First Witness Testifies in Case Filed by Survivors of Kenya Police Shootings

The Kenyan High Court heard the first witness in a petition filed five years ago involving 15 people who were victims of police shootings during the violence that followed the December 2007 General Election.

Alice Atieno Ochieng told the High Court in Kisumu on Monday that she was shot when she was going home at six in the evening after her shift as a security guard ended. Ochieng said there were police in vehicles in front of her and further ahead there were young men who were running and making “unusual” noises.

“The police went ahead, and I heard gunshots behind me,” said Ochieng.

Mbugua Mureithi, who is representing the petitioners, asked Ochieng to confirm she had sworn two affidavits, one dated September 4, 2013 and the other dated March 8, 2017. Ochieng confirmed the affidavits were hers and they were entered as part of the evidence in the case. Mureithi had no questions for Ochieng once her affidavits became part of the record of the case.

Gerbera Qeu, litigation counsel in the Attorney General’s office, cross-examined Ochieng on the details of the day she was shot. Qeu asked Ochieng whether she knew why the police were chasing the young men.

“I didn’t pay attention,” said Ochieng. “I didn’t see what their intention was.” Qeu asked Ochieng a few more questions and then concluded his cross-examination.

Judge Fred Ochieng, who is hearing the case, then asked all the lawyers present to approach his side of the court so that he could talk to them. Judge Ochieng and the lawyers talked for several minutes. When they finished Judge Ochieng then told those present in court, many of whom were the petitioners, that he had asked the lawyers some questions and the lawyers were going to consult outside the courtroom.

The lawyers returned more than half an hour later. Judge Ochieng then explained to those present in court he had asked the lawyers to consider whether they could reach a settlement.

“In principle, we all know what happened in the country (in 2008), so what are we fighting about?” said Judge Ochieng. He asked the lawyers to give him an indication of how many days they would need to try and reach a settlement.

“I can’t force the parties to talk. If you tell me that ‘We can’t agree’, then we proceed (with the hearings),” said Judge Ochieng.

He said he acknowledged the government may not want to admit liability and there were different ways of reaching a settlement.

Judge Ochieng said the next hearing is scheduled for November 13. He said on that day lawyers would report whether they have been able to reach a settlement. Judge Ochieng said if they failed to do so then Alice Atieno Ochieng would continue her testimony and be questioned by other lawyers.

This petition was first filed at the High Court in Nairobi in February 2013. The petitioners include the 15 victims of police shootings; the Citizens Against Violence; and the Independent Medico-Legal Unit. The petition has been filed against the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Inspector General of Police.

The government submitted a response to the petition last year. Since then, the court has dealt with procedural matters. On June 25, 2018, Judge Ochieng scheduled Monday’s hearing.

The Open Society Foundations has been providing support to the ongoing litigation in Kenyan courts.