The violent police crackdown on people suspected to be adherents of the outlawed Mungiki sect in the sprawling Mathare, Valley of Death, is still fresh in the minds of many. The residents of Mathare residents will forever remember June 2007 for it’s the month that armed police backed by the dreaded General Service Unit turned the slum into a killing field to avenge the killing of two colleagues on the night of June 4. A major security operation, which was launched two days later to recover the guns of the slain officers, left a trail of blood and tears in Mathare.
When the guns fell silent, 14 people lay dead, most of them shot at close range or from the back either having surrendered or simply been cornered. Only police themselves knew the formula of determining who got shot and who didn’t in an operation that was clearly one of the biggest in recent times. Many other residents were left nursing broken jaws and limbs. Mothers and their young children spent cold nights as the police and their agents turned the shanties they call home into slaughterhouses.
In November 2007, a report by a group of Kenyan lawyers was released showing that as many as 8,040 young Kenyans have been executed or tortured to death since 2002, during a five-year police crackdown on the outlawed Mungiki sect, according to a report. Another 4,070 young men have gone missing between August 2002 and August 2007 after being held in police custody, said the report by the Oscar Foundation Free Legal Aid Clinic in Kenya.
The state-funded Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) linked police to the deaths of more than 450 young men in the past five months in a crackdown on Mungiki. The KNCHR said in a report that police had executed nearly 500 men between June and October 2007 and dumped their bodies in mortuaries and settlements outside Nairobi during a months-long crackdown on the ultra-violent Mungiki gang.
Mungiki claims to have thousands of adherents, all drawn from the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest tribe. The group, whose name means “multitude” in the Kikuyu language, was inspired by the bloody Mau Mau rebellion. Mungiki began as a group promoting traditional Kikuyu practices, including female genital mutilation, but gradually became involved in extortion, murder and providing hired muscle to politicians.
On the 5th March 2009, Mr. John Paul Oulu (also known as GPO) and his boss Mr. Oscar Kamau King’ara the founder of the Oscar Foundation were executed in cold blood by a group of men in two vehicles. The two human rights defender were driving to meet Mr. Kamanda Mucheke of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights at his office. Eyewitnesses said that the assassins were policemen. In fact, the minibus driver was in police uniform.
Oscar Foundation is a registered charitable organization that offers free legal services to the poor. Some of its major projects include organizing caravans to offer free legal aid to the poor throughout the country. They have a strong track record researching corruption in the police forces, the prisons, and police brutality against the urban poor. The latest activity was researching and documenting cases of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.
Critics of the government believe the human rights lawyers were killed because of the sensitive information they had shared with both the Prof. Philip Alston the UN Special Envoy on Human Rights, and with Members of Parliament. The Oscar Foundation has been a major source of information to Parliament on atrocities playing out against the poor in the country. Their last engagement with Parliament was a presentation to the Kioni Committee investigating organized gangs a few days before they were killed.