The question that the State has failed to answer is who has the powers and capability to kidnap people at will for whatever reason.

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Spotlight on State agents as 34 missing in six months 

What you need to know:

  • The number of terror suspects who have disappeared in 2021 stands at 34, rights group Haki Africa says.
  • These disappearances and probable deaths have been linked to security agencies.

Thirty-four and counting. This is the number of people, mostly suspected terrorists, their sympathisers and criminals, who have gone missing in the last six months, human rights groups say. 

Their disappearances and probable deaths have been linked to security agencies.

Although the Inspector-General of police and the Attorney-General will only speak about the two latest disappearances - terror suspect Elgiva Bwire and his lawyer Hassan Nandwa - when they appear in court today, the fact that the State is being asked to explain the disappearances was a long time coming.

It is not known whether IG Hillary Mutyambai or AG Kihara Kariuki will show up at the constitutional court or send representatives as ordered by Justice Anthony Mrima on Monday.

Justice Mrima made the order in a case where the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has sued the Inspector-General of police and the AG over the disappearance of Prof Nandwa and his client.

What is clear, however, is that protests are growing louder over enforced disappearances and the approach by the State is increasingly taking, where judicial procedures are avoided in the name of fighting crime and terror.

According to the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU), 764 cases of extrajudicial killings have been documented and are suspected to have been carried out by security agencies in the name of fighting terror. More than 70 percent have been described as “summary executions”.

The number of terror suspects who have disappeared in 2021 stands at 34, rights group Haki Africa says. This is almost double the 18 who disappeared last year.

Ahead of the court hearing today, LSK and Muslim leaders yesterday petitioned the AG, the Inspector-General of police and the Speaker of the National Assembly to end extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

“There has to be a general stop to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, as they have been prevalent in the country. A task force should be established to specifically investigate enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings,” they say in their petition.

“We further invite the National Assembly to take all the necessary steps to have Kenya ratify and adopt the ‘International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance’.” 

Police spokesperson Bruno Shioso, while receiving the petition on behalf of the IG, said the National Police Service had no hand in the cases but was aware of the disappearances and that the cases were being investigated.

“As a law enforcement agency, we want to ensure that for all people who are missing proper investigations are carried out so that they are found and they go back to their families,” Mr Shioso said.

The question that the State has failed to answer is who has the powers and capability to kidnap people at will for whatever reason using vehicles without registered number plates and cannot be found and made to face justice.

Abducted at gunpoint

And there are examples around the country of recent disappearances. In Mombasa, the family of a 22-year-old university student, who has a Sh10 million bounty on his head over links to Al-Shabaab terrorists, is demanding answers from the government over his whereabouts.

Muhamad Abubakar Said, alias Minshawary, was allegedly abducted at gunpoint on October 14 in the Seven-Up area of Majengo, Nairobi, after attending Ishaa prayers at Masjid Azhar at around 8:30pm and has not been seen.

Yesterday, his family expressed shock when they heard that their relative is a terror suspect that police say is armed and dangerous. 

Zahara Mohamed, the mother of the Umma University student, dismissed allegations that her son is a terrorist or is connected to the Somalia-based fighters.

“My son has never been armed or crossed the border to Somalia for any reason,” she said.

Speaking at her home in Majengo, the distraught woman said her son has been wrongly and mistakenly linked to the militants.

She said he had been tortured by his abductors to the extent that his face was deformed.

“We have seen the poster bearing his image. His face is swollen, it seems he has been seriously assaulted and injured,” she said.

Mr Muhamad’s cousin, Abdulrahman Said, has pointed accusing fingers at security agencies, noting that they are responsible for his disappearance.

He dismissed claims that Mr Muhamad had at any time in his life crossed the border to Somalia or engaged in suspicious activities.

“We know Muhamad is in police custody, so please release him. There is no need to put a Sh10 million bounty on his head because the government knows where he is,” he said.

“Why are they claiming he has crossed the border to Somalia? Have they taken him there? He has never travelled outside this country before,” he added.

The cash reward offered by the police for any information that could lead to his arrest, the family says, is just a clever way for the service to distance itself from the abduction and disappearance.

“We want a proper explanation from the government on his whereabouts. We are asking that he be returned home, where he was picked from,” claimed Said.

Released by abductors

“We have so many photos of him that he took before his abduction. The one posted on social media shows he has been seriously tortured.”

The family claims that their Mr Muhamad was bundled into one of the three cars his abductors were using before being driven off at high speed.

The family reported the matter at the Central Police Station under OB Number 16/15/10/2021 a day after he disappeared.

Mr Muhamad is among four terror suspects on whom Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti has offered a reward of Sh10 million for information that could lead to their arrest.

The suspects are Elgiva Bwire Oliacha, alias Seif Deen; Barigi Abdikadir Haila; Trevor Ndwiga, alias Idriss Jamal; and Salim Rashid Mohamed.

Mr Kinoti says Mr Oliacha, who disappeared shortly after serving 10-year jail terms at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison for terror-related offences, is planning a retaliatory attack in Kenya against civilians and security personnel.

“He has gone underground and is believed to be planning to carry out attacks. The NPS informs members of the public that Mr Oliacha is armed and dangerous and appeals for information regarding his whereabouts,” the DCI said on Twitter.

The DCI also wants help to arrest Mr Rashid, an alleged Islamic State (Isis) follower that he claims is planning to sneak into Kenya to carry out a terrorist attack.

Mr Rashid, a butcher, jumped bail after he was charged with terror-related offences in a Mombasa court. He is believed to be the leader of the Isis wing terrorising people in Mozambique.

“Mr Rashid was out on bond over terrorism charges and is suspected to have joined Daesh/Islamic State terrorist group in Mozambique,” Mr Kinoti said.

Mr Jamal hails from the Hamza area of Makadara in Nairobi. He was also out on bond over terror-related offences.

According to Missing Voices Kenya, 105 people have been killed by the police or disappeared this year.

The site, run by a group of organisations seeking to shed light on extrajudicial killings in Kenya, recorded seven alleged police killings in separate incidents in January.

Enforced disappearances

In February, nine cases of alleged police killings were reported and one enforced disappearance.

In March, 13 killings were reported, including two enforced disappearances as a result of six separate incidents.

In April, seven cases were reported involving five separate incidents.

In June, 20 killings and three enforced disappearances were recorded from 15 separate incidents.

The killings peaked in August, when 22 cases of police killings were reported as a result of 21 incidents.

In September, there were eight reported police killings as a result of six incidents.

Some 69 percent of the killings were reportedly committed during anti-crime operations, including anti-terror operations with Nairobi, accounting for most deaths by police and enforced disappearances.

Of the identified cases, only 28 are pending in courts. Among the people who have allegedly been abducted by the police this year is Bakari Mbwana, a butchery salesman in Likoni. He was allegedly grabbed by men in police uniforms and two unidentified white men on February 24. He is still missing.

Others are Newton Kibra, Michael Kimani, Bakari Hassan, Salim Ndegwa and Benedicto Kago Mugure, who were allegedly abducted on March 27 by officers who broke into their homes and left with them. Their families filed missing-person reports only for them to be killed inside a residential room in Bombolulu, Kisauni.

Kisauni sub-county police Commander Daniel Masaba confirmed the killings, saying the men were suspected robbers.

On April 19, Elijah Obuong (35), Benjamin Amache (30), Brian Oduor (36) and Jack Anyango Ochieng (37) disappeared after having lunch at Enkare club in Kitengela.

They were bundled into a Toyota Prado and were reported missing, until May when their bodies were found handcuffed and floating in gunny bags in the Thika river in Kiunyu village and the Mukungai river in Mathioya sub-county.

Tairmur Kariuki Hussein was arrested by Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) officers on June 11 and charged.

He was released on June 28 after being declared innocent. Soon after his release, he was again abducted and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Terror-related charges

Abulhakim Sagara, a businessman, was reportedly abducted by security agents driving a car with registration number KBQ 035C at Mlango wa Papa in Mombasa.

In 2018, Mr Sagara had been arrested alongside two others on terror-related charges but was released on bond by a Shanzu court, which ordered him to report to the ATPU offices in Mombasa every month.

But a video clip shows him being bundled into the car to an unknown destination. He is still missing.

Abdalla Jaffer, a businessman, was allegedly abducted by about 20 ATPU officers on claims that he was an Al-Shabaab militant on the night of July 18.

The officers allegedly found him enjoying his evening shower but removed him from the bathroom and assaulted him while he was naked. He is reportedly still missing.

Mohammed Kasim, a tout and fishmonger, was allegedly abducted by unknown armed men believed to be police officers from his home in Soko Mjinga, Mombasa, on July 15.

Radhi Awadh, a tout, was reportedly abducted by unknown armed men believed to be police officers from his home in Soko Mjinga, Mombasa, on July 19.

The men are said to have broken down Mr Awadh’s door before ordering everyone to lie down and arresting him. He is still missing.

Others include 28-year-old Abubakar Muhammad, who is reported to have been abducted by armed people in a double-cabin pickup with registration number KCM 694N after he left prayers in Majengo, Mombasa County.
Mr Dahir Osman was allegedly kidnapped after prayers at a mosque in Eastleigh.

Yassir Mahmoud Ahmed was allegedly dragged from the county government ambulance he was driving by officers “in full Kenyan military and police gear” in a GK-registered vehicle. Orders from the Malindi High Court to have him produced in court have continuously been ignored.

Additionally, the identities of 16 bodies retrieved from the Tana River between July and September remain unknown even as the families of 14 people reportedly abducted by the police in Garissa from October last year say they are still missing.