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13 July 2016

Fare Thee Well - Mourners Bid Brutally Killed Human Rights Defender

At the Consolata Shrine's altar in Westlands, Nairobi, lay three caskets; in them lay the bodies of victims of extra-judicial killings: Lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri.

On the front row, there is a two-year-old by who despite the solemn mood, can't help the terrible twos as his mother struggles to get him to settle; up and down he goes on the bench.

Mwenda was his uncle; one he'll never get to know.

The three victims have left young families and just like the boy, their children may as well not understand what was happening or why their fathers were not around.

It was on Friday when family members, friends, right groups and members of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) gathered at the Shrine, for a joint memorial service for the trio who were killed in the search for justice.

"Even in their grave, they will still be speaking against injustices in this country," one mourner said.

The representative of bereaved families James Mburu said not even time would heal their wounds but said, "The perpetrators can only seek forgiveness from God."

"Although the three have been taken from us long before their time, I know that you too, will miss the friendship and values that they brought into your lives."

Mburu said the trio maybe gone, but they had left the world a better place, than they found it.

The victims equally received heaps of praise from speaker after speaker at Friday's memorial for the noble tasks they were involved in before their untimely demises.

International Justice Mission Founder and Chief Executive Officer Gary Haugen described the three with admiration for their roles as lawyer, driver and a client, who sought justice.

To him, Muiruri was indispensable, "to our work. He was a beloved friend and a brother."

He described Mwenda, a father of one, as a, "true defender of human rights. We came to know Josephat because he was being harassed by police. He knew the way he was being treated was wrong and the officers needed to be brought to justice."

He added Mwenda was calm but unshakable in what he believed in.

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"The God of the universe, the one who made each one of us, He is a God of justice and his justice will be made known. This we know, that God will not be mocked," he said.

Kimani, who was working as an investigator with IJM, was described as a brave Kenyan, who stood against the ills of society, more so those perpetrated by police officers against innocent people.

"He freely poured out rich love on those around him," he said. "Willie's spent his life and ultimately gave his life following hard after the God of justice. He was willing to place his own body between bad men and vulnerable poor."

The IJM boss said the death of the three would only increase their zeal to build a better and just society.

"We are more fiercely committed than ever to strain every muscle of effort and pull every resource that God is kind enough to provide so that those who committed the murder are brought to justice," he vowed.

Their killings continue to elicit condemnation largely from the Law Society of Kenya and Human Rights defenders in the country, who continue to call for justice to be done.

Four police officers have been arrested over the murder and will remain in custody until July 18 when their case will be mentioned.

Those in custody are Sergeant Fredrick Leliman, Sergeant Leonard Mwangi, Corporal Stephen Chebulet and Constable Silvia Wanjiku.

Detectives looking into the brutal murders are still pursuing more suspects.

LSK President Isaack Okero, during the memorial service, continued to pile pressure on the Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet and Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery to resign over what he said was a growing trend of forced disappearances linked to police.

"This is a problem that is too big to be quiet about," he said. "Those in charge must take responsibility and there must be acceptance that there is a problem."

He however said the probe was going well but questioned why police allowed demonstrators to destroy Syokimau AP camp where the deceased were held prior to their deaths.

"Somebody needs to explain how that can happen," he said. "They just sat down and watched and yet they have been strict on protestors. That needs to be explained."

It is believed that crucial evidence was torched in the Wednesday incident.

Police however accused the area Member of Parliament Patrick Makau for the fire and is being sought for questioning.

"He knows what he did and it was wrong," Boinnet said of the legislator who is believed to have gone into hiding after leading the demonstrations that led to the arson.

The camp was burnt down by boda boda operators during a protest against the killing of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and a taxi driver Joseph Muiruri. Website