Friday, January 13, 2006

Who is safe?

With all these killings, who is safe today?

Publication Date: 1/14/2006

A string of high-profile murders remains unsolved – some stretching back for more than 30 years; some as recent as New Year's Eve – making people fear for their safety as never before.

Many husbands, wives, businessmen and women believe they are at risk from hired hit squads in the streets and in the sanctity of their own homes.

Some fear even to answer a knock at their own front door.

For bloodthirsty killers have shattered the lives of families across the nation – yet the police appear powerless to track them down and force them to face justice in court.

All the unsolved murders have one thing in common ... they were apparently executions carried out in cold blood by gangland hit squads – killers for hire.

Some of these killings took place more than 30 years ago yet remain unsolved. Others are as recent as December 31, when Mombasa Port police chief Hassan Ahmed Abdillahi was shot dead outside his own home.

Other recent unsolved murders include the killing of the lecturer and Bomas delegate Prof. Crispin Mbai – shot dead in front of his own hearth – while unsolved high profile murders from yesteryear include the assassination of politician Tom Mboya in 1969, MP J. M. Kariuki in 1975, and former Foreign minister Robert Ouko in 1990.

Even the police themselves do not know exactly how many unsolved murders are on their books, although they admit they run into the hundreds.

CID director Joseph Kamau said yesterday that the number of unsolved murders was "worrying", but added he was "pleased" with the way his officers were carrying out their investigations.

And he revealed: "We have formed a Homicide Unit based at CID headquarters and their job is to specialise in murder investigations."

Mr Kamau added: "We have been sending the officers to every corner of the country to help local officers to track down killers. We are a bit overwhelmed but more officers will be deployed to the Homicide Unit."

He said the unit had highly-trained investigators, most of whom were young and had just completed their intensive training.

Mr Kamau continued: "The CID is capable of handling the murder cases. We are going to pump more resources into the Homicide Unit."

Police could only know the motive for each murder after investigations were complete.

The hit squad killings were "isolated incidents which should not be linked to each other," he said.

Apart from new murders, the Homicide Unit had also taken up old cases which have remained unresolved.

His comments came as statistics released by police commissioner Mohamed Hussein Ali showed the number of murder cases nationwide had actually declined slightly in the past two years.

Police records showed 1,320 people were killed in 2004 compared to 1,153 between January and November last year.

A number of murder and other capital offence trials were thrown out by the courts last year after magistrates and judges accused the police of conducting shoddy investigations.

For their part, police think they had done their job well and blame corrupt judicial officers for wrecking their cases.

The killing of Mombasa Port CID chief Hassan Ahmed Abdillahi was just the latest in a string of hit squad murders at the Coast.

At least five tycoons had been killed earlier by what police believe were hired killers.

All the unresolved murders have a common pattern – the victim was attacked by gunmen who shot either at the head or the chest, then they were left to die as their attackers fled without stealing anything.

Those killed in puzzling circumstances included a real estate tycoon, Mr Visram Mulji Patel (killed in December), another real estate expert Mr Sammy Kithikii (killed mid-May last year), 28-year old businessman Timothy Karanja Wainaina (killed last May 3), Mr Pankaj Shah (killed on February 5, ) and 33-year-old businessman Abdurahman Sheikh Mohammed Noor (killed on March 12, 2005).

The rate of killings is stretching police resources to breaking point.

A new murder is being committed almost every day in a different part of the country before the police can solve the one they were investigating.

Even though Mr Kamau sent two high-powered teams from Nairobi to the Coast to help investigate Mr Abdillahi's killers, the hitmen are still at large.

The team from Nairobi was made up of officers from the Special Crimes Prevention Unit and the Homicide Unit attached to CID headquarters. They have teamed up with their Mombasa counterparts.

Mr Kamau was quoted saying he suspected the Mombasa Port CID chief was killed because of investigations at the port into a containers theft racket and drugs smuggling.

At the time he was killed on December 31, he had intensified a crackdown on the theft of containers at the port in which many people – including police officers, clearing and forwarding agents and Kenya Ports Authority workers – were arrested and charged.

Although his killers used the car the port CID chief was driving to escape from the scene, they did not take his loaded gun and cash

At least nine suspects, including four brothers of Juja MP William Kabogo, are being held by police investigating the murder.

Detectives say people hire hitmen for various reasons. Police spokesman Jasper Ombati said the motive for executions was usually revenge, infidelity, business rivalry or other family disputes.

Investigating hit squad murders was complicated by the fact that killers and their financiers often left no clues.

People more likely to hire hitmen were business rivals, siblings fighting for family properly, jilted lovers or spouses who want to get rid of their partners because of infidelity or property disputes, political rivals and those who have been swindled and want revenge.

Detectives who spoke to the Nation said hit squad murders were usually arranged by somebody close to the victim.

In most cases, the motive was purely to kill and nothing was stolen.

But the cases became complicated when the killers stage-managed the attack to make it look like a robbery.

Other executions were plotted by close family members.

Killings which have remained unsolved for years include the murder of one of Kenya's leading criminal lawyers, Mr S.K. Ndungi, and a top military intelligence officer, Lt Col Augustine Kunyiha.

Human rights organisations say Mr Ndungi was shot dead by the police on April 22, 1997, on Moi Avenue, Nairobi, because of his work on the case of an armed robbery at Standard Chartered Bank.

He was representing some of the suspects in court and he accused Flying Squad detectives of having kept for themselves part of the money they recovered from the gang.

Lt Col Kunyiha was shot dead in broad daylight in the heart of the capital – on Kimathi Street opposite Nation Centre – on December 30, 1994.

The gunman were said to be been trailing the soldier's car and they demanded a parcel which was in his vehicle before they shot him.

The killers of both Mr Ndungi and Lt Col Kunyiha are still at large.

The killing of CID Superintendent Bernard Kahumbi, which had political undertones, also remains unresolved 11 years since he was executed by what was believed to be a police hit squad.

He was shot dead in May 1995 after he led a highly publicised but unsuccessful police search for Mr Njehu Gatabaki, the editor of Finance magazine and a former MP for Githunguri.

The day Mr Gatabaki surrendered to police Mr Kahumbi was found dead with a gun shot wound near a Nairobi slum.

The then Opposition MPs – who are now serving in the Kibaki administration – claimed the detective was killed by the state because he had failed to arrest Mr Gatabaki.

Government officials denied the charge, linking the murder to the Opposition. Two men were arrested and charged with Mr Kahumbi's murder but nothing was published about their trials.

Another unresolved murder which had political links was that of former Githurai ward councillor Charles Maina Wanjuguna.

A gang burst into his home on the night of June 10-11, 2000 and hammered a nail into his head before they slit his throat, in full view of his wife and children.

Mr Wanjuguna was killed at the height of a campaign for the Ruiru mayoral seat. He had expressed fears for his life.

During the trial of no fewer than 13 people who were arrested over the murder, witnesses told the court how a hit squad was hired by Mr Wanjuguna's political rivals because he was the frontrunner in the campaign.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i wanted to tell you that father kaiser is not forgotten. i remember hearing about his death in 2000 and asking myself why the warriors had to leave so earlier especially since there was still work to be done. at this time when kenya is experiencing growing pains, i can only say asante sana father kaiser for what you stood for..