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POLICE BRUTALITY

Normalisation of police killings, brutality enhances impunity

We must act now to put an end to the violations

In Summary

• Besides the killings, police brutality has also been on the rise in the last few months.

• Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country on March 12, Kenyans have been treated to open torture in the hands of the police officers who should protect them.

A file photo of lawyers holding protests in Kisumu town over alleged extrajudicial killings by police officers
A file photo of lawyers holding protests in Kisumu town over alleged extrajudicial killings by police officers
Image: MAURICE ALAL

According to the Social Justice Centres Working Group, police have killed 24 people in the slums of Nairobi in the last four weeks.

They include six people shot dead in Dandora, two in Mowlem, 10 in Mathare North, four in Majengo and two in Kayole. The human rights group recently raised a red flag over the rising number of extrajudicial killings in the city slums and demanded that the government puts urgent measures to tame killer cops on the prowl.

They said the dreaded police officers have been carrying out the executions in open places and in broad day light, indicating impunity of the highest order.

At the end of last month, police raided a house in Kwale county, killing a father — suspected to be an al Shabaab militant — and his children; a boy aged six, a four-year-old girl; while his preganant wife was shot and injured.

At least four other family members, including a three-year-old boy were also injured in the night raid, which sent shivers to a community that is now living in fear, not knowing who will be next on the list.

What is in everyone’s mind is how security officers, who are supposed to be trained in art of combat, would end up killing children who were clueless of what was happening.

Besides the killings, police brutality has also been on the rise in the last few months. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country on March 12, Kenyans have been treated to open torture in the hands of the police officers who should protect them.

On the first day of the now infamous Covid-19 curfew, Kenyans saw for themselves as women and children were teargased in broad daylight at the Likoni ferry crossing in the name of crowd control. Social media was also abuzz of police brutality, including beatings and whipping of individuals even before 7pm, when the curfew was to start. Such brutality was totally needless.

Despite all the open police killings and brutality, one wonders why Kenyans are quiet and seem unbothered by the excesses. In the United States, one black man, George Floyd, was savagely attacked by a police and ended up dying. Although there have been similar incidences in the past, Floyd incident sparked nationwide and global condemnation and outpour of masses to the streets to call for justice.

Hundreds of thousands have come out in demonstrations calling on US authorities to act immediately not only to arrest the officers concerned but also put an end to targeting of black people by the police.

Comparing Kenya to the US, one can obviously see that the excesses by police in Kenya far outweigh those in the US. However, the reaction of Kenyans is by far minimal compared to Americans.

In Kenya, it would appear police killings and brutality has been normalised. So regular are the incidences that it has now become “ordinary” news.  Those who come out to condemn are always only the activists, family and friends of the victims. To the public, it is business as usual and is merely another statistic to note and perhaps, remember.

This normalisation of police killings and brutality has far-reaching consequences to the country.

First, it reduces the sanctity of life and weakens our respect for human dignity. Every Kenyan has an inalienable right to exist and no person, including the police, has a right to take that away.

Second, normalisation of police killings and brutality inculcates a culture of impunity within the police. Impunity in the security forces introduces authoritarian policing and erodes public confidence. When this happens, the people lose faith and will most likely eventually resort to taking the law into their own hands.

We must act now to put an end to the violations. Side shows by the authorities to hold meetings to hoodwink the public that they are doing something to tame the police will not fool anyone. What Kenyans want to see is the immediate arrest of killer cops to face justice. Anything less is unacceptable.