Kenyan governor accused of links to coast massacres

2014-07-16 17:01
Kenya police observe the remains of burnt-out cars at a police station in Mpeketoni, Lamu County. (Simon Maina, AFP)

Kenya police observe the remains of burnt-out cars at a police station in Mpeketoni, Lamu County. (Simon Maina, AFP)

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Mombasa - The governor of Kenya's coastal region of Lamu appeared in court on Wednesday on allegations of links to a spate of massacres, with the prosecution requesting more time to complete investigations.

Governor Issa Timamy of Lamu county was arrested in connection with last month's killings in the town of Mpeketoni and nearby villages, which were claimed by Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militia but blamed by the government on local political networks.

The governor, who has fiercely denied any connection to the massacre of close to 50 people, is currently on bail of five million Kenyan shillings ($57 000) after the State failed in a bid to hold him for 14 days without charge.

Displacement of potential witnesses

In Wednesday's hearing in the port city of Mombasa, senior prosecution counsel Alexander Muteti told Justice Martin Muya that the authorities needed two months to complete the probe.

"The displacement of potential witnesses has made it rather difficult for the investigations. In two months' time, we shall be through and return to court," he said.

Defence counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi, however, said the prosecution had no evidence and demanded the case be dropped.

"Two months is a tool to intimidate Governor Timamy," he told the court.

The judge is scheduled to rule on Thursday on whether to grant the state's application to continue with the investigations.

Tense political rivalry

The accusations have stoked already tense political rivalry between the ruling and opposition parties, with Timamy a member of the opposition United Democratic Forum (UDF) party.

Police have also arrested alleged separatists from the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group that campaigns for independence for the coastal region.

Survivors of the attack in Mpeketoni reported gunmen speaking Somali and carrying Shabaab flags, executing non-Muslims and saying their actions were revenge for Kenya's military presence in Somalia as part of the African Union force intervention against the Islamists.

The attackers appeared to target Mpeketoni because the town is a mainly Christian settlement in the Muslim-majority coastal region, having been settled decades ago by the Kikuyu people, the same tribe as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  uhuru kenyatta  |  kenya  |  east africa

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