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Kenya's President Demands End to Extrajudicial Killings by Police

FILE - Kenya's President William Ruto gestures as he speaks at the State House in Nairobi, Oct. 27, 2022.
FILE - Kenya's President William Ruto gestures as he speaks at the State House in Nairobi, Oct. 27, 2022.

Kenyan President William Ruto said during a meeting Monday with the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) that extrajudicial killings by police in the country must end.

Five police officers who were members of a now-disbanded special services unit went on trial Monday for the murders of Zulfiqar Ahmad Khan and Mohamed Zaid Sami Kidwai — two Indian nationals who advised Ruto's election campaign — and their taxi driver, Nicodemus Mwania.

Four other officers had been tried last week in connection with the deaths.

Ruto wants the IPOA to develop a plan to help end extrajudicial killings in Kenya.

''Extrajudicial killings must come to an end," Ruto said. "It is illegal, it is unconstitutional, it offends every principle of the right to life."

An August 2022 report by Human Rights Watch found that the failure of Kenyan authorities to address accountability for past abuses by police heightened the risk for more abuse. George Musamali, a security analyst in Kenya, says arresting the officers and trying them is a sign of progress.

"You'll find that in Kenya, we've been having a lot of misuse of this because sometimes you'll find that people who are innocent, there is no evidence that these people are a danger to national security," Musamali said. "You'll find them being eliminated, and this is what we are trying to deal with right now, And I believe the Ruto government will [get] to the bottom of this."

Rights groups such as Amnesty International say police abuse could completely end if the inquiries were extended to all other police units.

"Expand the inquiry into other formations," said Demas Kiprono, campaign manager at Amnesty International. "There are formations that have happened by ATPU [the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit]. There are violations by other police units and formations. There are violations by certain police stations that are notorious.''

Investigations into the killing last week of Pakistani investigative journalist Arshadi Sharif by Kenyan police are underway. According to the police, Sharif's murder was a case of mistaken identity.

Kenya's director of public prosecution, Noordin Haji, said last week that 12 police officers, most of them senior officials, will face charges for crimes against humanity concerning a crackdown on post-election protests in 2017.

According to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, 94 people were killed at the time, and more than 300 were injured.

In a statement, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk commended Haji's decision, which the United Nations says is an advance toward accountability for gross human rights violations in Kenya.