Pressure mounts on Kenya Police over election killings

Thursday November 30 2017

Charles Owino

Police Spokesman Charles Owino. He says the force was impartial during the election period. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By FRED MUKINDA
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Pressure is mounting on police over accusations they used excessive force while handling protesters during the electioneering period.

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori said 62 deaths were recorded in parts of the country and the figure is likely rise.

DEFENCE

Independent Medico-Legal Unit executive director Peter Kiama said in October, 64 people sustained serious injuries, including 34 who suffered gunshot wounds.

He also said evidence gathered by IMLU “demonstrates a situation of war,” and the violence should only be investigated by an independent institutions.

But police have staged a spirited defence, saying officers deployed to quell violence restrained themselves.

They three spoke on Wednesday on NTV’s Sidebar programme.

“Police have a duty to protect life and property. Every person has a right to his life. If you take a gun and start moving around town with intent to shoot, then police will move in to save lives,” said police spokesman Charles Owino.

“We do not intend to kill. When people die in circumstances you suspect they have been killed, it is also very important you collect evidence. We don’t take death for granted. For every death, we open inquiries to establish the cause of death and present to a magistrate.”

PROBE

He added: “If a policeman is found culpable he will definitely be charged. If you don’t trust (us), we are lucky that we have IPOA (Independent Policing Oversight Authority).”

Mr Owino said in several cases where the perpetrators are gang members, the blame is always heaped on police.

He also said a policeman was charged for causing death in Kisumu during the August election.

But Mr Kiama pointed accusing fingers at the police, saying they cannot be trusted to carry out investigations.

“Each and every case of injury and death is a proper candidate for independent investigation. Look at the way crime scenes are being handled. There might be never end up with any prosecution because evidence is destroyed at the crime scene,” he said.

Mr Kiama referred to IMLU’s findings at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital where police records showed bodies taken there were victims of road accidents.

DEATHS

“But when you look at the body, it is a clear case of torture,” he said.

Ms Mbogori also noted that in deaths attributed to police, the victims were either shot, beaten or inhaled tear gas.

Security expert Richard Tutah, speaking at the same forum said not all deaths should be attributed to police.

“All gunshot deaths should not point at the police. Assuming that all fingers are pointing at police, is it police as an entity or individuals within the police?” he said.

Mr Owino said police applied proportionate case, especially during riots, and each case was handled individually.

He also said police were non-partisan.

'IMPARTIAL'

“We are not partisan, we take care of everyone. When you are given an opportunity to demonstrate, do it within the law and police will come in. There were two sides contesting in the General Election, if we (police) left you alone, we would be looking into deaths and deaths. We do not have the monopoly of violence. We have so many gangs with illicit arms in this country.”

A researcher Wangui Kimari said more deaths and injuries attributed to police occurred in Mathare, Nairobi, but victims are afraid to report.

“Families are too fearful to report cases because have been normalised. We need to look at what is causing this infrastructure of silence, especially among the poor in slums like Mathare. We also need to look at socialisation of police that cause them to engage in these acts and nothing is done against them,” she said.


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