The Kenya Forum | Murder of Shem Onyango: questions for police and about other murders - The Kenya Forum

October 31, 2012


Murder of Shem Onyango: questions for police and about other murders. The handling by police has been heavily criticised.

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Murder of Shem Onyango: questions for police and about other murders

Murder of Shem Onyango: questions for police and about other murders

Kisumu businessman and local ODM chairman Shem Onyango murdered on Monday

The murder of businessman and local ODM chairman Mr Shem Onyango in Kisumu two days ago, the subsequent riots and deaths and the almost inevitable whirling into action of the rumour mill, are troubling on a number of levels.

Shem Onyango was shot by unknown assailants at about 10 am on Monday as he was driving to the bank. He died later in the Aga Khan Hospital where his wife, also wounded in the attack, remains critically injured.


Protestors soon gathered, and led by local Muhoroni MP Ayicho Olweny and Kisumu Town East MP Shakeel Shabbir, marched to the provincial police headquarters and on to the provincial commissioner’s office, demanding action to improve security in Kisumu following the many recent violent robberies, carjackings and murders that have occurred in the town.

The demonstrations got out of hand. One man was shot dead by police and three others injured. Three other people were burnt to death in a furniture store after, it was alleged police threw teargas canisters into the premises.


The killing of Shem Onyango looks like the result of a brutal robbery, although the police of course have yet to investigate the matter, but that hasn’t stopped web and blog commentators in particular ascribing dark political motives to the murder and comparing it with the murders of other Luo politicians.

Demonstrators on the streets of Kisumu


That a man slowing up to cross a road hump can be just gunned down and his money stolen in broad daylight is of great concern, not least to the people of Kisumu who have witnessed so many similar incidents in recent months. Only last week a night guard was shot dead when a Seventh Day Adventist church was robbed of Sh200,000. On Saturday a researcher from the Centre for Disease control in Kisumu was murdered. These are just two of the latest in a series of violent crimes that have afflicted the area.

The murder of Shem Onyango and the Kisumu crime wave are cause enough for concern but the reaction of the police in the aftermath of killing is also worrisome.


A crime wave, a local politician shot dead on the street, one man shot dead during a street demonstration and three wounded, and three people burnt to death does not suggest a local police force that have law and order in Kisumu under control.

The police force’s claim that the three burnt to death in the furniture died after a fire broke out as a result of an electrical fault, not as a result of police officers lobbing in tear gas canisters as eye witnesses attest, the Kenya Forum finds untenable.


Tom Mboya, murdered on July 5, 1969

Then there is the rumour mill.

Shem Onyango was shot dead on Dr Ouko Street on the Tom Mboya estate. The names of Tom Mboya, shot dead on Moi Avenue in Nairobi on July 5, 1969, and of Dr Robert Ouko, shot near his Koru Farm on 13 February, 1990, resonate not only with Kenyans in general but in particular with the Luo community.

It did not take many hours for bloggers and commentators to draw a parallel between the killings of Tom Mboya, Dr Ouko and Shem Onyango, suggesting that the latter’s murder was political and by an outsider. Such speculation says the Kenya Forum, is a based on a lack of knowledge of historical facts, built on an absence of evidence in the Onyango murder, and published with callous disregard for both truth and consequences.


The truth is that we do not know for who killed Tom Mboya. We may think we do but we do not know for sure. Nahason Isaac Njenga Njoroge was hanged for Mboya’s murder. He reportedly said to the police after his arrest, “Why don’t you go after the big man?” but did not name him. It is surely odd that facing certain death, with nothing to lose, Njoroge did not name the “big man”.

Dr Robert Ouko, murdered on February 13, 1990


The Ouko murder case is one that regular readers of the Kenya Forum will know we have taken a great interest in. The Forum’s own investigation can best be followed by looking at our posting on February 6, 2012, ‘Murder of Dr Robert Ouko: what really happened’, and then follow the links.

As the Kenya Forum has stated, the publicly available information proves almost beyond doubt that murder of Dr Ouko was not carried out by ‘people we all know’.


The murder of Shem Onyango was a most terrible event. The deaths arising from the demonstrations that followed his killing compounded the tragedy. The police must be allowed to conduct a thorough investigation. The police too must be investigated for the manner in which they handled the subsequent disturbances. The politicians and demonstrators must leave the streets. And the online pundits in particular should cut their irresponsible accusations. No good of it will come otherwise.


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