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Police on March 27 murdered five people in Bombolulu, Mombasa and told the press the “battle was fierce” and that they had acted on a “tip-off” from members of the public.

Police further claimed the dead were “suspicious, lived together in a single room without furniture, and were armed”.

“They did not follow orders to surrender and started shooting at police,” so did Nyali sub-county police commander Daniel Mumasaba alleged, and “our officers returned heavy fire that killed the five instantly”.

The police cover story was off from the onset—and MUHURI started investigating. We interviewed a dozen witnesses, families of victims, and sources within the morgue where the bodies are lying awaiting autopsy.

Our findings hugely differed from the police’s clichéd version that there was a “shootout”. What started as a police abduction on March 17 ended in a cold blood murder 10 days later—five men executed at dawn in an abandoned house.

What we know

Of the five murdered, we had identified two as of March 28: 62-year-old Benedicto Kago Mugure and 43-year-old Newton Kibara. Kibara did menial jobs to fend for his family, while Mugure was a tuk-tuk driver.

On March 17, Kisauni police separately abducted Kibara and Mugure.

Nine police officers, donning balaclavas, abducted Kibara at 3 pm in Mishomoroni, Kisauni and torched his motorbike. Police drove off in three Land Cruisers.

Mugure’s abduction was at 11 am in his house in Mtopanga, Kisauni. Police assaulted Mugure’s two house helps, locked them in a room and disappeared with him.

Newton Kibara. Photo: Courtesy.

The two abductees did not know each other, their families said, and their search at local police stations bore no fruit. Police expressly denied they were holding them despite witnesses and families identifying their abductors as armed law enforcement officers who wore police uniforms. In fact, OCS at Dog Section station and other police towed Kibara’s torched motorbike to the station.

Kibara’s family booked the abduction at Dog Section police station and obtained OB number 45/17/3/21 at 8:25 pm. They made another report of a missing person after 72 hours. Several Mugure family members booked the incident separately at Kadzandani police station on different dates and got three OB numbers: 23/18/03/21; 15/20/3/2021 and; 25/21/3/21.

The two families only learnt of the demise of their respective kins when they checked at Coast Provincial General Hospital (CPGH) morgue on March 28, 11 days after their abduction.

If there was a “shootout”, as alleged by police, how did it happen yet the deceased had been in police custody since March 17?

Examining the scene

Police murdered Mugure, Kibara and three others in a single-roomed residential house in Bombolulu, Kisauni, that measured 16ft by 15-and-half ft. The size of the room indicated the shots were close-ranged.

While one wall of the room was scarred by bullet holes, MUHURI found no marks on the other three walls, door, windows, or surrounding houses to suggest anyone had fired back. Therefore, the police account of a shootout does not add up.

The room had remained unoccupied since March 12 when its tenant, John Kamau Mugwe, was last seen. Neighbours told MUHURI they did not see anyone—leave alone the deceased—accessing the room. And since Mugure and Kibara were under police custody since March 17 and were never released or arraigned for possible charges, evidence and witnesses’ accounts show police might have dragged them in a cover of darkness to this room before the execution at 4:30-5:30 am on March 27.

Police then alleged they “recovered an AK-47 and 32 bullets”, but there is a possibility police planted the weapon using old exhibits from previous cases, as they have been doing countless times.

Further, police said they “recovered a motorbike used by the deceased to commit a crime”. But we have since established that the motorbike belongs to the landlord of the house where police murdered the five, for which he uses in his clearing and forwarding job at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).

The deceased were on this side of the room when police opened fire and murdered them. It is the only wall in the room scarred by bullet holes. Photo: MUHURI.

Police gained access through this door. There were no bullet holes on this wall to suggest the deceased fired back. Photo: MUHURI.

More than 10 security officers were involved in these murders, witnesses said. They wore combat helmets and were heavily armed. They used white armoured Land Cruisers beside the other five police vehicles. The officers who carried the execution are believed to be from the elite squad, Rapid Resppnse Team (RRT)–a unit infamous for nighttime raids that have resulted in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and illegal renditions. RRT receives tactical, weaponry, and combat support from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Britain’s MI6. The unit left the scene immediately after the execution, and another team, comprising of Kenyan police, came to seal and clear it. 

Who is John Kamau Mugwe?

John Kamau Mugwe rented the house where police murdered the five. Police first stormed this house on March 12 but did not find Mugwe. It was not clear why they sought him.

Mugwe, born in 1949, according to a copy of his ID in our possession, rented the room from February 2019, paying Sh2,000 monthly rent. He hails from Kiambu.

Neighbours said Mugwe was a pastor and held prayer sessions in a room that only had 11 plastic chairs, a plastic carpet, and utensils.

In February this year, Mugwe started worshipping at a local church, River Trinity Miracle, which is about 500 meters from his place. He attended the service for one month then stopped.

His whereabouts remain unknown, but we cannot rule out if police arrested him.

Rights violated

Article 238 (2) (b) of the 2010 Constitution decrees:

238 (2) (b): National security shall be pursued in compliance with the rule of law and with the utmost respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

26 (1): Every person has the right to life.

Extrajudicial killings of innocent Kenyans by the police are murders. Each murder is a subversion of the rule of law. We demand an inquest in these murders and disappearances.  We also call for a Commission of Inquiry in extrajudicial killings in Kenya. If the state does not establish such a Commission, MUHURI will call upon national and international civil society organizations to establish a Tribunal to hear evidence on extrajudicial killings in Kenya.