- African nations have been speaking out against police brutality at a global level;
- But Kenyan communities have yet to see their government act on police violence at home
When worldwide protests against police violence erupted following the death of George Floyd in the US in May, Kenyans found the protesters’ anguish all too familiar. Civil society groups quickly spoke against police excesses. African groups issued statements condemning racism and police brutality in the US, drawing parallels with state sanctioned police violence in Africa. African nations have been speaking out against police brutality at a global level, but Kenyan communities have yet to see their government act on police violence at home.
In fact, the problem is getting worse. Activists working in grass roots justice centres in informal settlements in Nairobi warn that if the death toll from police violence in Kenya continues at its present rate, 2020 may be one of the deadliest years on record. The situation is bound to get even worse given the trend. Human Rights Watch documented six deaths by police officers within the first few days of the Covid-19 curfew.
According to Missing Voices, a civil society managed website for collecting data on police brutality, more than 700 people have been killed or suffered serious injuries due to police violence since 2007. And this still does not describe the full extent of the problem. Most of the police officers accused of violence are well known within the communities, but activists, survivors and families of those killed rarely find justice.
Although the Independent Policing Oversight Authority has tried to pursue justice for police excesses, the conviction rate remains dismal—just six convictions since 2013. The authority appears overwhelmed and often lacks the much-needed support from government. The government provides no mental health support for affected families. The justice centres offer valuable support to victims and their loved ones.
The centres, about 26 across the country, were formed and are run by activists who wanted to speak out against injustice in their communities. The centres have been helping victims and fighting police brutality.