October 20th 2017

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Police killings riling Kenyans reflect dwindling interest in reform

The killing of Willy Kimani has only confirmed that such killings are not perpetrated only against terrorist suspects as some may believe. As the police are operating in an environment of limited accountability, anyone can be victim.

By Derrick Kirakadkiraka@kenyafreepress.comMonday, 11 Jul 2016 18:50 EAT

Police officers preparing to combat CORD protesters demanding disbandment of IEBC. (Photo by Allan Muturi/Kenya Free Press)

The dust is yet to settle on the brutal murders of lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josphat Mwenda and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, who were allegedly tortured and killed by Administration Police officers, yet another member of the public has come out with allegations of being shot at by the police.

Renewed allegations of violence by the police continues to emerge as new reports indicate that a woman has recorded a statement at Thika Police station alleging she was ‘accidentally’ shot by a police officer, while aboard a motorcycle.

The officer is said to have been in pursuit of runaway drug traffickers when the incident occurred. The allegation has been confirmed by Thika OCPD Erastus Muthamia who termed the incident ‘unfortunate’. He said the police were in pursuit of the said criminals when they shot the woman.

The murders of Willie Kimani, which roiled the nation’s conscience, were the culmination of police vindictiveness to those whom they are supposed to protect. The root of the murders was a police officer who is said to have accidentally shot the late Josephat Mwenda, only to turn vindictive when Mwenda sought justice in a court of law. The officer executed a massive campaign of intimidation that saw Mwenda arrested several times on trumped up charges.

These two incidents highlight the festering impunity in the police force, which despite its recent transformation into a ‘service’ is still yet to be fully accountable or responsive to Kenyans. The force has been time and again accused of extra-judicial executions, rampant corruption and over politicization.

Willie Kimani was, according to his colleagues, a person who dedicated his intellect and skills to fighting for the voiceless. He horned his skills during his tenure at the Independent Police Oversight Committee (IPOA) which helped him work closely with police officers. He left IPOA and began actively pursuing rogue officers, with many of his clients being victims of police brutality. It is believed this put him at logger heads with some police officers and his killing seems to be about an organization that seeks to keep mum the rot in its system.

In 2014, the global human rights organization Human Rights Watch documented the execution of at least 10 persons by the Anti-Terror Police Unit. The HRW report, ‘Kenya: Killings, Disappearance by Anti-Terror Police’ recounted the disappearance of persons the police accused of aiding terrorism. Despite government promise to investigate the cases, nothing has happened to date.

The ATPU was formed in 2003 after the bombing of Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, Mombasa, to curb rising assault on Kenya from terrorists but as it intensified the crackdown on terrorists, the unit blurred the line between prevention and perpetration of terrorism, hence the massive evidence pointing to extrajudicial killings by the unit.

“In August, Human Rights Watch found evidence of at least 10 cases of extrajudicial killings of terrorism suspects by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU). Some of the victims who were last seen in ATPU custody, had been threatened by the unit’s officers after being released by courts, or had received death threats from ATPU officers they recognized,” said the HRW’s World Report 2015.

The killing of Willy Kimani has only confirmed that such killings are not perpetrated only against terrorist suspects as some may believe. As the police are operating in an environment of limited accountability, anyone can be victim.

The HRW has reported of dwindling support for police reforms initiated under the new constitution in recent years. “Accountability mechanisms introduced under the 2010 constitution remain weak and have not been adequately supported by the executive arm of government. For example, although the IPOA issued a public report about the Usalama Watch operation describing 29 complaints of police abuses, those responsible have not been disciplined or prosecuted,” said the HRW report.

The HRW’s report for 2015 country report also noted the governing coalition’s animus towards IPOA. “Although the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) has made some progress with groundbreaking investigations into reports of police abuses since it was founded four years ago, Jubilee party legislators have called for its disbandment, accusing it of inhibiting counterterrorism efforts with demands for police accountability,” the report said.

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