Si­lence the killer po­lice guns against our young gen­er­a­tion

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION -

Many would agree with me that Kenya po­lice have gone be­yond be­ing trig­ger-happy and be­come a killing ma­chine.

There is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion any­where (in law) for the po­lice to fa­tally shoot in­no­cent peo­ple, least of all un­armed ones. The poor youth of this coun­try have been turned into dart boards for the po­lice to aim their live bul­lets at and it must stop. Full stop.

I get many emails from young peo­ple, mainly in the slums of Kenya, on the sub­ject of ‘shoot to kill’ pol­icy used by the po­lice and they are cry­ing out for help. They form groups to try and keep them­selves and their friends safe from the po­lice when, iron­i­cally, they should be run­ning to the law en­forcers for help.

NGOS are also out to try and sup­port vic­tims of po­lice bru­tal­ity, but what does the gov­ern­ment do? Deny there is ex­tra­ju­di­cial killing! This is com­ing from the min­is­ter in charge of se­cu­rity for

If not ex­tra­ju­di­cial killing, then we are talk­ing of a blood­bath. Ei­ther of them be­ing mis­car­riage of jus­tice of an unimag­in­able scale.

We can­not stop crime by ex­ter­mi­nat­ing youth. Po­lice are as­sum­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary level of il­le­gal power by sum­mar­ily ex­e­cut­ing who­ever they deem to be a “sus­pect”.

Pre­sump­tion of guilt is not within the of­fi­cial role of the po­lice. They have no le­gal power to pass such an ul­ti­mate sen­tence on a sus­pect, what­ever the crime. We have it in our laws (Ar­ti­cle 26 of Chap­ter 4, to be ex­act) that ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing a crim­i­nal, has a right to life.

The pri­mary role of the po­lice is to main­tain law and or­der. By tak­ing away lives so bru­tally and vi­o­lently, they break the very laws they are meant to en­force. How did the po­lice end up above the law?

The level of vi­o­lence po­lice are met­ing out in towns such as Mom­basa is very per­sonal to me. I grew up there feel­ing safe and se­cure. Granted, the crime rate has, in­deed, in­creased in the coastal town, and so has the level of poverty.

Crime is no ex­cuse for the po­lice to act out­side the law, how­ever. Vi­o­lence is not an ef­fec­tive crime con­trol method and never was. The po­lice well know that plas­tic bul­lets and stun guns are bet­ter al­ter­na­tives to live bul­lets.

The pic­ture of poverty is the same for youth around the coun­try, who are strug­gling to find op­por­tu­ni­ties to earn a liv­ing. Those op­por­tu­ni­ties are not go­ing to be cre­ated through the bar­rel of the gun, but em­ploy­ment poli­cies that would cre­ate sus­tain­able jobs. We are go­ing to war with our so­cio-eco­nomic chal­lenges.

Right to steal

There were loud cries of pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence re­cently when many se­nior state of­fi­cials were charged in court over cor­rup­tion. We were meant to be­lieve that they had the right to steal pub­lic funds to their heart’s con­tent, to en­joy the due process of the law and, in the mean­time, have the right to re­turn to their com­fort­able of­fices safe and sound un­til proven oth­er­wise.

I could not think of a le­gal sys­tem more dis­crim­i­na­tory to­wards the poor than the one we have. It seems it is al­right to ad­vo­cate for the life of those that em­bez­zle funds from cru­cial de­part­ments — whose crim­i­nal acts could lead to death and leave many more walk­ing dead — but it is not to save the life of a poor chap who is, some­times, forced to steal just a morsel of food to sus­tain the very life that is lost through the bul­let.

We have our polic­ing val­ues com­pletely mixed up and it is lead­ing to in­tol­er­a­ble suf­fer­ing. The po­lice need to un­der­stand that, for them to suc­ceed at their job, they must es­tab­lish a healthy re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­ni­ties they serve. They need to be friends, not foes. Con­tin­ued use of vi­o­lence, es­pe­cially on the poor, alien­ates them more and turns com­mu­ni­ties against them.

We have wit­nessed a few such in­ci­dents, when the pub­lic turned against the po­lice. Many such cases may not be jus­ti­fied but, if in­jus­tice pushes peo­ple too far against the wall, they are bound to fight back for their rights us­ing the same vi­o­lence.

Re­spect for the rule of law is in­her­ently in­ter­linked with the work of the po­lice. The de­par­ture from it by the po­lice has the po­ten­tial to plunge the coun­try into law­less­ness. Who can keep or­der when those man­dated to do so are at the front of the queue flout­ing the law with im­punity?

Dan­ger­ous trend

The lack of sepa­ra­tion of pow­ers within the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is a dan­ger­ous trend. It is time lines within it were made crys­tal clear in or­der to main­tain smooth and fair ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice.

Se­cu­rity in the coun­try is para­mount in at­tract­ing in­vest­ment. But that does not mean it should be main­tained through loss of blood of oth­er­wise in­no­cent civil­ians. The vi­o­lent and abra­sive form of se­cu­rity keep­ing does very lit­tle in en­hanc­ing a good im­age of the coun­try.

It is time to hu­man­ise the face of the po­lice ser­vice. New uni­forms and digi­ti­sa­tion of the ser­vice are not enough. Hu­man rights ought to be at the fin­ger­tips of ev­ery of­fi­cer.

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