Kenya police watchdog says investigating at least 28 election-related deaths

by Reuters

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FILE PHOTO: Anti riot policemen beat protesters to disperse them in Mathare, in Nairobi, Kenya August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

NAIROBI – A Kenya police monitor has begun investigating at least 28 deaths following last week’s disputed elections, and investigators have already attended the autopsies of a young girl and a baby allegedly killed by the police, officials said on Thursday.

The government-funded but civilian-run Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) is fast-tracking investigations of all deaths and injuries attributed to the police following the elections, its head, Macharia Njeru, told Reuters in an interview.

“Investigation teams have already started work,” Njeru said. “All the post mortems that are being carried out on anybody who may have died … we are attending.”

Protests broke out after the election board announced that incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta had won by 1.4 million votes. Opposition leader Raila Odinga disputes the figure and on Thursday announced he is taking his case to the Supreme Court.

Deaths the police watchdog is investigating that are linked to the elections include individual complaints, those reported by police and those referred to them by human rights organizations.

Njeru declined to give a total, saying they were still gathering details.

But the government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said on Wednesday that at least 28 people had been killed in violence nationwide since the Aug. 8 elections. All were shootings they believed were linked to the police, said George Morara Monyocho, vice chairman of the commission.

“We forwarded all the cases to IPOA,” he said. “Our investigators have gone to various places, the mortuaries, and interviewed witnesses. We are using our own processes for verification.”

The 28 deaths did not include that of an 18-year-old student who died after a police beating witnessed by his mother and at least two neighbors, he said, indicating the toll could rise.

PUBLIC PROSECUTORS

Macharia Njeru, chairman of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), speaks during a Reuters interview in his office in Nairobi, Kenya August 17, 2017.Thomas Mukoya

Acting Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i has said police only killed thieves and thugs. But two deaths under investigation were those of children killed at home.

The parents of six-month-old Samantha Pendo said she was teargassed and clubbed by police who invaded their home in the western city of Kisumu looking for protesters.

Stephanie Moraa, an 8-year-old girl in the Nairobi slum of Mathare, died on Saturday after being hit by a stray bullet as police fired to disperse protesters.

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“The investigations teams are already on [the] ground in those two cases,” Njeru said. “They are priority cases … The government is as interested in the conclusion [of the cases] as we are.”

Investigators attended Moraa’s autopsy and are interviewing relatives and witnesses in both cases, Njeru said. Four public prosecutors have been seconded to IPOA to help, he said.

Dr. Sam Oula at the Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu told Reuters that Pendo’s autopsy on Thursday found the baby died from blunt trauma to the brain. IPOA investigators attended, he said.

IPOA was established by the government in 2011, after police drew criticism for killing many protesters after the disputed elections of 2007.

It struggled with funding and police cooperation in its first few years but secured its first conviction last year, Njeru said. Two officers were sentenced to seven years after a 14-year-old girl was shot dead during a house raid in coastal Kwale County in 2014.

The watchdog has another 47 cases in court.

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