Slum cops clean up their act, extremism drops — leaders

Relations improve between Nairobi cops and civilians, public more willing to provide tips

In Summary

• Youths  prone to violent extremism if they see dishonest cops demanding and accepting bribes and misbehaving.

• UN-sponsored radicalism project in Shauri Moyo, Pangani started in 2017. Eastleigh also involved.

Kibera slum
Kibera slum
Image: FILE

In some Nairobi slums, police are changing their ways, no longer extorting or demanding bribes, showing they can be trusted.

As a result, community relations are improving, community policing is possible and the public is less afraid to offer tips about criminals.

That's what some police, community leaders and officials of a UN programme said yesterday at a forum in Nairobi. It was convened by the UN Office on Drug Abuse and Crime.

They said the two-year, UN-sponsored programme has thawed relations between the community and police.

The UN agency's associate programme officer Joy Matara said her organisation was taking a different approach to counter violent extremism.

She said they try to "demystify" the police, show them as human and emphasise how petty corruption aids radicalisation and terrorism.

"We understood the clear relationship between corruption, especially small graft at the grassroots, and extremism and terror in the long run, Matara said. Graft cumulatively aids terrorism, Matara said. 

Idle youths can more easily be lured into radicalisation, she said.

"We sought to sensitise people in an all-inclusive approach and work with police to relate with the people as normal people," the UN official told the Star.

The project started in 2017 in Kenya and in Zanzibar, aiming to improve community policing by eradicating corruption in the police.

Shauri Moyo OCS Alice Chedotum said her officers' attitude about demanding and accepting bribes and making quick money has changed. They now understand the "nexus between the vice and extremism and other forms of crime", she said.

For example, Chedotum said, a woman who approached a senior officer with a Sh10,000 bribe in exchange for a favour was arrested and will be arraigned next Monday.

"We arrested her immediately and put her in custody," the OCS said.

She said crime has declined dramatically, saying this was because "community members have found it easy to relate with [my] officers."

Since the project of deradicalising the young men in Shauri Moyo and Pangani started two years ago, attitudes have changed greatly, she said.

"This is not only within the community but also among officers and this has engendered a cordial relationship between us," Chedotum said.

Nowadays civilians even volunteer to be traffic marshals, working closely with police, she said.

Clive Wanguthi, a Shauri Moyo opinion leader, said residents are more willing to volunteer intelligence to officers and this has promoted peace in neighbourhoods that otherwise would be crime dens.

Hussein Duba, chairman of the Eastleigh security community, said young people find it easy to report issues "as they no longer view the police as their enemies". Duba is also a leader of the Nyumba Kuma initiative.

"This project has debunked the notion that police are bad people and maybe superhumans. People now understand that officers have their interests at heart, ensuring that they are safe and protected," he said. 

Young people are encouraged to engage in useful economic activities, "rather than waiting for quick riches promised by radical elements", he said.

Officers from the National Police Service's Internal Affairs Unit said that in 2018 alone, they received more than 8,000 complaints through its Anonymous Reporting system.

They said that of this number, more than 1,200 were genuine cases that were investigated and the officers punished based on Standing Orders.

The reporting system is funded by the UN agency.