NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 12 – A human rights defender has narrated how he went into hiding for 12 weeks fearing for his life after he received threats from a policeman.
Kennedy Chindi alias JJ is a field coordinator with Mathare Social Justice Centre, a human rights organisations detailing cases of police brutality, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances within informal sectors of Nairobi.
In the wake of the missing Dandora activist Caroline Mwatha, JJ told Capital FM News that he is a case study of what human rights defenders go through, more so those dealing with issues of police accountability.
“It is the people I serve who saved me,” he told Capital FM News.
The police officer accused of killing tens of youths in Mathare and Dandora areas was allegedly tracing his movements after he documented 24 deaths in a record one week.
Most of the cases are under active probe by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA).
“I went into hiding from November to the end of last month. I am now back though I keep watching my steps,” Chindi said.
READ: IPOA probes 18 deaths caused by police in past one week
-Thoughts of leaving activism-
While in hiding, thoughts of giving up and remaining silent on social ills crossed his mind.
“My friend and family started asking me whether this was the kind of life I wanted. At some point, I entertained the thought, but my passion for the job won,” he said.
“This is a calling. My family was cautioning me against fighting the government.”
And although he was shaken, JJ is determined to soldier on, until the National Police Service is reformed to become people-centred.
He said some officers who could be rogue have sensed change following the recent statements by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi against extra-judicial killings.
“We shall have to respect the rule of law and lives of citizens of this country,” the CS said on January 22.
READ: Matiangi: Government will end extra-judicial killings at the Coast
JJ may be back from his hiding, but he said “I am still alert… niko radar. I cannot expose myself so much.”
Capital FM News caught up with him in Dandora where he had joined his counterparts in discussing the latest case of activist Caroline Mwatha who remains missing.
In 2016, lawyer Willie Kimani, his client and a driver were found brutally killed after missing for days.
-Courage over Fear-
Wilfred Olal, the coordinator of Dandora Community Justice Centre where Mwatha was working also told Capital FM News of how they receive threats for exposing rogue police officers.
“When you are working on issues of police accountability, 90 per cent of the threats come from police,” Olal said.
Olal says his pictures and those of two others have several times been published on a Facebook page known for warning suspected criminals and allegedly managed by killer cops.
Most of those whose pictures have been published on the platform have been killed.
Though Police Headquarters has denied running the platform, the administrators are always timely to publish gory images of killed people suspected of a crime, almost after every incident.
By Tuesday afternoon, police had not made public the outcome of a preliminary report on the ongoing investigations on Mwatha, six days after she went missing.
On Monday, detectives recorded statements from people who last spoke to her.
Some of the findings include that someone called her husband who was in Dubai, three days after she went missing.
READ: Activist’s phone was used three days after she went missing
According to the Independent Medico-Legal Unit statistics, 822 people died from police bullets between 2013 and June 2018.
Of these, 58 happened between January and June this year.
According to their statistics, there are 44 cases of summary executions between January and June.
Some of the challenges hampering the quest for justice, according to rights groups include lack of cooperation and full investigations, lack of independent post-mortem report that are used in court to establish the cause of death in extra-judicial killing and threats and intimidation by the perpetrators to the victims.
Others include lack of strengthened witness protection mechanism, delay in compensation awards and normalization of extra-judicial killings by Kenyans.