Wednesday, June 23, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

June 22, 2010

Nairobi, Kenya

Television cameras didn’t lie. Eye witnesses didn’t lie. Journalists covering the Kisumu riots didn’t lie. Yet, one constable Edward Kirui, the policeman who chased and shot unarmed teenagers at close range and kicked their lifeless bodies is a free man; courtesy of Kenya’s legendary justice system. What callousness can this be? What kind of justice is this?

As the good judge ordered Kirui freed for lack of credible evidence for the murder of William Onyango and Ismael Chacha, the family of the man that epitomized police brutality in 2008 post election violence burst out in jubilation claiming that at last justice had been done.

To the eye witnesses that saw the horror of the shooting in cold blood; to the world that saw it played on international networks over and over again, that scene will remain engraved in their memories.

This trial can only confirm one thing; that the judicial system is in tatters. It is naked justice that knows no shame or conscience. It is not even blind justice. It is rotten justice where the common man can be shot dead like an animal and the aggressor will never face justice. It is testimony why there have been so many police killings in our slums and rural areas without any one of them facing the law.

The Kisumu case was interesting and even intriguing in many ways. First, the suspect was positively identified by his own colleagues that investigated the double murder. He was caught on camera shooting and kicking the helpless kids at close range. Yes, the gun the bullets he had that day did not match the spent cartridges found on the scene of the shooting. Yet those were the exhibits that were presented to the court by the prosecution.

The question to ask is this: Doesn’t basic police training in investigating a crime of this nature require the guns and bullets to go for ballistic testing to confirm that indeed they are the same weapons that indeed were used? If ballistic tests were done and the weapons, cartridges and all were found not to match, why were they presented at the trial as exhibits? Since there were eye witnesses to the grisly murder including recorded tapes of that macabre act, how come the judge allowed the villain off the hook even when he had strong suspicion that the investigating officers might have knowingly switched the weapons to save the skin of one of their own?

This case has reminded me of my personal experience at Makadara court in Nairobi nearly ten years ago. In my case, a bugler was caught red-handed in broad day light loading all my electronic belongings into a sack. The police were called, he was arrested and charged. There were ten witnesses that testified against him. We had enough exhibits to send him to prison for a long time. In the end the man went scot-free due “for lack of sufficient evidence” if you know what I mean. It happens all the time in our lives in this country.

The Kirui case has reminded us of one truth. When police kill our relatives in cold blood, it is foolhardy to imagine that they can investigate themselves and hang themselves on our behalf. Their first loyalty is to their comrades. Trusting in them to investigate cases that involve them is like asking a cattle rustler who has run away with your cattle to help you find them. Chances are that he will lead you in the opposite direction. This is what the Kisumu crime busters have done for the Onyango and Chacha families.

As the family of Kirui celebrated their victory, where were the families of Onyango and Chacha? Were they not worth the mention in this flawed justice? Did anybody remember the agony they have gone through waiting for the elusive justice for the past two years? Didn’t they matter in this process?

Yes, Constable Edward Kirui may have gone free but what is the worth of that freedom when deep down in his heart he knows he murdered those unarmed Kenyans in cold blood? When all is said and done, the innocence of a known murderer amounts to nothing if not more tormented soul.

The Kisumu fiasco is a clear testimony that the judicial process, all the way from the police to the justice is rotten to the bone. Now ordinary Kenyans can confirm that there is no justice for the common man in our system. We therefore must resolve that those crying for justice arising from the post election mayhem must look elsewhere for justice. That place is in The Hague.