Following the recent enactment of the National Police Service Act there are hopes that police officers in Kenya will mend some of their ways and operate more in accordance with the spirit and letter of the new constitution.
The code of conduct launched by Internal Security minister George Saitoti on Monday 12th September provides a common guide for regular and administration police services. “An officer who uses a baton, any chemical agent or firearm in law enforcement shall immediately submit a report detailing all circumstances of the incident through the chain of command,” reads part of the guide, for example.
The code of conduct, which is supposed to act as a guide for regular and administration police, seems to borrow a lot from the Constitution, requiring that officers must display their names and service numbers to suspects and must inform them at the point of arrest, the offence that has been committed.
While the code recognises the right of officers to vote in elections, it bars them from “acting as agents of political parties,” as well as indicating support or opposition to any party and cautions officers against taking bribes, accepting gifts or getting involved in civil disputes.
EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS AND TORTURE
Incidences of police caught on camera beating up men and women mercilessly during riots and public demonstrations are not new to Kenyans. Police have in the past been accused of violating human rights including extrajudicial killings, torture, physical and psychological abuse. The Cry of Blood, published in 2008 by the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) into extra-judicial killings in Kenya, and Surviving After Torture published in 2009 by the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC), are just two of many reports that have set out many allegations of illegal actions by Kenya’s police and security services.
RECENT CASES GIVE CAUSE FOR CONCERN
The recent accusations of police misconduct give cause for concern.
First there was the death of John Muturi Kariuki, a teacher from Loreto Kiambu High School, who allegedly succumbed to injuries sustained in a beating in the police cells last month. The victim had been booked in for an offence of being drunk and disorderly as indicated on the station’s OB.
Last Wednesday (September 28), James Mugo Waithira was buried at Mugukarara public cemetery in Dagoretti. Mugo was 16 year old boy who died either at Kabete police station, or on his way to hospital from the police station, depending who you believe. A postmortem by the Independent Medico Legal Unit revealed evidence of torture and traumatic shock, including “subcantaneous Hemorrhage due to multiple musculo-skeletal injuries due blunt force trauma”.
Dagoretti Deputy Police boss Duncan Nguthu, under whose jurisdiction Kabete Police Station falls, confirmed that Mugo died in custody after collapsing. He said Mugo, a robbery with violence suspect, was arrested on September 16 and died on the morning of September 17 as he was being rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital after he collapsed.
Kenyans who have continuously been subjected to arbitrary arrests and manhandling by the police without following the rule of law have expressed mixed reactions about the new regulations set out in the National Police Service Act. Some have faith that it will ensure their rights and dignity are safeguarded while others are yet to be convinced that the regulations will ever work in Kenya. The deaths of John Muturi Kariuki and James Mugo Waithira would suggest the latter may be right.