BY PAYTON MATHAU
Like the documentary series “Lost Faces of the Bible”, they have become the lost faces of Kenya. Only that unlike in the documentary, their disappearance left no trace, at least none that is visible or overt. They are blogger Bogonko Bosire and Albert Muriuki who deputised Abdikadir Mohammed as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s adviser on legal and constitutional affairs at State House.
In case they are alive, where are they? If not, will their bodies ever be found? Were they victims of the forced disappearances like the ones former Special Rapporteur Philip Alston found out after the 2007/08 post-election violence?
Both disappeared just around the same time in 2013. Bosire ran a popular blog, Jackal News, which rattled both friend and foe. The former journalist’s descriptive writing ability was unmatched, for he would literally take the readers to the scene of the action.
Bosire was simply a wordsmith. Every good thing or person must have a weakness and for Bosire, his inherent weakness was his love for the bottle.
Around September 18, 2013, as Deputy President William Ruto’s post-election violence case was starting in The Hague, Bogonko was alleged to have been among the people the International Criminal Court had indicted for disclosing the identity of the first prosecution witness P-0536.
Following the allegations, Bosire went missing with claims that he had been knocked down in a hit-and-run. There were also claims that he had gone into hiding in Zimbabwe with the help of top government officials to avoid being arrested by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for witness tampering.
None of those allegations have been confirmed and Bosire’s whereabouts still remain unknown to date. But rumours of his supposed hiding was fuelled by the discovery that his blog, www.thejackalnews.com, for some time kept on being updated in a Bosire-ish fashion before it went dark. His Facebook account too remains active though the last update that “he” made was around December 2014.
“Am Happy,” the post read, attracting many comments.
“Bosire Bogonko’s Facebook account updated ‘Am Happy’ again after mysterious public disappearance??? #WhereIsBogonko,” Evans Kipkilot posted on December 28, 2014.
A year since his “disappearance”, his brother Elkanah Bosire said the family had lost hope of ever finding him alive.
“The police continuously call me to go look through the morgues each time they’d a corpse that they thought could be him. All the time, it has turned out to be an incorrect identification,” Bosire told the media in 2014.
“It was once a terrible experience, going to the mortuaries and seeing all these lifeless bodies. We have given up hope of finding him.”
Meanwhile, police spokesman Masood Mwinyi had also mentioned that their investigations had found no trace of the blogger, and Tom Rhodes of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also said their efforts had hit a dead end.
“Bogonko Bosire used to be a wise, talented — if not every so often controversial journalist. His disappearance is a tragic loss to the media fraternity here in Kenya,” Rhodes said last year.
But Muriuki’s disappearance is what has left many Kenyans with unanswered questions. As the deputy constitutional and legal advisor to President Kenyatta, one would have expected State House or other government agencies to initiate a massive search for him. State House has kept unusually quiet as rumours of his disappearance continue.
The Columbia University law graduate worked briefly as an intern at the International Criminal Court in the Office of the Presidency before he returned to Kenya. Given his contacts with the ICC, rumour had it that he could have fallen afoul of the allies of the ICC suspects who may have wanted to silence him. The eeriest one has been that Muriuki suffered the same fate as that of the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba – his body was dismembered and discovered in concentrated sulphuric acid. But that remains that; just a rumour.
Muriuki’s mother, Dr Naomi Mutea, a senior lecturer at Kimathi University, Nyeri, and who initially made contact with media about her son’s disappearance, has since gone quiet.
The case has been left to the Law Society of Kenya which has been asking the Inspector-General of Police to investigate Muriuki’s case, who until his disappearance was active in the roll of advocates of Kenya. LSK chief executive Apollo Mboya was quoted by the Kenyan media as saying that Muriuki was last seen at Calee Confectionary Shop at Pension Towers along Loita Street, Nairobi on December 30, 2013.
LSK wrote to the Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet on March 12, 2015, to demand an update on police investigations into the matter, given that Muriuki served at the helm of State power.
“The government has the resources and ability to investigate the matter, taking into account that Muriuki was a senior official within State House,” Mboya asserted.
“We request you to inform us of the status of investigations to enable us to report to the membership during our Annual General Meeting on March 21, 2015,” Mboya’s letter, copied to Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko and LSK President Eric Mutua, stated.
On April 13, Tobiko acknowledged Mboya’s letter as he directed the Director of Criminal Investigations boss Ndegwa Muhoro to “expedite investigations into the issues raised in this matter and forward a complete file to this office (DPP’s) for perusal and advice.”
“The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has written a letter concerning the disappearance of the above-named advocate (Muriuki). The LSK states that a report of Albert Muriuki’s disappearance was made at the Central Police Station on the January 10, 2014, as OB78/10/1/2014,” Tobiko said. Whether the Director of Criminal Investigations has got back to Tobiko is unclear.
What baffles many a Kenyan is the loud silence by the government over the disappearances of the two individuals, a situation aptly summed up in a pronouncement by former Kibaki-era anti-corruption chief John Githongo: The State’s “capacity to normalise the absurd”.