Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Ghosts of Athi River

Yesterday something remarkable happened. In the full glare of the Press and to a cheering public, the Kenya Police branded a Kenyan citizen "Public Enemy No.1", tracked and executed him in front of his family without according him so much as a court appearance. According to the man's wife, who was a witness to it all, the Police threatened to burn down a house with a pregnant woman and six innocent children inside and when the suspect peacefully gave himself up, he (and an accomplice/friend) were interrogated for 30 minutes before each received a bullet to the back of the head. It was only after he was dead that the Police sent for his father to confirm that they really had gotten their man. Following this, the villagers of Gachie, "determined not to have another Matheri in their midst" as the Standard put it, caught another suspected accomplice, beat him up before setting his body, his house and his belongings on fire.

But, hey, no one wants to rain on the national parade of collective relief and self-congratulation at this rare "success" in the war against crime. No one will ask why our Press, which is meant to give voice to the voiceless, chooses to dismiss out of hand the allegations of Police misconduct and cold-blooded murder levelled by the widow of Simon Matheri Ikeere. No one will question the silence of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission and its normally irrepressible Chairman, Maina Kiai. No one will grieve for Simon, the man known only as "M", and the victim of the Gachie mob; just as no one will shed a tear for the common rights to life, property and due process whose demise we are celebrating today.

We will all cling desperately to the illusion that the above could never happen to us. The Police would never mistakenly or deliberately arrest and kill an innocent man. A mob would never drag us from our homes and lynch us. These guys got what was coming to them. Why waste a judge's time?


Unyc said...

Matheri n his accomplices killed three of my family friends so am just excited that his dead. He brought terror in Kikuyu and trust me it was hell even driving during the day. I cld not sleep knowing my parents were in the same area with that murderer. All i cld do was call daily in the morning to find out if they both got 2 work and evening if they are at home safe n sound.

I hope the burning of the house was a way of scaring him out coz there were innocent children there...

Can u imagine if he was arrested and then run away like the other suspects who did? it would be hell!!

Gathara said...

While I acknowledge the loss you have suffered, it is surely pertinent to ask how you knew that it was Matheri who killed them. If you got that information from the police, then surely you must see the circularity of then allowing them to determine whether he should live or die. On what basis should we trust the cops' word? It is obviously not because they never make mistakes. There are many recorded incidents where the police have shot first and asked questions (and supplied the answers) later. Remember the guy who was shot in Thika while chasing his chickens and then branded a "most wanted criminal"? The cops showed us a gun which they claimed he was carrying at the time only for their whole story to be exposed as lies.

Don't get me wrong. Matheri may very well be guilty of all he stands accused of. However that is not for the police to determine, much less punish. To do so obviates the presumption of innocence and the raison d'etre for a criminal justice system, both essential ingredients for any rights we enjoy today. And it also sounds very much like mob justice in police uniform.

3N said...

Thanks for bringing this issue to light.
I am so torn though because on one hand the guy allegedly terrorized the same area I am from, putting my family . If indeed he was guilty then I have no regretss.
However even in times of dire insecurity we cannot ignore basic human rights of which every one of Matheri was violated.
The reason Kenya's public is in jubilation is because criminals have been arrested before, proven guilty and still ended up back on the streets terrorizing citizens.