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Kenyan Father Relieved Policeman to Face Charges for Son’s Killing

FILE - Relatives carry the body of 13-year-old Yassin Moyo for burial, at the Kariakor cemetery in Nairobi, Kenya, March 31, 2020. Police in the capital are accused of shooting him dead while enforcing a coronavirus curfew.

Kenyan police have confirmed a police officer is to face charges over the killing of a 13-year-old boy during enforcement of a coronavirus curfew.

Yassin Moyo was shot in late March while standing on his family’s apartment balcony in Nairobi – a tragedy that a police spokesman described as an accident. But activists have long accused Kenyan police of brutality and unlawful killings, with little to show in the way of action.

Yassin's father, Hussein Moyo, said he is relieved to hear that a policeman will face charges over his son’s death.

Moyo said his neighbor, who witnessed the incident, saw the policeman steady his gun and take aim on his target. He then let loose his shot, Moyo said. By then, he said, his eldest daughter had told her mother, Hadija, "Let’s get away from this balcony, it’s not safe." Hadija beckoned the children to get away, Moyo said, but by then it was too late. Yassin had been hit by the bullet.

A Kenyan police spokesman confirmed a policeman is to be charged over the teenager’s death but also described it as an accident.

"We know he didn’t do it intentionally but still he has committed a crime of manslaughter or whatever. He has killed an innocent life because of his professional negligence. If he would have done his work professionally, the way he is trained, we would not have lost that boy," he said.

Kenyan protesters last week decried what they call years of police impunity and a jump in incidents of police brutality during the curfew.

Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against police killings and brutality, in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya, June 8, 2020.
Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against police killings and brutality, in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya, June 8, 2020.

Hawa Hussein was one of hundreds who marched in Mathare, the poor Nairobi neighborhood where Yassin Moyo was killed.

“We are tired of police brutality. They are killing our youth, including my late husband. I have a young son and by protesting I am fighting for his future because the unlawful killings are constant, and our voices are not being heard,” said Hussein.

Kenya’s Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) says five other police are facing charges over other deaths, injuries, and assaults that pre-date the COVID-19 curfew.

The IPOA says it is investigating 15 deaths linked to police since March.

But protester Rahma Wako said that is not enough.

"We thought that IPOA would level charges against more rogue officers whom we as a community know have committed unlawful killings," said Wako. "But nothing has happened. And that is why we ask ourselves, what powers do these police officers have?"

Since its 2012 launch, Kenya’s IPOA has overseen the conviction of just seven officers for unlawful deaths, despite dozens of killings linked to police.

The Independent Police Oversight Authority did not have a spokesperson available to comment.