A correspondent for The Star daily newspaper was found dead on Sunday morning in his house in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported today, citing local news reports. A housemate found Bernard Wesonga, aged 27, with blood on his nose and mouth at around 11.30am, CPJ said in a statement, quoting the newspaper Star deputy editor Charles Kerich.
“He was out with his friends and at 11pm when I was getting into bed he had not come home. When I woke up in the morning to open my cafe business, I left him sleeping and from the look of things he had spread his bed well, put the mosquito net and was even surfing his phone when he slept,” The Star Online quoted Eric Onyango as saying.
“At around 10am (the following day) when I came back to the house, he was still lying in the same position. It is unlike him to sleep past 8am. When I tried to wake him up, his body was stiff and cold. I saw blood on his nose and mouth.”
He told friends he recently received anonymous threats via text message in connection with a story that described allegations of unlawful shipment and sale of fertiliser that exceeded its expiration date, according to journalists who spoke to CPJ.
Investigative reporters working in Africa usually get death threats, and some have been killed while others have been savagely beaten, and detained after publishing shocking stories incriminating both the government, corrupt business people and ordinary citizens.
Authorities have not established a cause of death. “This is a case that must be investigated thoroughly. There could be several possibilities which I cannot go into right now,” said police spokesperson Martin Shikuku was quoted by the publication as saying.
Aggrey Adoli, the head of provincial police, told reporters that a coroner’s report would be released Wednesday.
“We offer our deep condolences to Wesonga’s family and colleagues, and urge the authorities to investigate his death thoroughly,” CPJ East Africa consultant Tom Rhodes said.
Wesonga’s immediate supervisor, Chief Correspondent Maureen Mudi, described the victim as a hard-working reporter who had ‘a lot of potential and never disappointed’ in his coverage. She said Wesonga worked for the paper for a year and had undertaken several investigative stories, including a piece about illegal importation of cars.
Kenyan reporters regularly face threats and attacks, according to CPJ research, although homicides are rare. The New York-based media watchdog said it has documented one case of a Kenyan journalist, Francis Nyaruri, killed in retaliation for his work.
Nyaruri, a Weekly Citizen reporter, was brutally murdered in western Kenya in January 2009 while investigating suspected corruption in a police construction project.
No arrests have been made in connection of this murder, CPJ said.
*Photo: courtesy of The Star, Kenya