CPJ calls for investigation into Kenya murder

March 3, 2009

H.E. Mwai Kibaki 
Office of the President
Harambee Avenue
P. O.  Box 30510-00100
, Republic of Kenya

Fax: (254) 20 221 0150

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to express our concern over the lack of progress in the police investigation into the brutal murder of journalist Francis Kainda Nyaruri. In January, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged the police to investigate Nyaruri’s murder, whose slashed and decapitated body was found January 29 in Kodere Forest near his hometown of Nyamira.

Nyaruri was reported missing by his wife, Josephine Kwamboka, after he left his home on January 16 for an errand in Kisii town. Kwamboka spoke to her husband by phone at 11 a.m., and this was the last time anyone heard from him. His family reported his disappearance to the Nyamira police station but a missing persons report was not circulated to other stations or the provincial headquarters, local sources told CPJ.

Nyaruri had written a series of critical articles under the pen name Mong’are Mokua for the private Weekly Citizen about corruption and malpractice by local police and civil servants. The last story Nyaruri wrote before his disappearance implicated local police in a public transportation racket. Two days later, he went missing. A month prior to his disappearance, he had confided to friends and colleagues that he feared for his life after receiving a series of death threats, local journalists and friends told CPJ.

Since individuals within the Nyamira local government may be implicated in this brutal killing, we ask that Parliament put together an independent commission to ensure that there is a transparent investigation. To date, there is little progress in the police investigation and no police statement has been made to update the public regarding the investigation’s status, according to Nyaruri’s relatives and local journalists. Although suspects have reportedly given recorded statements to the Nyamira Police Department, to our knowledge, there are no suspects currently being held for this appalling crime. This lack of progress under Nyanza Provincial Police Officer Anthony Mugo Kiguchi adds to the tarnished image of the Kenyan Police Service, which has faced criticism by several members of your government for a series of extrajudicial killings.

Last month, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Justice Minister Martha Karua spoke out against the extrajudicial killings, and several parliamentarians have demanded the suspension of Police Commissioner Hussein Ali. On February 25, U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston called on your office to remove the police commissioner and attorney general over the wave of alleged arbitrary police killings amid violence after the December 2007 election polls.

The pattern of impunity surrounding the murder of Kenyan journalists and citizens must end. Kenya’s once vibrant media now often practices self-censorship, as many journalists refrain from reporting on violent attacks for fear of deadly reprisals, local journalists told CPJ.

Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work without fear of attacks from those who are meant to serve the public. We urge you to safeguard the work of journalists by asking Parliament to launch an independent commission of inquiry into the killing of journalist Francis Kainda Nyariru.


Joel Simon 
Executive Director