Remembering Carilton David Maina

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On the 21st December, Carilton David Maina, a student of the University of Leeds, was shot and killed by police in Line Saba, Kibera. According to friends and family, he was simply walking home after watching a football game, innocent of any crime. Alternatively, if you believe the police reports, Carilton had been harassing and mugging locals as part of an armed, four-man gang.

Despite the divergent stories, the facts are clear: Carilton was in his early twenties. He was a student of the University of Leeds. He was a gifted and talented individual with a promising future, visiting his family in Nairobi for Christmas. And the Kibera police service’s attempts to cover up his death are an insult to his memory and the justice system. Some locals have suggested that Carilton was shot and cornered in an alleyway, where he was shot a further three times even after he had pleaded his innocence, although these reports are unconfirmed.

Nevertheless, regardless of the extent of the violence surrounding the tragedy, many voices from Kenya and around the globe have called on authorities to commit to a fair and thorough investigation into the circumstances which surrounded Carilton’s death. None have been more vocal than Amnesty International Kenya (AIK), the Kenyan subsection of the Human Rights Group who have been campaigning for a reduction in police violence since they opened their offices in 2009. On Boxing Day, AIK released an official statement in a tweet urging the authorities and the local government to finally take a stand against the seemingly unchecked levels of extra judicial killings: “Carilton Maina’s killings shatters again the myth that only violent criminals are being killed lawfully. This death has the Hallmark of unlawful and extra judicial killing and must be comprehensively probed.”

The backlash, spearheaded by AIK, seems to have had an immediate impact. Within a day of AIK’s statement, the Independent Policing and Oversight Authority (IOPA) announced that it had commenced a criminal investigation into Carilton’s death. In a tweet published later that day, the National Police Service (NPS) Inspector General Joseph Boinnet responded positively, calling for a speedy and transparent investigation.

“We wish to inform the public that the Inspector General of Police has asked IPOA to expedite investigations into the shooting incident that occurred in Kibera within Nairobi County in which one Carlton Maina was shot and fatally injured”, Boinnet announced. “We further wish to assure the public that the Service, just like in similar instances in the past, will enforce the outcome of the investigations that IPOA will recommend.”

The assurance of a thorough investigation was a welcome sign to many. However, Boinnet’s tweet failed to confirm whether the officer in question had been identified and suspended until the investigation reached it’s proper conclusion, Carilton’s family continue to protest for the release of the officer’s name and, over a month since the investigation started, the police are still yet to make any arrests. These are just further testaments to the notion that internal investigations of this ilk tend to take an extensive amount of time and often result in little to no change.

Reading up on Carilton’s life, it’s hard to think of him as anything other than a conscientious individual. Gifted both in terms of academia and sport, Carilton attended Maseno School – the oldest formal education school in Kenya – from 2010. There, he held the position of Student Leader, was a member of the football team and Innovate Kenya, and won an East African writing competition to add to his growing accolades. After securing a scholarship to Brookhouse School, Carilton was admitted to the University of Nairobi to study Actuarial Science. Some may recognise Carilton from his Tedx talk on poverty and human compassion which he gave while studying at Brookhouse; others may know him from the corridors of Leeds University, where he studied Electronic and Electrical Engineering from 2016-17.

The initial police reports read rather differently to such a glowing reference, however. According to Kilimani’s Officer in Charge of Police District (OCPD), Michael Muchiri, Carliton was part of a four-man gang based in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, who had been harassing and robbing locals: “The police received a call from members of the public who said that they were being mugged by a group of youths. It is then that the police acted and shot one on the spot.” Muchiri also stated that a homemade gun and a knife had been recovered by police at the scene of crime.

But the official police narrative and Carilton’s history simply do not add up. Carilton’s mother, Josephine Wangari, has vehemently denied that her son could in any way have been involved in such illegal activities, telling reporters in Kenya that “the killing of my son on grounds that he was a thief really hurts me. My son was an innocent boy.” Carilton’s grandmother, Hellen Njeri, was of a similar mind: “This boy was a very honest person. He knew where we’d keep money in the house yet he has never stolen from us.”

The murky facts and controversies surrounding Carilton’s death allow us to question the apparent immunities of police services in Kenya and around the globe. Statistics by the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) estimate that 822 Kenyans have died from police bullets between 2013 and 2018, while in October last year, IPOA said it was probing some 243 killings, including 86 assault cases, attributed to the police. Activist Moses Okiyi also claimed that 22 youths have lost their lives in the Nairobi slums in only the past few months at the hands of the police for no apparent reasons. Despite these high statistics, only about a dozen officers have been convicted of murder since the start of 2018.

It’s clear that more constructive discussions need to take place in order to bring about a viable solution to the crisis of extra judicial killings. On the 2nd January, members from Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), Soweto Silanga Welfare Group, Amani Kibera, Crime Si Poa, The International Commission of Jurists (Kenya section), IMLU and Amnesty International Kenya sat down with senior members of the police to discuss the issue in light of Carilton’s death. Focusing on the epidemic of extra judicial killings in informal settlements, gender based violence and discrimination based on socio-economic class, some of the conclusions the group came to included a multiagency approach towards extra judicial killings, the provision of refresher courses and conducting follow-ups on policemen.

These are all achievable aims, but they require global awareness in order to come to fruition. The hashtag #justiceformaina has spread far and wide, and even Arsenal FC honoured Carilton in their match day programme before their game against Cardiff FC on Tuesday 29th January. Only if more attention is paid to the issue, more pressure is placed on the police service, more outcry erupts around the globe, then and only then can legitimate and constructive change take place in order to ensure preventative measures can begin to bring about an end to extra judicial killings.

A memorial service is set to be held for Carilton on 12th February at 5pm in the University’s Chaplaincy. There will be a number of speakers at the memorial, as well as chances for discussion and reflection. All are welcome.