By Ooko Victor
Extra-judicial killings in Kenya have continued, unabated, and forked out damning statistics over the past five years. According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Kenyan police have been accused of 1, 200 documented deaths in the last five years. This figure is surprisingly more than two-thirds of people killed by guns in Kenya, over the same period of time. The rights group further revealed that an additional 34 people have forcibly disappeared at the hands of security agencies during the last two years. In 2016 alone, the numbers for the first 8 months stood at least 122 people killed in the hands of police; a 7% increase compared to a similar period of 2015. This is subject to the findings of the Deadly Force, a joint report using evidence from the media, Independent Police Oversight Authority and human rights organisations. Most of these deaths and abuses were unsurprisingly perpetrated in the wake of the infamous terror attack activities committed on Kenyan soil with police out to create an impression of efficiency in the crackdown against Al Shabaab sympathisers.
The HRW report of 2014 Tana River and Lamu attacks documented incidences of outright discrimination, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detainment and the stealing of property belonging to Muslim and ethnic Somalis from the two Counties further subjecting them to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. A majority of those arrested and detained have subsequently been released for lack of evidence with no one so far having been held accountable for the two terror attacks. Apart from Tana River and Lamu Counties, other high prone counties to extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances related to terrorism include Nairobi, Wajir and Mombasa. Non-terror related killings are however common in Nairobi, West Pokot, Vihiga, Siaya and Kisumu. The slum dwellings of Kibera and Mathare have also seen a high number of deaths by police executions, many of which may not have been documented due to the lack of police investigations into the circumstances of the deaths.
According to Peter Kiama, the Executive Director of Independent Medico-legal Unit, in an interview with Al Jazeera, the Kenyan government has consistently denied widespread allegations of extrajudicial killings, a factor that makes it more difficult to crack on the vice by the disciplined forces. He further says that there is the need for acknowledgement of what he calls a serious crisis in the National Police Service with regards to misuse of firearms in a majority of cases where no investigations are conducted. The government, through the office of police spokesman Charles Owino, have consistently poured water on attempts to push for accountability by the National Police Service on the conduct of their police officers that have led to unnecessary loss of lives without the slight regard to the due process of the law. In fact, IPOA has been on record saying that in the last 3 years, only one officer has been charged in relation to extrajudicial killings, this in comparison to at least 303 people killed in separate incidences over a similar period of time (KNHRC). At the moment, there is ongoing prosecution of a case forwarded by IPOA calling for murder charges against Constable Patrick Thuranira following the deaths of two Egerton University students, Mr Dennis Ongwae Magomere and Mr Felix Ngaywa Nyagena that occurred at Globe Cinema roundabout in Nairobi County on 7 November 2014.
An investigative series by Jicho Pevu dubbed Kifo Cha Mende explains that majority of the victims of these killings are the youth of between the ages of 17 and 25 years old. Further statistics by the Newsplex a publication by the Nation Media found out that men are more likely to be shot at and killed by the police in Kenya. And that 1 in every 3 victims of police killings was unarmed. The number, however, could be much higher and especially since there are a number of conflicting reports by the police who claim their victims were armed, allegations that numerous witnesses have denied. The objective, therefore, is to kill and not apprehend suspects. The greatest victims, those at the lowest level of the economic ladder, being largely unable to seek and or access redress in a court of law. As such, the prevailing feeling is that the life of the poor is insignificant. It is just another statistic unable to provoke widespread calls for action against police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
In contrast, there is much agitation and pressure on security agencies, as was the case in the much-televised uproar following the mysterious death of Lawyer Willie Kimani, his client and a taxi driver, of whom details later emerged that they had been tortured before being killed. The reaction was spontaneous and widespread with the Law Society of Kenya leading protests and calling for the expedited investigation and prosecution of the matter which is still in court.
In 2015, Al Jazeera released a Documentary, Inside Kenya’s Death Squads, a chilling first-hand account by officers of Kenya’s sincerity agencies tasked with identification and elimination of high profile personalities perceived as threats to National Security. All this is effected despite existing legislation outlining the due process necessary for the effecting of the Rule of Law in the country. Many critics have hence argued that these extra-judicial activities have proven counter-productive, with more and more youth from affected areas crossing the border to enlist in the Al Shabaab against their home country, Kenya. The Al-Shabaab have also seized the opportunity to create content that portrays the Kenyan government as oppressive, intolerant and discriminatory against the Muslim community in the country, a move that has further aggravated the prospects of the Kenya Defense Forces in Somalia.
Darkness cannot chase darkness. A government that uses injustice to fight injustice is ultimately unjust, and highly susceptible to applying the same illegitimate force against its own law abiding citizens without subjecting them to the due process of the law.
The writer is a Research Consultant for Savic Consultants in Nairobi.