Africa

Kenyans mourn rights activist Caroline Mwatha

Kenyan police have issued a statement indicating that a prominent Kenyan human rights activist who championed the fight against police brutality and extrajudicial killings in her country, died from a botched abortion.

Caroline Mwatha disappeared in Dandora – a poor neighbourhood in the capital, Nairobi – where she lived and campaigned against abusive treatment of people in police custody in the East African country.

Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) said in a statement that Mwatha died during an attempted termination of her five-month-old pregnancy, and six people were under arrest.

Local media said she went missing on Feb. 6, and the CID said it began an inquiry two days later, finding that Mwatha had been engaged in communications “relating to an intended abortion of a five-month-old pregnancy.”

“Investigators believe that Caroline died in the clinic and the body was transferred to the Nairobi city mortuary,” the statement said, adding that those who took the body to the morgue gave a false name for the deceased.

The CID statement did not elaborate on why the six were arrested, but said the group included the owner of the clinic where the abortion was carried out, her son, a doctor involved in the procedure, and a taxi driver.

Investigations were continuing, the CID said.

Mwatha’s activism

Mwatha worked for the Dandora Community Justice Centre, which has documented cases of extrajudicial killings by security personnel in the area and campaigned for accountability and justice for the victims.

London-based global rights group Amnesty International, described Mwatha as a “a mum not just to her children, but also to the whole community, loving and caring; a cheerful personality, a leader who always led by example.”

Kenyan police face frequent allegations of brutality and extrajudicial killings from civilians and rights groups, but officers are rarely charged and almost never convicted.

The government established the Independent Policing Oversight Authority in 2011 after police were blamed for the deaths of dozens of protesters in violent clashes following a disputed presidential election in 2007.

But the authority has only managed to secure a handful of convictions against accused policemen despite numerous complaints from the public.

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