Over 450 Kenyans died in execution-style killings in 5 months, says rights group

NAIROBI, Kenya: More than 450 young Kenyan men have been executed in the last 5 months, said a report Monday by a state-funded national human rights group whose head also questioned why police had not stopped the killings.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights linked the slayings to a war between police and a violent street gang accused of a string of beheadings and fatal shootings earlier this year.

The state-funded commission’s preliminary report stopped short of directly blaming the police for the deaths, but said the notoriously corrupt force was linked by “circumstantial evidence.” Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe slammed the allegation as “total nonsense.”

The group said the majority of the deceased were shot in the head before being deposited in mortuaries around the country. The victims were all from Kenya’s largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, and lived in the tribe’s traditional strongholds north of Nairobi and several slums in the capital.

The violent Mungiki gang, an outlawed quasi-political sect, draws its support from thousands of unemployed Kikuyu youth. Mungiki, whose name means “multitude” in Kikuyu, has been linked in recent years to extortion, murder and political violence. Its members also promote traditional Kikuyu practices, including female genital mutilation.

“The obvious question to ask is, if the police are themselves not responsible, why have they been unwilling or unable to investigate and curb the killings?” said the commission’s chairman, Maina Kiai. He said police had been lax in following up tips passed on by residents, and refused to collect some of the bodies after their presence had been reported, leaving them to hyenas and other wild animals.

“Which citizen or organized criminal group would have the wherewithal and courage to ferry corpses for dumping on our roads, which are mounted with police checks after every few kilometers on a 24 hours basis?” asked Kiai.

During its investigations, the commission said it had met “all layers of the police hierarchy with obfuscation, stonewalling, disinterest and outright denial of any knowledge of the killings and dumping of the bodies.”

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said: “We invite anybody who have information about any killings to come to us. We will investigate it.” He declined to comment on the commission’s figure of 454 Kenyans killed in execution-style murders or provide a police tally.

The government outlawed Mungiki in 2002 after its members beheaded 21 people in a Nairobi slum following a turf war with a rival group called the Taliban, which drew its members from the Luo community.

The commission said it had established that 454 bodies were registered in city mortuaries between June and Oct. 22. Most were identified as “unknown” people, despite relatives having claimed some of the bodies.

The report called on the government to put measures into place to prevent any further executions or disappearances and urged it to establish an international panel of police experts to investigate the killings, catch the perpetrators and grant victims or their families adequate reparations.

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AP, via the International Herald Tribune, USA
Nov. 5, 2007

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This post was last updated: Nov. 6, 2007