We know all of this because unlike many other extrajudicial killings by police and security officials in Kenya, Nyangena and Magomere’s murder was captured on video.
The crisp, high-quality footage of the crime, taken on a witness’s mobile phone, is the centerpiece of a recent documentary by noted Kenyan journalist Mohammed Ali on the epidemic of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances by security services.
According to the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), a nonprofit that provides investigative, medical, and psychological rehabilitation services to victims of torture, Kenyan police and the Kenya Wildlife Service together summarily executed 126 people in 2015 alone.
The majority of these killings — 61 — occurred in Nairobi, and they were not concentrated in predominantly Somali neighborhoods but rather near informal slum settlements that are home to Kenyans from a range of ethnic and regional backgrounds. Due process protections in Kenya’s constitution prohibit arbitrary killings by the security forces — even of criminals or suspected terrorists.
And while the discriminatory religious contours of the “War on Terror” would suggest that the problem is confined to northeastern and coastal Kenya, regions that are predominantly Muslim and have a high proportion of ethnic Somalis, the truth is that Kenyan authorities routinely commit violent crimes against young people all over the country.
Through a conspiracy of public apathy and sinister cover-ups, Kenyan security forces have essentially acquired carte blanche to kill and disappear citizens, particularly young ones, on the pretext of fighting crime and terrorism.The scourge of killings and disappearances has accelerated in recent years as the Somali militant group al-Shabab has trained its sights on Kenya, but abuse and impunity long have been the calling cards of the Kenyan security services.And perhaps as a result of both the video and the documentary, Kenya’s public prosecutor has announced that for the first time in recent memory, his office will charge a police officer for the unlawful killing of a civilian.Unfortunately, the only unusual thing about this horrific story is the judicial outcome.
There, in the gentle light of the still-rising sun, Nyangena and Magomere were gunned down by two plainclothes police officers attached to the city’s anti-mugging unit. So the officer stood over his body and fired twice more, killing the young man in broad daylight.
The officer then calmly wiped his fingerprints off the gun, planted it on the young man’s body, and made a call — presumably to report a robbery.