• Residents say many victims lack IDs and thus cannot report brutality and extortion, a fact known to police. Most cases unreported.
• Police deny harassment, say narcotics widely sold in the area and they will not relent in the war on drugs and relates crimes.
Residents of Kiamaiko in Nairobi's Huruma estate are protesting against what they call regular harassment, even torture, by police demanding bribes.
Police deny extortion and brutality, saying there is a serious narcotics problem in the area. They say a syndicate is involved and they intend to smash it.
Many residents told the Star, however, that officers approach them, claiming to be crime fighters with information on their illegal activities, especially drugs trafficking.
Even after a search confirms there are no drugs or other contraband, officers demand bribes to release them, residents say.
Resident Hassan Abdi, (not his real name) said he was arrested and assaulted by two officers at Number 8 stage in Huruma on Tuesday last week.
“I had just pulled over by the roadside when police parked in front of my car. They approached my car and without a word, held me by the throat,” Abdi said.
He is a slaughterhouse butcher.
The 33-year-old asked why they were strangling him but the two men in civilian clothes said they were police officers.
“The more questions I asked the harder he strangled me until I could not talk. I could feel the air cutting off,” he said.
Abdi said when he could no longer speak, the officer let go of his throat and began interrogating him about bhang they alleged he had in the car.
“I asked them to search the car but they insisted that I get out and go to their car. I declined and the hitting began,” he recalled.
Abdi said both officers punched him in the face and dragged him to their vehicle, a private car.
“My entire face was swollen and my mouth was bleeding. They moved around to Buruburu, Dandora, and other places with me in their car until eventually at around 8pm, we got to Pangani police station,” he said.
There, Abdi said, the worst took place. He told the Star one officer drew his pistol and used it to hit him on the head and private parts.
He forced open his mouth using the pistol and threatened to shoot him if he did not admit to selling bhang, Abdi said.
“I pleaded with them to let go of me. I did not have any bhang or money on me and wondered why they would not listen,” he recounted.
Abdi said one cop took out a pair of red pliers and used it to squeeze his genitals while interrogating him.
They asked what he does for a living and in response, he told them that he worked at the Kiamaiko slaughterhouse as a butcher.
“They disputed so I asked them where they thought I worked and they said I traffick bhang. I asked them where the bhang they claim I sell but they only responded by squeezing my genitals even harder,” he said.
Screaming in pain, Maniru said he now pleaded with the officers to take him to court instead, but they declined.
He said the rogue cops then demanded that he pay them Sh200,000in exchange for his release.
Assaulted and in extreme pain, Abdi said he started making calls to his friends and relatives to help him raise the money.
“They wouldn't to take M-Pesa and had my brother withdraw and bring the money to them,” he said.
Abdi said he was released without any charges and his brother took him home.
Starehe OCPD Julius Kiragu denied the claims. He said if they were true, reports would have been lodged at the station.
He said no one has reported or complained about issues. They appear to have mushroomed after the death of teenager Haila Asanake.
“If there are any reports of harassment, the victims should lodge complaints and action shall be taken against the officers,” he said.
“Police don’t just go there to harass them as they claim. There is a big drug problem there and they know it."
Kiragu said drug abuse and trafficking are still rampant in the area and police have arrested a number of people involved in a trafficking syndicate.
However, miraa vendor Anthony Maina said some extortion victims do not have legal identification and therefore cannot make reports.
“Some are of Ethiopian origin and though they were born here, they do not have IDs and therefore cannot make reports. Police take advantage of that,” he said.
Resident Ibrahim Wako narrated how a woman was recently bundled into a car and assaulted.
“I saw them push her into the car near Njuguna’s butchery. She came out with her face swollen and mouth cracked. She told me she didn’t have money to give them,” he said.
Residents want the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) and the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission to investigate and punish offenders.
“We know them. Some of them were transferred to different places like Rongai and Machakos but they come back looking for money," one resident said.
Residents want Police IG Hillary Mutyambai to frequently reshuffle officers to break up the syndicate.
OCPD Kiragu said he will not relent in the war on drugs that ruins the lives f young people and causes a surge in crimes.
"We know our work and we shall do it in accordance to the law," he said. "We will not stop fighting drug peddlers in the region.
(Edited by V. Graham)