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LSK warns criminals behind kidnappings linked to Finance Bill protests

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Nearly 10 alleged cases of abduction had been reported by Monday, ahead of intensified demonstrations against the bill as the National Assembly prepared to vote on it.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has condemned the abduction of social media personalities perceived as supporting protesters calling for the withdrawal of the Finance Bill, warning that it will pursue the criminals to the end.

Nearly 10 alleged cases of abduction had been reported by Monday, ahead of intensified demonstrations against the bill as the National Assembly prepared to vote on it.

In a statement on Tuesday, LSK President Faith Odhiambo called on Kenyans to be more vigilant as the protests entered the second week.

"Over the last 72 hours, Kenya has been drawn back to the dark era of a rogue, irrational police force operating through repressive, retrogressive, clandestine, illegal, extra-judicial tactics to forcefully quell public dissent against misgivings of government, lapses in governance and more specifically, the contentious Finance Bill 2024," she said.

The latest victims of the alleged abductions include policy analyst Gabriel Oguda from the office of parliament's minority leader, Osama Otero, Drey Mwangi, and a man identified only as Franje.

The society noted that the unprecedented unity and ingenuity that have become characteristic of the current wave of protests have caused disquiet within the government and the regrettable reaction has been the deployment of the brutal, disproportionately retaliatory police force.

"After failing to impose criminal charges against innocent protestors who were subjected to arbitrary arrests, and despite lacking justification to qualify any degree of force against the largely peaceful protestors, the police have turned to the intimidation of perceived leaders, mobilisers and facilitators of the protests," she said.

Odhiambo noted that several vocal personalities and social influencers had reported being threatened, physically trailed, having their communications arbitrarily monitored, and having their privacy unlawfully infringed.

The disconcerting complaints culminated in the abduction of some of the personalities who had been strongly expressive in affirming the general public's discontentment with the bill.

Earlier abductions

On Saturday, Billy Simani, alias Crazy Nairobian, was taken into police custody and held incommunicado.

The LSK explained that throughout the day, there was widespread misinformation from personalities close to the government on Simani's whereabouts and the reason for his abduction, veiled as an alleged arrest.

Late into the night, after combined efforts with various stakeholders and several of our members, the LSK secured his release.

George Dianno was abducted in Nakuru County and released in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.

"The unfortunate events and the large outcry from members of the public through various social media platforms appear not to have been sufficient in derailing the unconstitutional conduct of the police," Odhiambo said.

"The abductions of Billy Simani and George Dianno appear to have been the start of police reversion to unlawful, draconian tactics to limit the enjoyment of rights by the people of Kenya."

The following day, less than 12 hours after Simani was released, reports emerged of the abduction of Dr. Austin Omondi, a young doctor who had taken the initiative to coordinate medics to provide first aid treatment to protesters who suffered the gruesome effects of police brutality.

Omondi was abducted by unidentified persons believed to be police officers. He was released later on Sunday, as confirmed by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union (KMPDU).

"Similarly, we have received reports of the abduction of Dr. Salim Ishmael and Shadrack Kiprono, alias Shad Khalif, who were also abducted yesterday and their whereabouts are currently unknown. This perpetual contempt by the law enforcement agencies must come to an end," said the LSK boss.

It noted that it had checked several police stations in search of these personalities but that "no clear disclosure has been forthcoming", hence its conclusion that the people were kidnapped by criminals.

The society urged anyone with helpful information, such as tip-offs or the identities of the abductors, to reach out to them.

"We demand that the police and all investigative agencies treat this matter delicately and with expediency to unearth the truth of what happened, the identities of those holding them and where they are being held," said Odhiambo.

"It is inconceivable that law enforcement officers are the perpetrators of illegalities. We will unmask and take action against these rogue criminal elements putting our police in ruin."

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