Police Officer Charged with Murder of Former University of Leeds Student

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This article discusses at length the extrajudicial murder of Carilton Maina

On December 21st 2018, a former University of Leeds student Carilton Maina was fatally wounded by police in Kibera, Kenya. Maina had previously studied an Engineering course in 2016-17 at the University of Leeds and was a straight-A student in High School.

A picture of Maina near the E.C. Stoner building on the University of Leeds campus, courtesy of Maina’s friends and family.

Maina has also previously hosted a TEDx talk in 2016 where he talked about his experience growing up in one of the poorest urban areas in Nairobi, Kenya.

However, his life tragically ended after he was shot dead when visiting family in Nairobi over Christmas. He was returning home from watching a football match when he was cornered into an alleyway and shot four times. 

The police at the time reported that they received a call reporting that Maina was part of a gang terrorising and mugging locals. Kilimani police boss Michael Muchiri also claimed that a home-made gun and knife was recovered at the scene. 

His mother alleged in August 2019 that police placed a gun on Maina’s body in order to frame him, according to an interview with The Guardian, and the family denied the police version of events at the time.

Josephine Wangare, Maina’s mother, appeared in court, backed up by a legal team from Amnesty. She said that seeing someone being brought to court to face trial had restored her faith in justice.

An inquest was launched by the Independent Police Oversight Authority into Maina’s death due to widespread uproar and protests about the incident. There was widespread international coverage of Maina’s death and the rise of extrajudicial killings by police in Kenya. 

After the onset of the investigation, the police service tweeted that they would take on board the IPOA’s findings, stating that “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”. 

Emmanuel Ambunya Oyombe, a police officer, was arrested for ending Maina’s life on the 15th April 2020, 18 months after the incident. The accused remained in police custody for seven days in order to undergo a compulsory mental health assessment. He was then released on a KSh600,000 bail on April 23rd. Oyombe pleaded not guilty. A trial date has not yet been set.

‘Missing Voices’, a group which focuses on extra judicial killings in Kenya has said that the arrest of Oyombe was “a big milestone in the fight against extra judicial killings and police abuse of power”. The organisation has alleged that in just the first 100 days of this year, the police have been responsible for 49 deaths in Kenya, and that of the 107 civilians killed by the police last year, just 10 of these cases resulted in the arrest of officers. 

As well as these killings, Kenya sees around 10 incidents of what the organisation calls “enforced disappearances” every month. Amnesty International defines enforced disappearances as “people who have literally disappeared; from their loved ones and their community. They go missing when state officials (or someone acting with state consent) grabs them from the street or from their homes and then deny it, or refuse to say where they are.”

Missing Voices’ celebration of the arrest of Oyombe is however overshadowed by their list of innocent victims who have still not found justice. This list includes other university students just like Maina, children, and a baby killed in a police raid. Missing Voices have also published a list of demands to the Kenyan authorities including “a public pronouncement by Inspector General of police and interior CS condemning police excesses”. 

It is clear that Oyombe’s arrest this month has come about due to the unceasing work of human rights groups and organisations such as Missing Voices, Amnesty International, Defenders Kenya and individuals who have ensured the momentum of the pursuit for justice has been maintained over the year and a half which has passed since Maina lost his life. 

It is not just civic organisations that have demanded for justice. After Carilton’s untimely passing, citizens from Kibera went out into the streets and protested against Maina’s death shouting ‘we want justice’ but were brutally dispersed by police using tear gas. 

One of the individuals who campaigned for justice on Maina’s behalf was human rights activist Caroline Mwatha. After vocalising her opinion that Maina’s death was an unjust killing and an abuse of power, Mwatha died just two months later. Mwatha’s family reported her missing on the 6th of February 2019. Mwatha was brought into hospital by a man who claimed to be her husband, who at the time was in Dubai on business. 

Her body was then brought to the city mortuary by a woman who booked her under the false name ‘Carol Mbeki’ which meant that she was not found by her family for a week when they came to look for her at the morgue. 

The result of her autopsy was recorded as a ‘botched abortion’ where it was found that her uterus was ruptured causing excessive bleeding. In Kenya, abortion is illegal and is a crime which can be punishable by death. However, a few months prior to her death Caroline had asked her family to keep her work a secret as it was sensitive. Her father Stanlus Mbai believes that “Caroline’s death was neither an accident nor a sickness, she was killed for speaking the truth”. 

In her Twitter bio, Mwatha called herself an “African woman, a proud mommy, feminist, human right defender, activist, a mobilizer”. Mwatha’s last tweet was February 5th, 2019 where she tweeted about political injustice and infringements on human rights in Kenya. 

In the past few years, numerous police officers have been found guilty of murdering innocent civilians such as Officer Ruaraka Nahashon Mutua, who tortured a suspect to death five years ago. In another landmark ruling, two police officers were sentenced to death after the court found them guilty of killing three people on suspicion that they were robbers.

Constable Oyombe’s arrest last month was due to the relentless work of official agencies such as the Independent Policing Oversight Authority and the Director of Public Prosecutions and human rights organisations such as Missing Voices, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and local community activism. It is these groups who ensured that the call for justice over Carilton’s death has not been silenced in the year and a half which has passed since Carilton lost his life.

Maina had no criminal record and was a high achiever both academically and in sport. Carilton’s mother stated that “the killing of my son on grounds that he was a thief really hurts me. My son was an innocent boy.” 

“My son was an innocent boy”

Carilton’s mother, Josephine Wangare

Maina grew up in Kibera, which is the largest urban slum in Africa. Those who live in Kibera suffer from extreme poverty, poor hygiene and insufficient medical care. However due to Maina’s extraordinary academic ability he was able to secure a place at Maseno school in 2010 where he became a student leader. 

He then achieved a scholarship to Brookhouse secondary school where he was a member of the football team, the Innovate Kenya club and won an East African essay writing competition. 

After school he attended the University of Nairobi where he studied actuarial science, and he then won one of just two full scholarships to study in the UK at a Northern Consortium university of his choosing. He chose the University of Leeds and moved there in 2016 to study Electronic Engineering. Carilton was keen to pursue a career in engineering and was interested in clean energy solutions.

An image of Maina that has since become a symbol for those protesting against police violence in Kenya, courtesy of his friends and family.

However, in Christmas 2018 his dreams were abruptly extinguished as he became yet another victim to police brutality in Kenya and we lost a light which shone so brightly in our generation. 

Collince Onyango is a community leader in Kibera and was a good friend of Carilton. He was pleased to give the following statement to the Gryphon:

“Carilton David Maina would have been central to my team supporting the needy and most vulnerable families in Kibera slums during these terrible times of the Coronavirus pandemic.

As it was always part of his passion to help his community. Carilton and I discussed at length starting a community group to unite youths of the different villages in Kibera within our area of Nyayo Highrise Ward, but he was murdered before we could begin. 

I have since gone on to start the Soweto Silanga Welfare Group with 70 youths, and during this pandemic we have so far distributed food to almost 5,000 vulnerable people in Kibera, funded largely by donations from those that knew Carilton in the UK. I know that Carilton’s heart of humanity wouldn’t have let him just sit and wait for further directives in handling the current problems. 

As a brilliant youth, he would have come out defiantly to help in one way or the other in the fight against Covid-19. It’s now about a month after the court released the murder suspect on bail. We are still waiting for the next day of hearing and finally the ruling.

I think it’s time our judicial systems stand with the cries of the oppressed and help them find justice…

I hope all shall be well.

We miss you.

RIP Carilton.”

A fundraiser organised by Collince is currently being held to help feed the citizens of Kibera. To donate, click here.

Some months after Carilton’s death, the community created a large mural in memorial to Carilton at the entrance to Kibera. The mural shows on one side the shacks of the Kibera slum formed into a fist of defiance against police brutality. The mural demands “the right to live and to empower the dreams of Kibera’s residents”. 

From there a bridge traverses a book of learning to an image of the Parkinson Building at the University of Leeds. To Carilton’s right are keys and engineering imagery representing the key to his and his community’s future. 

The mural prominently features the Twitter hashtag #JusticeForMaina that trended in outrage at Carilton Maina’s death. The hashtag quickly became one of the top ten Twitter hashtags of 2018 in Kenya. Carilton’s image in his now-famous headband sits in the centre of the image. 

Clearly visible from the busy commuter highway Mbagathi Way, the mural stands proudly and defiantly as a powerful reminder to the tens of thousands that pass it each day of the continued outrages of police brutality. 

The mural includes the phrase “Rest In Power Carilton” across his chest.

A tribute to Maina, published in 2019 by The Gryphon can be found by clicking here.

The University of Leeds declined to comment on the recent charge against Emmanuel Ambunya Oyombe.

If the content of this article has affected you in any way, feel free to contact Student Counselling at scw@leeds.ac.uk or LUU Student Advice at advice@luu.leeds.ac.uk where you can sign you up for a wellbeing drop-in.