Finance Bill protests: What security agencies carrying out abductions are after

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Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga reveals what senior government officials are seeking to establish amid intense protests against the Finance Bill, 2024.

Security agencies involved in the abduction, harassment and release of citizens active on social media are seeking to solve a lingering mystery among senior government officials about who the plotters, funders, and leaders of the anti-Finance Bill protests are.

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga revealed this on Monday while accompanying The Eastleigh Voice reporter Hanifa Adan, activist Boniface Mwangi and Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid as they presented themselves at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters along Kiambu Road after spending days hiding from security agencies.

Mutunga spoke after a session with DCI boss Amin Mohamed, whom he said assured that his directorate was not committing crimes like the ongoing abductions.

"He said that they respect the constitution, that they know they are supposed to protect lives and property, and that abduction is a crime."

The trio arrived at the DC minutes after mid-day, also accompanied by their lawyers and members of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), and were whisked to the Nairobi area police command for questioning and statement recording.

However, while recording the statements, they were ordered to leave the premises without conditions or explanations.

Important questions

In sharp contrast to how they were driven in, on board DCI Subarus with sirens blaring in the section between Kiambu Road and the Milimani area, the trio, accompanied by their lawyers and the former CJ, walked out silently and addressed journalists who had been waiting at the entrance.

"From the interrogations, I can say that there are two questions that were asked of Mwangi, which I found very important; he was asked whether he was getting money from people and his social media activities and his answer was always 'it's in the public domain, nothing is being done underground'," Mutunga said.

He also revealed that Mwangi was questioned about his activism, alleged role in organising protests, and other such matters.

"I could not tell where we were going with that because I could see that ultimately, there was going to be a charge, but we did not get there," he added.

The questions mirror those that were asked of other abductees, as confessed to journalists.

A large number are, however, suffering panic attacks and mental anguish because of how the incidents happened.

Those who have been abducted have revealed that their phone privacy was invaded as they were asked to switch them on and log into their social media and M-Pesa accounts and questioned about financial transactions made during the period of civil unrest.

The Eastleigh Voice reporter Hanifa Adan at the DCI headquarters along Kiambu Road on June 24, 2024. (Photo: Hafsa Hassan/EV)

Respect for constitution

Mutunga further noted that abductions are not new to him and his generation, as "killer groups within the police force" have been in existence for a long time.

"What we are telling the IG is that those groups are breaking the law by abducting people. They have to protect and uphold the constitution," he told Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome.

The officers allegedly conducting the operations are pouncing on targets while heavily armed and in civilian attire.

The Eastleigh Voice reporter Hanifa Adan (C) at the DCI headquarters along Kiambu Road on June 24, 2024. (Photo: Mary Wambui/EV)

Mutunga said any democratic government should instead be able to ask itself the root cause of the anger of its children.

"I do not think there is any part of the constitution that says if you raise issues and are angry, you should be killed. If we don't breathe life into this constitution, then we shall be damned; that is my message," he added.

The majority of the abductees vowed to resume their social media activities and protests slated for Tuesday and Thursday, even as Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki reiterated that the protests should not go beyond timelines dictated by the Public Order Act.

"They must stop their activities at sunset or at 6.30 pm, whichever is earlier, in accordance with the Public Order Act Cap. 57 of the laws of Kenya. They must not provoke, attack, injure or obstruct law enforcement officers or even members of the public," said the CS, breaking his silence on the ongoing protests that have rocked major towns in the country.

The Eastleigh Voice reporter Hanifa Adan, activist Boniface Mwangi and Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid at the DCI headquarters along Kiambu Road on June 24, 2024. (Photo: Mary Wambui/EV)

LSK's actions

LSK members who followed the movements of the trio reminded Koome that the same constitution that grants him powers to conduct operations is the same one that allows Kenyans to enjoy the right to protest and in both cases, with limitations.

"We have observed for the last one week, people being abducted and others being held incommunicado and interrogated without any records. We condemn such acts and are still looking for the whereabouts of Shalid Khalif Kiprono, who was also abducted in South B, as seen in the clip moving around," said LSK Council member Stephen Mbugua.

The LSK further called on the IG to end the wave of abductions and illegal arrests.

"We are taking a keen interest in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We have been collecting data and are proceeding to court to file a petition against specific officers, some of whom have been caught on camera shooting people who have lost their lives in these protests," said the lawyer.

"Just as citizens are respecting the law and protesting peacefully, the police should also ensure that the lethal weapons and force they are using are not against the law."

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