NAIROBI, August 5 – They are not remorseful at all. Not with the agony they underwent in custody for five months or so after the post election violence.
The suspects of post election violence are instead calling on the government to compensate them for illegal incarceration.
Those interviewed by Capital News in remote villages in the expansive Rift Valley region that was adversely affected after the disputed Presidential elections in December said they had incurred massive losses as a result of the detention.
“We were rounded up and taken in for various offences. Several of us were accused of murder and arson,” one of the suspects Chemjor arap Kogo, 41, said.
“I did not at any time participate in the killing. I did not injure anyone but police insisted I knew it all,” Kogo said.
He is a resident of Muserechi village of Mogotio constituency, one of the areas worst hit by the post poll riots.
Several people, including a Catholic Priest Fr Michael Kamau Ithondeka, 41, were hacked to death in the area.
The Catholic priest was killed on January 26, 2007 at an illegal roadblock set up by armed youth on the Nakuru-Eldama Ravine Road.
Kogo recalls vividly the activities of that Saturday, when police arrived in a truck and surrounded the Muserechi Shopping Centre, soon after the priest’s killing.
“They cocked their guns and ordered all of is in the hotel to get out and board the truck. We were not told why we were being arrested,” he recalls.
He said only men were targeted ‘because I did not see them (police) arrest a woman although there were some at the shopping centre at the time’.
Kogo is among hundreds of youth who were rounded up by the police and taken to the Nakuru police station where they spent several days.
Tired of waiting to be told why he was being detained at the station, Kogo confronted a police officer on sentry duties one Sunday morning and demanded to know what crime he had committed.
To his surprise, the police officer told Kogo that theirs was a case referred from the Eldama Ravine Divisional police headquarters.
“I was told that the DCIO of Eldama Ravine was the only one who could answer my question because he was the one who booked us in,” he said.
A few days later, he recalls, Kogo was called and questioned over the murder of the Catholic priest.
And while he denies knowledge of the killing, Kogo said police insisted he had an idea of what had happened to the priest.
“The murder occurred more than 10 kilometres from my home area, how was I supposed to know about a thing I heard on radio?” he posed, his eyes gazing upwards as if recalling more about his incarceration.
Dressed in a black jacket, white shirt and a pair of black jeans, Kogo kept on posing rhetoric questions, many at times casting aspersions on the competence of the police.
“Why did they arrest us in the first place? Why didn’t they go for the real murderers because we did not kill,” he stated.
While pointing to three of his colleagues with whom they suffered in detention, Kogo said; “Look, all these people were innocent yet they were arrested for the same offence. But they have since been freed.”
Kogo said police had intended to charge them with murder but substituted the charges with lesser offences like blocking the highway, participating in illegal assemblies and incitement.
17 suspects were arrested over the priest’s murder but none of them faced any charges in court. Many others were charged with lesser offences before being granted bail.
Paul Kimulwa, who did not disclose his age but appeared to be in his mid 40s is among the seventeen suspects who were arrested over the priest’s murder.
He was driving his old station wagon on January 26, 2007, when he stopped briefly at the Muserechi centre.
Kimulwa had just parked his car when he saw a truck full of heavily armed Administration Police officers nearby.
“I did not bother much, I just went straight to hotel and joined other elders who were watching television. But before I could take a seat, the officers were already at the door step ordering all of us to get out and board the truck,” he recalls.
While all the others complied, Kimulwa said he engaged the officer commanding the operation in a bitter argument as he demanded to know why they were being asked to board the truck.
“He almost shot at me. He went back, cocked his gun and gave me two choices. To comply or be shot. I complied,” he said.
Kimulwa was not to return back to Muserechi until five months later.
“I suffered a lot. We were separated and taken to different police stations. Some of us were taken to the Milimani Police post in Nakuru, where we were interrogated over the priest’s murder. Police insisted we had killed him (the priest).”
He said he was surprised when they were later arraigned in court for lesser offences.
“We were charged with offences such as participating in illegal assemblies and causing disturbance. All these charges were trumped up. I think the police were ashamed of just setting us free and that is why they ended up charging us with those minor offences,” he said, adding that the officers had no evidence on the murder case.
Many of the suspects interviewed by Capital News are now demanding compensation from the government.
They claim they suffered massive losses as a result of the detention.
“I had a dairy farm, which is no longer in place. I used to transport milk to Nakuru town but now I cannot even go there because my image has been tainted. I have been branded a killer,” Kimulwa said.