A Kenyan inquest has ruled that police are to blame for the death of a 9-year-old girl during violence after the 2017 elections, saying that if the police wanted to find the girl’s killer, who remains at large, they could do so in a day.
The death of Stephanie Moraa, and that of a six-month-old baby killed in post-election violence in western Kenya, became a flashpoint for public anger over police brutality. It also put a spotlight on what critics say are inadequate government efforts to prosecute officers who commit crimes.
Kenyan police frequently face accusations of brutality and extrajudicial killings from civilians and rights groups, but officers are rarely charged and almost never convicted.
Chief magistrate Francis Andayi of the Magistrates Court at Nairobi Milimani Law Courts wrote in his report that the girl’s death was caused by a “deliberate shooting by a police officer whose identity has been frustrated by police officers covering for one another under the blue code of silence”.
He forwarded his report, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, to the director of public prosecution for further action.
“We shall wait for the next course of action by the director of public prosecutions,” police spokesman Charles Owino said in response to a request for comment on the inquest report.
Moraa died after being hit in the chest by a stray bullet as police fired to disperse protesters on Aug. 12, 2017, the day after election results were announced. She had been standing on the balcony of her family’s apartment in Nairobi’s Mathare slum.
Several months after her death, the director of prosecutions ordered the inquest after receiving the findings of an investigation into the killing by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), a government watchdog.
IPOA said the probe was hindered by the police, who did not provide information on matters such as the officers’ placement, details that may have helped identify who fired the fatal shot.
Eleven witnesses testified in the inquest, including neighbours and her parents who saw the killing and described it in detail, according to the inquest report published on Monday.
“I am almost certain that if the police service wished to identify and bring to book the officer who took away the life of (Moraa), it would not take them a day to do so,” the report read.
It noted that the girl’s death, and the inability to apprehend the officer who killed her, reflects a habitual reality for Kenyans after the announcement of election results.