- Instead of airing our dirty linen to the court in Amsterdam, let’s build Kenyan systems and not corrode them using supranational channels.
- By doing so, we can effectively address police brutality and restore public confidence in our institutions.
Azimio’s decision urging the International Criminal Court to investigate Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome over police killings, is commendable. However, it raises a number of complications which need to be addressed.
Karim Khan, the current ICC prosecutor, once represented President William Ruto (when he was was Deputy President) which raises questions about impartiality and could complicate the investigation of the police service.
The ICC does not typically address political disputes, placing Azimio's appeal at a disadvantage. And perhaps more importantly, going to the ICC is too rash because the coalition did not even give Kenyan courts an opportunity to redress the issue.
The first two complications are more complex but the third issue is the most important to tackle.
I agree that police should be held accountable for the scores of violence and unprofessional conduct observed during the Azimio protest. We saw police beating up protesters, breaking into vehicles, attacking journalists, killing protesters and covering up these misdeeds.
The Kisumu incident where police inadvertently killed one of their own and blamed it on protesters and the false news spread by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations about the protests come to mind as examples of cover ups.
More horrifying also is the death of a toddler in Kibera owing to the unprofessional use of teargas canisters by the police.
There is no doubt that someone should be held accountable for the misconduct. Koome, being in charge, and individual police officers who engaged in unlawful conduct during the protests, should be held to account for their role in facilitating the misconduct which left innocent civilians either injured or dead.
Although it is necessary to hold the police accountable for these horrendous actions, going to the ICC might not be the best solution. Instead, other alternatives should be considered.
The IG can be held accountable by summoning him to Parliament to answer for the massive police misconduct witnessed during the protest. Alternatively, families that were affected during the protest could bring separate or joint lawsuits against the Office of the IG.
Doing this will give Kenyan systems an opportunity to redress the many incidents of police misconduct observed during the protest, through the separation of powers. This will also send a clear message that police brutality will not be tolerated in Kenya, restoring public trust in the ability of Kenya’s arms of government to solve such disputes.
Other solutions can be forward looking. For instance, ensuring that Independent Policing Oversight Authority officials attend and document police conduct during protests. This will ensure that officers who engage in misconduct are immediately held accountable for their actions.
Also, judging from the amount of unprofessional conduct observed during the Azimio protests, the police need to undergo substantial training on how to handle protests.
The numerous videos that showed their misconduct revealed that the force was under prepared to handle the protest. Training police on how to better handle future protests can help prevent such incidents from happening or massively reduce their magnitude in future protests.
Going to the ICC only puts Kenya in a bad light. It sends a message that we cannot handle our own issues. The court should be saved for extreme cases, like that of Ukraine which is handling. In any case, we should also learn from the Uhuru-Ruto experience that the ICC may not even be the best vehicle to solve cases presented to it.
The IG’s failures and those of the police force fall under the Executive. The Judiciary and Parliament should be relied upon to check the Executive regarding the issue of police brutality.
Instead of airing our dirty linen to the court in Amsterdam, let’s build Kenyan systems and not corrode them using supranational channels. By doing so, we can effectively address police brutality and restore public confidence in our institutions.
If we rely on the ICC in cases that Kenyan institutions are poised to handle, then we are weakening the potency of our separation of powers.