May 30th 2017

Opinion / Commentaries

Leading Africa in police killings: This is not the accolade we need

The report puts Kenya ahead of 14 African nations of Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia, which also recorded cases of police harassment and killings.

By David Mutuadmutua@kenyafreepress.comFriday, 24 Feb 2017 13:08 EAT

A police officer brutalises a protester during last year's demonstrations by the opposition against the Electoral Commission.

Human rights group Amnesty International has put the Kenyan police on the spotlight for misuse of firearms. Amnesty ranks the Kenya police as first in Africa in the number of police shootings and killings of civilians. But the big question is, are the police officers accountable for the use of arms and ammunition given to them on line of duty?

Hardly. Too many cases of police killings are reported by the media but media reports that highlight issues of police accountability are far between. And the police are increasingly turning on their own colleagues. According to local newspaper reports, two police officers on Wednesday night engaged in exchange of fire in Tassia Estate in Nairobi, leaving two of them dead and a third one injured. 

James Makhokha, police constable based at Boinnet’s office was shot dead by his friend constable Patrick Kimani who is based at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) Police Station when they had engaged in serious a fight in a Bar where they were drinking. Kimani also shot and seriously wounded another office by the name Dominic Ngetich who tried to stop them from fighting, before shooting himself dead.

Bodies of the officers were taken to Kenyatta University Mortuary, while Ngetich has been transferred to Nairobi West Hospital for more treatment. "I have found two dead officers and pistol loaded with six ammunition”, said a police corporal who later visited the scene with his seniors. What happened in Tassia estate shows how police officers misuse government guns to commit suicide or harm others in the event of disagreements.

Kenyan police officers routinely kill civilians, their colleagues, friends and relatives, instead of following the law. Today's Amnesty International report indicates that by October last year, a total of 122 police killings had been reported in Kenya out of 177 cases in Africa. If this is not a wake-up call for the government to take action, nothing can be.

The figures could even be higher were it not for lack of official database of police killings or enforced disappearances, says the report. The report puts Kenya ahead of 14 African nations of Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia, which also recorded cases of police harassment and killings. However, the 14 ranked high on violation of freedom of expression as well as the arrest and detention of members of opposition parties and groups.

The 2016-2017 report released by the human rights watchdog on Thursday says the majority of police cases in Kenya were witnessed in the coastal region, with most conducted under the guise of combating terrorism and the terrorist group al-Shabaab. “Security forces carried out enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and torture with impunity,” says the report.

“According to Haki Africa, there were 78 extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances in Mombasa County in the first eight months of 2016,” says the report.Other abuses were committed by unaccountable police officers and security agencies, says the report.

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