Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

UN urges probe into Kenya murders

Oscar Kamau Kingara (left) talking to police officers (image: Oscar Foundation website)
Oscar Kingara's foundation last year accused police of killing thousands

A UN investigator of extra-judicial killings in Kenya has called for an international inquiry into the murder of two human rights activists.

Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulo were shot dead on Thursday, hours after a government spokesman accused their group of aiding a criminal gang.

Kenyan human rights groups say they hold the government responsible for the deaths - a claim denied by police.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odina also condemned the killings.

"I fear we are flirting with lawlessness in the name of keeping law and order. In the process, we are hurtling towards failure as a state," said Mr Odinga, who joined a coalition government last year.

The eyewitnesses on the scene saw the two vehicles create a jam, stop the traffic until they came out, gunned down these two human rights officers
Cyprian Nyamwamu

The police denied any government involvement in the killings.

But UN investigator Philip Alston said that in the circumstances, suspicion was bound to fall on the Kenyan police.

"It is extremely troubling when those working to defend human rights in Kenya can be assassinated in broad daylight in the middle of Nairobi," said Mr Alston, who last week released a report accusing Kenya's police of involvement in extra-judicial killings.

Mr Kingara is one of those who gave evidence to Mr Alston.

"This constitutes a major threat to the rule of law, regardless of who might be responsible for the killings," said the UN investigator.

Stones surround the area where a university student was killed in Nairobi
A student was shot dead during protests about the assassinations

Mr Alston's report called for Kenya's top policeman and the attorney general to resign for failing to address police impunity.

Mr Kingara and Mr Oulu were shot dead in their car near State House, the official residence of the Kenyan president.

Afterwards a student was shot dead in a riot sparked by the killings.

Police Commissioner Hussein Ali says three policemen have been arrested in connection with the student's death.

He said he would make a statement about Mr Kingara's shooting in a couple of weeks after a comprehensive investigation.

Point-blank range

But Mr Alston says only an independent investigation will do.


"It is imperative, if the Kenya police are to be exonerated, for an independent team called from somewhere like Scotland Yard or the South African police to investigate," he said.

US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger said Washington was offering the services of the FBI to catch the perpetrators.

"The murders are a serious attack on human rights in Kenya," Mr Ranneberger said in a statement.

According to Mr Alston, the two human rights defenders were on their way to a meeting with a senior officer of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights when they were shot at point-blank range whilst sitting in heavy traffic.

The killings have outraged the human rights community.

"The human rights community in Kenya holds the government fully and wholly responsible for the assassinations," Cyprian Nyamwamu of the Kenya Human Rights Consortium told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Students react to the killings

"These two colleagues, members of the Oscar Foundation, are genuine, established, renowned human rights defenders," he said.

Mr Nyamwamu said there had been no attempt to save the men.

"The eyewitnesses on the scene saw the two vehicles create a jam, stop the traffic until they came out, gunned down these two human rights officers and paraded and ensured that nobody took these two to hospital until they were dead."


He said the police only arrived on the scene two hours later.

Banned in 2002
Thought to be ethnic Kikuyu militants
Mungiki means multitude in Kikuyu
Inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s
Claim to have more than 1m followers
Promote female circumcision and oath-taking
Believed to be linked to high-profile politicians
Control public transport routes, extorting money
Accused of beheading police informers

"This is just one kilometre away from the central police station in Nairobi. It's not in the bush," he said.

Mr Kingara's Oscar Foundation Free Legal Aid Clinic published a report last year, which said that 8,040 young Kenyans have been executed or tortured to death since 2002 in a police crackdown on a gang known as the Mungiki.

"It is a front so they can be able to carry out their activities," Alfred Mutua said.

Mainly drawn from President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group, the Mungiki run transport rackets in the capital and are seen by some as a Kenyan version of the mafia.

Mr Mutua spoke as members of the sect led protests against police violence in the capital Nairobi and other towns.

They were calling for Mr Alston's recommendations to be implemented.

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