Kenyan journalist Francis Nyaruri went missing on January 16, 2009 after writing a series of articles for The Weekly Citizen about corruption and malpractice by local police and civil servants. Thirteen days later, his bound and decapitated body was found near his hometown of Nyamira, northwest of the capital city of Nairobi. Twenty-two months after the murder, the outcome of his bereaved family and friends’ quest for justice appears uncertain.
Joseph Karanja is the principal magistrate in Kisumu, some 45 miles from where Nyaruri’s remains were found. In court on Thursday, he disqualified himself from the trial of two suspected killers. He told the audience that it was his last day hearing criminal cases and that he could not initiate a new case despite the presence of five witnesses in court. “They just seem to be playing games,” Nyaruri’s widow, Josephine Kwamboka, told me after the hearing.
A key police investigator into the murder, Robert Natwoli, had come to testify, but he left disappointed like Nyaruri’s widow. As the officer who arrested the suspects, Natwoli is a crucial witness, but he has not yet been provided an opportunity to address the court, he told me. Natwoli said he left the police force this year after facing a series of harassment and intimidations from fellow officers.
Nyaruri’s last article implicated top police officials in conspiring to defraud the public of millions of shillings through a police housing project. In 2006, Nyaruri’s newspaper, The Weekly Citizen, was raided by police who seized equipment and arrested several journalists, following stories critical of President Mwai Kibaki, according to CPJ research.
(Reporting from Kisumu, Kenya)