Two people set to appear before a Kenyan tribunal hearing torture claims by journalist Peter Makori were at the weekend killed in mysterious circumstances, writes Eric Nyakagwa.

The tribunal, which was recently constituted by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR),to hear corruption and abuse of power complaints, had begun hearing Makori’s case on Monday but suspended its hearings awaiting the serving of summonses to witnesses.

Makori was held for a year and allegedly tortured by Kenyan police on trumped up murder charges in 2003. In his testimony on Monday, he had told the tribunal how he was on his way to cover the killing of two provincial administrators when he encountered a mob beating a school teacher as local security officials watched.

He took out his camera and as he was clicking away, the administrators seized him, placed him in police cells and beat him senseless. At night, he said, the police took him to a forest and threatened to kill him.

He was then hauled to court and charged with the murder of the two chiefs. It was not until 10 months later that the state dropped the charges. One of those killed at the weekend was briefly jailed over the murders.

But Makori, an Alfred Friendly Press Fellow attached to the Kansas City Star in the United States, rarely sets foot in his home district of Kisii due to threats by local security officials.

The tribunal, led by KNCHR vice-chairperson Violet Mavisi and commissioners, Tirop Kitur and Lawrence Mute, said it would resume the hearings on July 15 after summoning other witnesses.

But the hearings now hang in the balance following the twin killings and failure by the Kisii district commissioner Abdullahi Leloon on Monday to answer questions on the instructions of a government aide accompanying him.

He only read a one sentence statement.

On June 28, Makori was scheduled to seek audience with police commissioner Hussein Mohammed Ali over his personal security while in Kenya.

He is seeking compensation from the government for the illegal confinement and torture. He says he has spend millions of shillings for treatment both in Kenya and the US, partly with the support of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

Wednesday, 28 June, 2006