Why we need ur­gent talks on polic­ing

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION -

Last month’s pres­i­den­tial re­run will be re­mem­bered for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons but few of those mem­o­ries will bring much joy. An in­ci­dent that I savour, how­ever, was when in­ter­ven­tion was re­quired to halt an an­gry crowd in Bangladesh, Mom­basa, who at­tempted to de­mol­ish a wall be­cause they mis­tak­enly be­lieved that bal­lot boxes were be­ing stuffed be­hind it. The po­lice were ready to repulse the at­tack un­til I per­suaded Changamwe OCS Alex Busienei to give me a chance to talk to the hun­dreds of youth. He not only agreed but took my hand and promised to give cover in case I was as­saulted. Af­ter some time the youth ac­cepted our ver­sion and tension was re­duced. How­ever, what sticks in my mem­ory was not the risk that I took but the cool­ness and pro­fes­sion­al­ism with which the OCS han­dled a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. Dis­ci­pline, di­a­logue and pa­tience won the day and I ac­knowl­edge Mr Busienei’s ap­proach.

While it is fit­ting to ac­knowl­edge in­di­vid­ual of­fi­cers who han­dled elec­tion protests in a pro­fes­sional way, it would ap­pear that just a hand­ful were will­ing to en­gage in such a man­ner dur­ing the Au­gust and Oc­to­ber elec­tions. While the Na­tional Po­lice Ser­vice (NPS) boasted that they were thor­oughly pre­pared to han­dle ev­ery type of in­ci­dent, the re­al­ity

GABRIEL DOLAN

is that in op­po­si­tion strongholds ex­ces­sive and un­nec­es­sary force was used. Ac­cord­ing to the In­de­pen­dent Medico Le­gal Unit (IMLU) thirty six Kenyans aged be­tween 6 months and 36 years of age were killed by po­lice: 23 in Au­gust and an­other 13 in Oc­to­ber. Not sur­pris­ingly, the po­lice spokesman, Ge­orge Kinoti, dis­missed the re­port as ‘sen­sa­tional, ma­li­cious and mis­lead­ing’ claim­ing that its aim was to taint the im­age of the NPS. How­ever, Mr Kinoti made no ref­er­ence to the ev­i­dence that the Post Mortem re­ports on eleven vic­tims re­vealed. The IMLU PMS showed that the eleven died of gun­shots wounds and three of them had mul­ti­ple gun­shots. Seven were shot in the chest and two in the back. In none of the killings was there any ev­i­dence to sug­gest that po­lice were shoot­ing to de­fend them­selves or oth­ers. This was bla­tant ex­e­cu­tion with­out any ef­fort made to im­mo­bilise the at­tack­ers.

Those post mortems were done in Au­gust and re­sults from the Oc­to­ber ones will soon be avail­able. How­ever, IMLU’S pre­lim­i­nary re­search shows that be­tween Au­gust 26 and Au­gust 30, 34 Kenyans were shot and thir­teen died, with 51 still be­ing treated in hos­pi­tal from gun­shot wounds and beat­ings. Of course these fig­ures can­not com­pare with the 450 killed by po­lice in the Post Elec­tion Vi­o­lence of 2007-8.

Nev­er­the­less, the dead can­not cry out for jus­tice. It is the duty of the living to speak for them and IMLU are tak­ing that lead­er­ship role. Con­sis­tent de­nial of re­spon­si­bil­ity even when ev­i­dence speaks for it­self is not help­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in the NPS. In­di­vid­ual of­fi­cers like Busienei can­not alone re­deem the rep­u­ta­tion of the ser­vice. There is an ur­gent need for a pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion around polic­ing be­cause the re­form process has never taken shape and the ob­sta­cles ap­pear to be at the NPS and the po­lit­i­cal elite. This de­bate must be na­tional for Kenyan lives mat­ter ev­ery­where.

Con­sis­tent de­nial of re­spon­si­bil­ity even when ev­i­dence speaks for it­self is not help­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in the na­tional po­lice ser­vice. There is an ur­gent need for a pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion around polic­ing”

Fr Gabriel Dolan is a Catholic priest based in Mom­basa. gdolan65@gmail.com @Gabriel­d­olan1

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