Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Just in case you forgot

It would be impossible for anyone with an internet connection to have ignored the trial of Derek Chauvin, the policeman accused of murdering George Floyd, in Minnesota. Mr Floyd was accused of passing off  counterfeit twenty dollar bill by a shopkeeper. Mr Chauvin, allegedly attempting to restrain Mr Floyd during his arrest, knelt on Mr Floyd's neck for nine minutes until he choked to death. It as all filmed by a bystander, a child who couldn't do anything more to help Mr Floyd. Mr Floyd's killing led to protests, protests that were met by police violence, and which in turn led to riots. This is not what happens in Kenya.

Josphat Mwenda was assaulted by the police. He sought the protection of the law and sued the police for the assault. In his suit, by which he was asking for the dismissal of his assailant from the police service, he was represented by Willie Kimani. On the fateful day, Joseph Muiruri drove Willie and Josphat to court and waited for them to return. After court, all three were abducted by policemen, unlawfully detained, and murdered. The murders took place in 2016. Five years later, the trial of the four police who murdered Josphat Mwenda, Willie Kimani and Joseph Muiruri have not been concluded. The murders led to demonstrations organised by civil society. The demonstrations petered out in days. The murders have long receded from the public conscience. In Kenya, police almost always get away with murder.

Since those murders, not much has taken place to reform the police or policing. Indeed, as we have come to experience during the pandemic, the police have become more brazen and reckless. The police have murdered children in the name of suppressing post-election violence and enforcing curfew orders. Nothing seems to have been done to punish the police that murdered children. The police have been accused of murdering un-housed Kenyans for violating curfew orders. In my opinion, because the victim was poor and "of no fixed abode", his murderers will get away with their crime.

The Law Society, which could be counted on in the past to say and do something to hold some of the violators of the law to account, is as silent as the sphinx. Its presidents - what an asinine title - are prone to self-publicity if it serves their narrow political ends but are loath to rouse themselves when the victims are the marginalised and un-seen. And where the Law Society leads, the rest of civil society follows. It is shocking how little the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the International Commission of Jurists - Kenya Chapter, and the Independent Medico-legal Unit have done to keep the murders of Willie Kimani, Josphat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri in the public conscience.

This attitude, this casual disregard for the rule of law, respect for the law, equal protection of the law, due process of the law - this contempt for the people, their constitution and their laws - is a reflection of the men and women we have charged to govern and lead. It is reflected especially starkly in the elected leadership of this country and cascaded to every man and woman with a pot to piss in. Titans of industry, ministers of faith, favoured "thought leaders" in their ivory towers, and leading lights of Government get away with murder and all manner of crimes because they are the elite. And as they do so does the police that serves their interests. It is why four police saw it as a possibility that they could abduct three Kenyans in broad daylight from the precincts of law courts, detain them, torture them, murder them and get away with it. They knew that they would be protected. They knew that civil society would forget, if it even bothered to acknowledge the monstrousness of the thing. I thought someone needed to remind us where we were and what we were. Lest we had forgotten.

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