I lie to my kids on whereabouts of their father who disappeared while in police custody

December 7, 2016 5:21 pm
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A victim of enforced disappearances captured on February 2, 2014 during the Masjid Musa mosque raid/FILE
A victim of enforced disappearances captured on February 2, 2014 during the Masjid Musa mosque raid/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 7- Saada Juma Seleman is torn between convincing her three children that their father is either dead and may not come back, or continues to give them hope, that they may soon re-unite as one family.

She has to face the question every day the sun rises, from the impatient children who just want their father back.

It all started when her husband was arrested on February 2, 2014 by police officers during a raid at Masjid Musa Mosque in Mombasa, over claims that a radicalization session was ongoing there.

Pictures taken during the incident show Hemed Salim Ahmed in one of the police vehicles outside the mosque, which was on spot for allegedly radicalizing youths at the coastal city.

“I thank God, whatever that will happen I am ready. What do I do?” she asks, though aware no response is forthcoming.

Her consistent children know that their father is undergoing treatment in India, a lie she has told despite being unaware of her husband’s fate.

“At times I get worried as times passes,” she said during an interview with Capital News.

“The last born wonders why we don’t even go to visit his father in hospital if it is true he is under medication. He is now quickly growing, how will I explain that all along I didn’t know of his whereabouts?”

She has many queries than answers to the insurmountable challenge, which she believes would have been avoided if Ahmed was arrested, prosecuted and jailed if at all he was guilty.

“If someone has committed an offence, why kill him?” she poses. “Unless the police feared to face the truth, they should have taken him to court.”

Saada Selemen during the launch of the Haki Africa report  MOSES MUOKI
Saada Selemen during the launch of the Haki Africa report MOSES MUOKI

Their search, immediately after the raid in all police stations in the area was fruitless and it remain so to date.

Hers is no different from other victims of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the country just like in the case of Said Ali, a resident of Kilifi County.

Ali’s brother was kidnapped by unknown people on November 26, 2016, whom he claims they were police officers and his body was to be later found dumped.

According to Said, his brother was not under active investigations nor was he a suspect in any form of crime.

“He was calm and a kind person…he was not a suspect,” Said told Capital News. “He has never left the country either to join a terror group or to practice terror activities.”

Just like Seleman, he wishes his brother was taken to court and prosecuted.

“It is wrong for police to use short cuts in the war against terror, if someone is a suspect, take him to the court,” he asserted.

“Why should they fear to take them to court if you are sure the person is guilty?”

Such is the situation for 81 families whose relatives have either mysteriously disappeared or died while in the hands of police as detailed in a new report by HAKI Africa, a non-governmental organization fighting for human rights dubbed “What do we tell the families?”

The report, which was launched on Wednesday, puts the National Police Service on the spotlight again over extra judicial killings but now in the coastal region.
Of the 81 cases, 22 are deaths that were as a result of excessive use of force during policing operations, 4 deaths in police custody, 31 cases of extra-judicial killings and 24 enforced disappearances.

“These tactics of extrajudicial killings and disappearances have transferred easily to Kenya’s war on terror, where anti-terrorism police have for many years been given paramilitary training and high-tech arms and equipment from various quarters,” reads a section of the report.

The report accuses police of being behind the killings of terror suspects and Muslim clerics accused of radicalizing the youths, in what the organization Executive Director Hussein Khalid says can be counter-productive.

“At the moment, the situation is definitely not good but it is salvageable where we are currently,” he said. “All the cases, as told by the witnesses and families are directly linked to police.”

He said in some cases, police have admitted killing suspects of terror.

“If they know this person was involved in terror, take the person to court since there is a rule of law in this country,” he stated. “Where there is evidence, we shall support you because we also don’t want criminals in our midst.”

He cautions that such measures are counterproductive and only serve to widen the gap between civilians and police.

“Our greatest fear is that these killings and disappearances particularly of those people who are perceived innocent are causing more hatred,” he warned. “We fear that the terrorist might use this to recruit the youth because they are very quick at exploit this feeling of being discriminated. We want our people to trust in our justice system.”

The situation is said to have worsened after the September 2013 Westgate terror attack, which saw massive crackdown on terror cells.

“The rise in these killings has coincided with Kenya’s enhanced role in the Somali conflict,” says the report.

The report was handed over to Independent Policing Oversight Authority chairperson Macharia Njeru, who said all the claims will be probed and proper action recommended.

“We cannot hide from this reality that these cases are real,” he said.

He challenged senior officers at the National Police Service should come out and condemn such incidents if they want to address the problem.

Already IPOA is currently investigating 300 similar cases of extra-judicial killings, while 52 files have been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions and according to Njeru, 6 have already been given the green light.

“NPS has to become professional since as a democracy we cannot behave as terrorist who have no respect for human rights and rule of law,” he said.

IPOA is also probing police who were part of the search operation in Mumias, following an attack on a police station that saw 7 G3 guns stolen but have since been recovered.

“Whatever that happened was worse than during the one party rule,” Njeru asserted. “It was wrong. Women were raped, people were beaten…”

The service is still struggling with a dented image following the killing of Lawyer Willie Kimani, his client and their driver in a typical case of extra-judicial killings.

Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet admits that a few elements within the service are rogue while warning that no one will be spared if found culpable.

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