Over the years, the Kenyan Police force has developed a well-established doubtful reputation of being a source of insecurity and unrest rather than security. The Kenyan Police most times represents clear, real and impending risk to the lives of Kenyan inhabitants. And the change from the usual security institution to an insecurity institution by the Police force didn’t just happen in an instant. It was due to unavoidable results from several circumstances, which are quite beyond the control of the Policemen themselves. For Example, the Policemen are paid less than they are due and are poorly equipped, while others may be as a result of persistent dishonesty and fraudulent activities within the Police force.
Previously, the Police force under the constitution is ready to take and carry out orders which are issued in order to attain political goals. Consequently, when faced with any security plight, the Government sets up a special police unit to address the issue and such a unit would work under maximum risk and high indemnity. In the case of Kenya however, the Government plays dumb to activities of such a unit. The police force is faced with more challenges than any other institution in Kenya, but one of the most significant things that has magnified that risk is, its engagement in illegal killings especially for political purposes. Strikingly, this is no longer news as it has become a common habit firmly formed in a clear pattern among the policemen. This well formed habit in turn, may be difficult to change and it has become the case with the Kenyan Police Force.
Kenya Squad that Executes Illegal Killing for the Government as Exposed by Al Jazeera
Increase in Crime:
In 1990, there was a rapid increase in crime in Kenya. In a bid to root out high rates of carjacking, violent robberies and other rising crimes, the Government in 1995, created a new special police unit referred to as The Flying Squad. The new unit was explicitly granted the special right to shoot any suspect on sight without trial or any other formal process and this led to the unit’s involvement in several shocking illegal killings, which according to them was their way of achieving the new set security goals.
Most often, Police officers were caught shooting suspects even after they had capitulated or surrendered. The special unit killed a number of innocent Kenyan inhabitants without showing any feeling of remorse for their actions. The police force was ever ready to kill at the slightest provocation and the police command never saw it as dangerous. Rather, it was greatly admired as the only solution to eradicate soaring crime.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, there were deep economic challenges which increased insecurity as criminal gangs appeared and grew rapidly all over the country. The criminal gangs created their spheres of influence mostly in slum areas. In order to gain loyalty from the community and also enhance their conformity to the law, the gangs (Mungiki, the Taliban, the Kosovo boys, the Baghdad boys, Chinkororo, and the Kalenjin Warriors) provided security for a token payment. The group called Mungiki is a Kikuyu which means “Miultitude”. There was a combination of cultural and political elements in the operations of the group. When they first came into being, the social aspect of the group which involved traditional Kikuyu beliefs in their god called Ngai was more noticeable. Later on as the groups grew, they started taking a brazen political stance which didn’t sit well with the state, leading to their confrontation with the state.
The groups, which operated mainly in Nairobi slums, the Central Province and parts of the Rift Valley provided security to the poor living in the slums for a token payment and refusal to pay the security fee led to violence and killings almost all the time. In retaliation, the Kenyan Government officially banned 18 of these criminal gangs and organisations in 2002. In 2007, the spread of The Mungiki influence compelled The Government to invent a special unit referred to as Kwekwe, whose task was basically to search for and capture members of The Mungiki. Rather than hunting down Mungiki, kwekwe went too far in their operation against the gang, thereby causing more unrest rather than peace.
Based on reports by The National Commission on Human Rights in 2008, illegal killings and other ruthless acts have been executed by The Police force against the members of Mungiki and these acts of great cruelty may have been carried out in accordance with the official policy explicitly approved by The Commissioner of Police, top Police commanders and The Kenyan Government. Also, according to observations by HRW in 2008, the action of the police showed extreme cruelty even worse than that of Mungiki.
Measures Designed To Thwart Terrorism:
Formerly, considering most of the incidents that took place in the past, including the 1998 US Embassy attack, targeting of western interests, Kenya was seen as a target for being rooted in the western sphere of interest, and therefore, has been in the cross-hairs of the transnational jihad movement and more so, became a huge target after its involvement with Somalia in 2011. Following this, the terrorism in Kenya increased rapidly leading to several terrorist attacks, including the Westgate shopping mall attack which lead to the killing of 67 people and injuring of 200 people by unidentified gunmen in September 2013.
Consequently, to eradicate the rising terrorism likely to cause threat to public safety, Kenyan Government in March 2003, introduced the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) after a cruel attack on an Israeli-owned Mombasa hotel. The Anti-Terrorism Act in 2012 was also passed as one of the many responses to root out terrorism in Kenya. In addition to that, Kenyan Government started taking stern measures against the Somali and Muslim communities, particularly in Nairobi, Northern Kenya and coastal Kenya. Several illegal killings of Muslim preachers went on. As the crackdown became more intense, quite a lot them were killed in the coastal city of Mombasa in Kenya. The victims were mainly suspected to have had links with Somalia’s Al-Shabab group. The Police even declined taking responsibility for these illegal killings in nearly all the cases.
On the another hand, a research done by Human Rights Organisation in August 2014 shows the involvement of The Anti-Terrorism Police Unit in some of these illegal killings. According to their report of 2014, “Kenya: Killings, disappearance by anti-terror police,” ” … evidence of at least 10 cases of extrajudicial killings of terrorism suspects, some of whom were last seen in ATPU custody or had been threatened by the unit’s officers after the courts had released them”. The victims especially the Muslim leaders were accused of recruiting young Muslims for terrorism acts through their Mosque. Although The Government initiated investigations against the clerics, it never adhered to the right procedures in prosecuting the Imams. After great expressions of disapproval by the public against the action of the government especially for killing Muslim cleric Ibrahim “Rogo” Omar, The Government introduced a task force to look into his killing. As a result, the director of public prosecution in 2013, guaranteed the public that he would make judicial inquiry to ascertain the facts relating to the murder of the Muslim cleric Ibrahim “Rogo” Omar, of which the promise is yet to be fulfilled.
Following the violence that hit Kenya in 2007-2008, Waki commission was created to look into conditions surrounding the violence and to proffer solutions at that time(2007-2008). After several investigations, they discovered that out of 1,500 deaths, the police was basically responsible for 30% of them. Consequently, a number of reform measures were put forward including the establishment of a civilian oversight of the Police, and a host of other reforms. The reforms, however have stopped making progress because of lack of political will. The illegal killings by the Police in Kenya are anchored by a systemic lack of accountability and also by a firmly established culture of unwelcome influence of freedom from punishments.
In spite of the fact that The Kenyan Police face ever-changing security problems, its participation in illegal killings makes matters even worse and immensely requires the effective placement pf reforms in the security sector of Kenya. Considering most of the incidents that took place in the past including the 1998 US embassy attack, targeting western interests, you would agree with me that the initial purpose of having a police force in Kenya has been defeated.
While the police undoubtedly face new and changing security difficulties everyday, its involvement in activities that question its moral decadence, has gradually turned it from a friend of the people to an enormous monster that you dare not run to in times of trouble. So, when you are within the territories of Kenya, Police is definitely NOT you friend.