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Kenyan policeman given 20-year sentence for murder of a fisherman

28 July 2021

NAVAISHA, KENYA – A police officer was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for the murder of a fisherman seven years ago.

Police Constable Evans Maliecha Wiyema was convicted early this year for the murder of Moses Kinyanjui Wanyoike. Wiyema, a former Anti-Stock Theft Unit officer, shot and killed Wanyoike on 27 July 2014.

While sentencing him, Justice Richard Mwongo said Wiyema may serve a lesser term of 10 years if he undergoes rehabilitation and counselling while in jail. The judge said the ex-policeman should not be involved in any criminal activity for the next five years and a review of his conduct be done by a probation officer after every five years.

The officer’s trial, at the Naivasha High Court, saw a strong case put forward by the prosecution. Sixteen prosecution witnesses testified before Justice Mwongo, who in his judgement reiterated that the prosecution had indeed proven beyond reasonable doubt that Maliecha was the one who shot Wanyoike on Crescent Island in Lake Naivasha.

Moreover, the judge stated that the police officer acted recklessly and without justification:

“I find and hold that the accused acted with mens rea, recklessly and in violation of the law. His actions were made all the more unacceptable by the fact that he did not report the incident but instead chose to assist in prosecuting the fishermen. His actions do not add up and do not support the defence of self-defence,” the judge ruled.

International Justice Mission (IJM) represented the victim’s family in the case. IJM Kenya Country Director Benson Shamala said the court’s decision is a big step in holding errant police officers to account.

“Wanyoike is just one of many young men killed in unclear circumstances that show excessive use of force by police officers. We continue demanding accountability for any errant police officer who violates the law,” said Shamala.

A day before the killing, a sheep belonging to Crescent Island was reported missing. Maliecha and a colleague allegedly had gone to pursue suspects when they sighted the three men fishing and shot at them, instantly killing Wanyoike.

Following the incident, and in a bid to conceal the truth, the officer charged the two surviving fishermen, Johnson Ndichu and Douglas Tutu, with theft of a sheep worth Sh10,000 (A$125). After learning of their plight and the injustice meted on the two men, IJM took on Douglas and Johnson’s case to help bring the correct facts before the court.

A magistrate acquitted Johnson and Douglas, finding that the evidence was insufficient to prove that they had stolen any sheep.

Meanwhile, Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) investigated the killing and forwarded the file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who charged Maliecha with Wanyoike’s murder.

IJM commends the work of IPOA and ODPP during five years of proceedings, and calls for better resourcing for swifter justice:

“We call for resourcing of IPOA [Independent Policing Oversight Authority] and the Internal Affairs Unit to fast track cases under investigation,” Benson said. “It’s worth noting that Wanyoike’s family had to wait for over five years to get justice.”

Launched in 2001, IJM’s office in Kenya works to combat police abuse of power against people who are poor, as well as sexual violence against children. IJM’s focus is to ensure the well-being of the families affected by these crimes, the swift conviction of all involved, and the strengthening of Kenya’s public justice system to protect people living in poverty from violence.

* Stock image used does not feature IJM staff or clients.

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