The Missing Voices coalition, consisting of 16 civil rights groups whose mission is to end disappearances and killings in Kenya, met Sunday with mothers of victims and other survivors of police abuse in Nairobi. The coalition also launched “They Were Us,” a book on the subject. The coalition said it documented 119 police killings and 23 enforced disappearances between January and September 2021. Police deny the accusations.
Forty-eight-year-old Lilian Njeri’s son and two others were killed in May 2018, allegedly by police in the Kiamaiko area of Nairobi.
“After the killing of my son, I wanted to commit suicide. My other son asked me who would take care of him if I killed myself. I drank a lot. Since I joined the women’s network whose children were killed, it helped me heal and defend others,” she said.
The mother of two said she reported the matter to the Independent Police Oversight Authority, or the IPOA, a body mandated to check on the work of the police. The IPOA advised Njeri to file the case with the other two victims, in hopes of bolstering the investigation and getting convictions. However, Njeri says she is still looking for one of the mothers.
In September, five officers were charged in Nairobi with murder over the death of a man killed in September 2018. The man was arrested for possessing illegal alcohol and IPOA investigators concluded that he died of multiple injuries inflicted with blunt force. The court ordered the officers involved to be held until December 6.
Last month, the chairperson of IPOA, Anne Makori, told Kenyan editors the court is handling 98 cases of police abuses against the public. Since 2010 IPOA said there have been eight police convictions.
The Missing Voices consortium, a group investigating unlawful killings, said 167 people were killed or disappeared in 2020.It says 157 of those deaths were as a result of police killings.
Kenya’s police spokesperson Bruno Shioso says these allegations are unfounded.
“It’s wrong to say police have killed youths because we don’t have that data, that information. These are wild allegations but when you tell them to come forward and bring proof or something tangible about nobody comes. So, it is very hard for us to react to something without any evidence. But we tell people if they are sure the police are complicit in any criminal undertaking let them come forward, let them make a formal report to us and we pick it from there if they can’t come to us, they can go to the oversight authorities,” he said.
Aileen Wanjiku works with Missing Voices, the organizer of Sunday’s book launch, shining a light on the stories of police victims. She told VOA most families have yet to see justice for the deaths of their loved ones.
“There is a challenge and problem even getting investigated, just pushing it in a court is an issue and when we get to court, there is that delayed justice… So, the reason many of these cases haven’t been investigated, pushed or documented it’s because a lot of witnesses don’t want to come forward because the protection of witnesses is lacking significantly. So, you see cases where witnesses are killed for coming forward,” said Wanjiku.
Josephine Akoth, 50, is one of those featured in the 64-page book. Her son, Sylvester Onyango, disappeared in August 2015. The mother of six recalls that on the day he vanished, massive police operations were taking place in the Dandora area, an eastern suburb in Nairobi, and its surroundings where he worked as a public bus driver.
Akoth says she has gone through a lot, and she is requesting the government to help her search for her son and to help her know whether he is alive or dead. She says even if he has died, she would like to know where he was killed. At least she can collect the remains and bury them, she says.
Last month, 16 mutilated bodies were retrieved in Garissa County from the River Tana, the longest river in the country. Hundreds of families went to the area in hopes of identify the remains of missing loved ones.