, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 – Amnesty International (AI) has slammed the Kenyan police for not actively enforcing law and order to prevent the deaths of about 45 people in three-weeks of fighting between the dreaded Mungiki gang and armed community vigilante groups.
The human rights body said in a statement on Tuesday that it was unacceptable for the police not to maintain order, resulting in the arbitrary killings.
Amnesty International’s Kenya coordinator Miriam Kahiga stressed that the State had an obligation to respect and protect the right to life of everyone within its jurisdiction.
”Over the past three weeks vigilante groups have been active in Kirinyaga district, ostensibly to provide community protection or security against the operations of Mungiki members who have been demanding money as protection fees from residents of the area,” her statement read.
”The Kenyan Government must not abdicate its duty to respect and protect life by explicitly or tacitly supporting the activities of vigilante groups. If the State permits vigilante or similar groups to carry out security or law enforcement functions, any abuses they commit in doing so, including extrajudicial executions or other unlawful killings of criminal suspects, are human rights violations for which the state is responsible,” she argued.
Mrs Kahiga went on to say that Kenyan authorities “cannot evade their obligations by letting vigilante groups carry out unlawful killings.”
She was making reference to the attacks and reprisal attacks between the Mungiki sect members and local vigilante groups in parts of Central Province particularly Kirinyaga district.
The attacks have taken place in cold blood despite pleas from the police for residents not to take the law into their own hands.
The government promised to clamp down on the illegal gang, while arresting 63 Mungiki suspects and three vigilante group members over the murders.
Amnesty International has demanded that the government must ensure the police or any other bodies which carry out law enforcement functions comply with Kenya’s international human rights obligations.
The group also called on Kenyan authorities to ensure that independent and impartial investigations were carried out into all the killings whether by suspected Mungiki members; members of vigilante groups, or by the police.
“Those suspected of being responsible should be arrested and prosecuted in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty, and families of those killed should receive reparations,” the statement said.
Mrs Kahiga is further demanding that State organs should investigate the role of the police and relevant security personnel in expressing support for the operations of vigilante groups carrying out killings of Mungiki members.
"A police representative was quoted, in a local weekly on 21 April, as stating that the police support the activities of the community vigilante groups and that they are reluctant to act against illegal activities by members of the Mungiki group because ‘when the police act they are accused of extra-judicial executions’,” she claimed.
The Mungiki group is mainly active in Nairobi and parts of Central Kenya.
Group members say that they are guided by traditional religious and moral beliefs and the group claims to have a role in maintaining law and order and the running of the public transport industry in parts of Kenya.
Alleged members have demanded "protection fees" from owners of public service vehicles and been implicated in killings and the assault of members of the public.
Leaders of the group have publicly alleged that the group has tacit support from prominent government officials in the current and previous governments, but have so far not named any.
President Mwai Kibaki said on April 22 that perpetrators of the Mathira killings would be punished. So far 23 people have been charged in court over the recent massacre.