Justice delayed, justice denied? Family of lawyer Willie Kimani marks five years since his gruesome murder
It has been five years since the mysterious disappearance and murder of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani Kinuthia alongside his client Josephat Mwenda and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri.
A murder case against four police officers has dragged in court taking a slow dive over the past two years.
The ascension of Justice Jessie Lessit to the Court of Appeal now threatens to delay the case further with a possibility of fresh start of the trial.
Willy Kimani’s family is now calling for the expedition of the murder trial even as they fear more suffering caused by the untimely demise of their youngest son who died at the prime of his career.
Had he lived to this day, Willie Kimani would have marked a decade since becoming an Advocate of the High Court; a dream career that he had cultivated since he was young, albeit through unimaginable challenges best known by his parents.
“Mama yake aliuza sukuma, na mimi nilikuwa nachonga mawe,” his father, Paul Kinuthia, told Citizen TV.
“Alitaka kuwa wakili, alikuwa na shida nyingi sana. Sikuwa na kazi na mzee hakuwa na kazi. Niliuza mpaka ng’ombe na napeleka pesa shuleni, akaenda secondary akapita akatoka huko na A akaenda university,” said Elizabeth Wambui, Kimani’s mother.
A dream cut short on an unknown date after June 23, 2016. On that morning, he was early for court in a case he was representing Josephat Mwenda, who had accused an administrative police officer based at Syokimau AP Camp of assault.
“Willie Kimani woke up as usual, he prepared to go to work..that day he was going to Mavoko Law Courts with a client,” said his wife Hannah Wanjiku.
“That day he was to come back early, we were expecting him at around 2pm or 3pm…but it never happened.”
In the days ensuing, a public outcry was forming, suspicion being that his role in representing a client who had filed a case against a police officer at the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) may have led to his disappearance.
“Since he got lost on a Thursday…by Thursday the following week I did not think he would be alive,” added Hannah.
Four police officers suspected to have orchestrated the murder of the trio were arrested and charged with murder.
Since 2016, 44 prosecution witnesses have taken the stand, detailing the events that led to the death of the three and the ultimate dumping of their bodies in a river at Oldonyo Sabuk until their decomposing bodies were recovered one week after their disappearance.
But since the trial judge Justice Jessie Lessit was nominated by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to join the Court of Appeal in July 2019, the case has dragged even further with applications for release on bond and abstentions by parties to the case.
It was last heard on December 10 last year, with no clarity on what is to follow as Justice Lessit moves to Mombasa on July 1.
“I would really request for Justice Lessit to finish the job…I would ask President Uhuru Kenyatta, would you want him to get justice? Even Chief Justice Martha Koome, I believe she’s a mother, if it was her son or daughter, would they ensure that they get justice?” Posed Hannah.
Kimani’s father Kinuthia, on his part, said: “Kwani hii ni kesi aina gani? Tutakufa kabla hatujaona haki yetu au ni nini?”
He was a critical pillar in their lives. He left at his prime. He was only 32 and had begun to stamp his authority on human rights law. The years may have moved, but not their emotions and memories.
Scared of Kimani’s tormentors, Hannah left their home to secure her two sons.
“I left for the fear of the unknown, I didn’t know if those that killed Willie were chasing after us,” she said, amidst tears.
Her two sons bereaved at the ages of four years and nine months are older now, but still yet to comprehend what happened to their father.
The memory of June 2016 is too traumatizing. They’d rather not mark the anniversary, instead they say a short prayer.
Kimani’s murder trial alongside two others is just one of dozens of murder cases stuck in the courts with families stranded and pained by memories.
The wheels of justice too slow for families such as Kimani’s whose parents are now 81 and 65 years old, uncertain of the future.