Around the time of the Mike Brown shooting, and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, I stumbled across John Legend's Marvin Gaye tribute concert held in LA. He was one of the more vocal celebrities, speaking out loudly against a system that treats black men, people, like shit, and in the process he got treated like shit (online) for his troubles. This was the backdrop to his concert, held 11 days after the shooting. The first half was standard Motown fare, the duets, all very lovely and mellow. Then he took a break and came back wearing a 'Don’t shoot' t-shirt and let me tell you, the second half was definitely not Motown (where Motown means fluffy love songs designed not to ruffle feathers). He brought out a bunch of young poets and these girls, nay, ladies… Brilliance so profound it's all you can do not to kiss the screen (I know I always say that, but watch this and tell me you didn't want to...).
This young lady says in 3 minutes what we’ve been struggling with for a year. Helplessness in the face of tragedy is the curse of our generation. We’re constantly bombarded with all manner of information, all day every day, with little we can do to change the situation, no matter how horrific it is. Like she says, 'the best I can do is tweet about it...' She was talking about America and I was thinking about Lamu.
Not long after the Mike Brown incident, we found out about our own not so little police killing, and because our cops make other cops look like amateurs, ours was even more horrific, because we are nothing if not ambitious.
Have you ever been so angry you can't speak for fear of screaming? You know that anger that gets you visibly trembling, insides churning, fists clenched, vein on your forehead throbbing, mouth twisted into a cross between a sneer and a snarl... I'm angry. I have been since August, last year. I was angry all year come to think of it, but that month I finally tipped over the edge, from angrily resigning myself to the shit that is this world we live in to seething anger at the shit that is this country I live in.
All it took was the death of a 14 year old girl...
On Monday 25th August, the Nation reported:
The mother of a 14-year-old girl allegedly shot dead when police opened fire on a house on Saturday morning as she slept on wants the body exhumed.
In that opening sentence, the Nation unwittingly, or perhaps wittingly (credit where credit is due, the Nation were on top of this story from the get go), encapsulated just what is wrong with our police force. They killed a child and tried to hide it.
From Tuesday 26th...
From Tuesday 26th...
The girl’s uncle Hussein Zani questioned the manner in which police handled the shooting after the killing of the 14-year-old at Maweu village and her hurried burial by the local administration 16 hours later. “We are still in shock and puzzled as to why the police and local chief buried her even after our objections,” Mr Zani said. He called on area chief Samson Chale to tell the family who gave him the authority to allow the burial yet the family had requested that an independent postmortem examination was done first.
But Mr Chale claimed he was a family member and he saw no reason why they should not bury the girl after the police released the body on Saturday. “I am a family member and the deceased’s mother Umazi and her husband Mwandaza attended the burial,” he said and denied receiving any complaints to stop the burial.
Now when the chief is mentioned, you know this story can only get worse. It did. The then inspector of general things, Bwana Kimaiyo, explained what happened that night...
Our top cop claimed that the girl attacked his officers with a panga, and they responded in self defence. The County Commissioner for Kwale goes on to explain that these cops only realised they had shot a child when they took her to hospital. His tone of voice is particularly galling, but we'll come back to that later. The official version: as many as eight armed policemen storm a house, they get attacked by a person with a machete, they fire in self defence, and then rush this assailant to hospital where he, later she, dies.
From a witness account...
“We heard a commotion outside before the police officers kicked the door open. They first lobbed tear gas cannisters in the house before they entered demanding to know where my uncle was,” the boy explained. He went on: “Kwekwe jumped off the bed and told them that uncle was not in. However, they still went ahead and shot her in head. She fell on the floor.” He said the officers continued shooting even after killing her. “Then one took her and they hurriedly left with blood still oozing out of her body,’’ said a traumatised George.
His 67-year-old grandmother Grace said she heard gunshots from her house which is a few metres away. “I feared venturing out because it was raining heavily that night,” Ms Zani said. “It was later that I learnt my grandchild had been killed.” “Since we did not know where they had taken her body, we started tracing blood stains. We later found her naked body at the Kinango District Hospital mortuary,” she said. She said mortuary attendants told them that Kwekwe’s body had been found in a thicket and that her killers were unknown.
Have you written these men off as monsters already? Not so fast, here's another WTF moment...
“Soon after killing her, they realised I had been watching. One of them ordered his colleague to finish me,’’ said George, who was in the company of his grandmother Grace Zani. “However, the officer who was being ordered to shoot me said I should not be killed because I was too young to reveal anything. That is how my life was spared,” he told the Nation on Wednesday.
George, the witness, is 10 years old.
These cops killed a 14 year old girl and dumped her corpse in the bush. When her body was found they tried to cover up the shooting with a dodgy autopsy report, claiming she died of a heart attack of sorts, and then burying her without her family's knowledge. And when the family and press started to sniff around they claimed it was self defence, and tried to threaten them into silence.
I have to detour here quickly to take you forward to December and the Al Jazeera documentary on extra judicial killings. One of the comments I kept hearing at the time, from people who didn’t (or didn’t want to) believe what they saw, was that those interviews must have been faked, because the cops were too blasé about killing people. Blasé isn’t the half of it, is it? Detour over.
Based on an investigation by the police oversight body, in early October the Director of Public Prosecutions instructed that two officers be charged...
“I have perused both files and given careful consideration to the evidence contained therein and the respective recommendations by the police and IPOA. Having done so, I am satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to charge Inspector Veronicah Gitahi and Constable Issa Mzee with the murder of Kwekwe Mwandaza,” the DPP said in a letter to Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo. It added: “Accordingly, I direct that both be apprehended immediately and arraigned before the Mombasa High Court to answer a charge of murder.”
Several days later, the two cops appeared in court...
Inspector Veronicah Gitahi and Police Constable Issa Mzee denied the charge when they appeared before Mombasa High Court judge Maureen Odero. They were each freed on a bond of Sh500,000.
Incidentally, I need a lawyer to explain to me how murder suspects are released on bail.
At the beginning of December...
THE High Court in Mombasa has allowed an application made by the mother of Kwekwe Mwandaza to be enjoined in the case. In his ruling, judge Martin Muya gave Umazi Zani the right of audience by herself or through her lawyer. He said, however, that her input would be limited only to the points of law. Muya said the mother will not be allowed to add any point of facts or question any witness.
On November 19, Zani made an application to be enjoined in the case. Her lawyer Harun Ndubi said Zani does not plan to interfere with the proceedings. Lawyers Cliff Ombeta and Jared Magolo representing Kinango DCIO Veronicah Gitahi and police constable Issa Mzee objected to the application, saying the constitution does not allow a victim to participate in a case. “There is no provision in the law for accommodation of the victims and thus they should address their issues through the office of the DPP as stipulated by law,” Ombeta said.
The case will be heard on March 19.
I'll update this post as and when the case proceeds, and once its done we shall have a conversation about allegedly underpaid cops who can afford Mr Ombeta (aka lawyer to the rich and criminal).
So why does this shooting make me so angry I want to slap a pig? It's not only that this shooting was more egregious than other random shootings of ‘suspects’. We live in a country where the police routinely shoot people down allegedly in the name of fighting crime and/or terror. And if the cops don’t get you, the idiot terrorists will, or the idiot criminals who shoot you dead to steal your phone, or maybe even your friendly neighbourhood lunatic with a gun permit and a short fuse. Frankly, in this country its not when you’ll get shot, but by whom. A 14 year old gets shot and dumped in the bush? Par for the course, no? No.
8 policemen do not barge into a house and shoot a child. They just don’t. This isn’t bloody Syria or fucking Palestine. We cannot have policemen running around killing people willy nilly. I do not want a police boss who spins bullshit lies about a panga. A panga? How the fuck was that even a remotely plausible theory? I don’t want a County Commissioner who shrugs off the death of a child like its just one of those things that happen. His tone of voice… Sweet Jesus! Every time I think to let this one slide, I hear that smug bastard droning on and I get mad all over again. Listen, I see how we got to this point as a country, too many years of a system designed to be brutal and nothing but, but at one point we need to stand up and say enough.
From the John Legend show...
Kwekwe Mwandaza was a 14 year old girl, about the same age as these three girls. Maybe that's why her death struck a nerve with me, coming so soon after I watched the concert. Or maybe the death of Kwekwe got me ridiculously angry because it's ridiculously wrong.
Both sets of police bosses produced indefensible reasons to justify the executions, but that is where the similarities end. We witnessed the outrage in Ferguson and the silent indifference in Kwale — not a single complaint from the Woman Representative, MCA, MP, Governor or any other person that would claim to be a leader.
We have lost our sense of outrage.
This morning, riot police tear-gassed a bunch of school children...