Human rights activists killed in Kenya


KENYA’S COALITION government fractured further yesterday after the assassination of two human rights activists who gave evidence to a senior UN investigator over execution-style murders by police.

Kamau Kingara, director of the Oscar Foundation, which runs free legal aid clinics for the poor, and its programmes co-ordinator, John Paul Oulu, were shot in a busy Nairobi street near the presidential residence on Thursday evening. Only a few hours earlier a government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, had publicly accused their organisation of being a fundraising front for a criminal gang.

The killings caused shock and anger, with suspicion immediately falling on police death squads.

“These were very decent men who had done more work than anybody in examining police killings,” said Cyprian Nyamwamu, the executive director of the National Convention Executive Council, which advocates social and economic reform. “I have no doubt that is why they were killed.”

Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga, whose powersharing agreement with president Mwai Kibaki has soured because of corruption scandals and a lack of key reforms, called for an independent inquiry into the “murder most foul”.

He said Mr Mutua, seen as a Kibaki loyalist, did not speak for the coalition, and called it “bizarre” that the activists died hours after being accused of links to the Mungiki criminal gang.

“It is worrying and I fear that we are flirting with lawlessness in the name of keeping law and order,” Mr Odinga said.

Police attributed the killings to “rivalry or thuggery”. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the UN demanded an independent investigation, with the US offering help from the FBI.

The Oscar Foundation made its name investigating police abuses.

Since 2007, it has reported 6,452 “enforced disappearances” by police and 1,721 extrajudicial killings. – (Guardian service)