ndung’u was charged at the Nyahururu magistrate's court on July 3 for chanting "Ruto Must Go" and other anti-government slogans.

The charge sheet, seen by the Nation, reads: "On June 25, 2024, at the Nyahururu Police Station within Laikipia County, jointly with others not before the court, without lawful excuse, uttered and published the words ‘Ruto must go’, an act which was prejudicial to public peace, order and tranquillity."

According to the charge sheet, the words amounted to incitement to violence and insubordination contrary to Section 96 of the Penal Code.

Kenyans and legal experts have expressed concern over the charge, which they say does not exist.

"Shouting 'Ruto must go' is not an offence. This was an abuse of prosecutorial power by state prosecutors. Kenyans have freedom of expression as allowed by the Constitution 2010, which should not be curtailed," lawyer Dominic Munge told the Nation.

"How is shouting 'Ruto must go' a criminal offence? Which year is this?" asked social media user James Kinyua.

In Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, the High Court on Wednesday reduced the bond of a man charged with stealing Sh37 million worth of goods from Sh10 million to Sh150,000.

Initially, the man had been granted a bond of Sh10 million by a lower court. However, on Wednesday, the High Court in Eldoret revised the bond to Sh150,000 with one surety with an alternative cash bail of Sh200,000.

The accused, Jonathan Paul Mutua, was charged with breaking and entering and committing an offence contrary to section 306 (a) of the Penal Code on June 25, 2024 at Kibulgeny, Uasin Gishu County.

According to the charge sheet, Mutua and others not before the court broke into Baniyas Club Square and allegedly stole items valued at Sh37,093,690.

The list included TV screens, electronics, sound systems, kitchen equipment and gas cylinders, office equipment, computers and printers, restaurant furniture, freezers, microwaves, utensils, assorted meat, food and drinks.

According to the charge sheet, Mutua was later found in possession of some of the electronics.

He denied the charges.