NAIROBI, July 9 – Police Commissioner Major General Mohammed Hussein Ali appeared before the public inquiry into the post election violence on Wednesday and mounted a strong defence against claims that his officers used excessive force to quell the riots.
Ali, who was the first witness to appear before a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Phillip Waki, established to investigate the post election atrocities, said his officers acted within the law.
“The police did not use excessive force beyond that which is justifiable in controlling the violence. At all times the police actions were measured and proportionate,” Ali told the commission that was sitting at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) in Nairobi.
Were it not for the actions by the police, he said, the country’s security would have degenerated into more alarming levels and higher death tolls would have been realised.
Humanitarian organisations placed the casualties at 1,500 or more but Ali maintained that only 616 people were killed.
Many of those who lost their lives were either shot dead, hacked or burnt to death in their homes, mainly in the Rift Valley, Nairobi and Coast Provinces.
Some 300,000 people were displaced, mainly in the Rift Valley Province, where hundreds of houses were burnt or vandalised and property worth millions of shillings destroyed.
Most of those displaced have since been resettled and aided to establish new homes.
Human rights and civil society organisations had accused police of using too much force to stamp out riots that marked the first two months of the year, following a disputed December presidential election.
Officers were accused of using live ammunition on peaceful protestors and blamed for haphazard killings in an attempt to restore law and order in the country.
But while testifying before the Waki Commission on Wednesday, Ali stressed that the police did not, at any time, violate the rule of law as outlined in Standing Orders guiding them.
“The police should not be blamed at all for what happened during the post election violence. We (the police) were confronted with a situation that had never been witnessed in this country before,” he testified.
The Police Chief further said that the violence was a purely political issue, and the security problems were a result of ‘political and ethnic disputes fuelled by politicians during the campaign period’.
“Allegations that police used excessive force to suppress violence are malicious and baseless,” he went on.
Ali also told the commission that the police were investigating some 13,416 cases on different crimes such as murder, arson, theft, rape, and incitement to violence among others.
“Some of the suspects were arrested and charged in court, but many of them were bonded to keep peace.”
Ali’s submissions included video clips and still photographs on a power point presentation, which showed how people were hacked to death or burnt during the skirmishes.
The commission was taken through the presentation by the Deputy Director of Investigations at the CID headquarters Francis Okonya.
He also produced still pictures, which showed how houses and business premises were burnt and property destroyed or looted.
The 30-minute clips, which captured scenes from various parts of the country, also showed how police responded to suppress the riots that displaced nearly 300,000 people from their homes.
Justice Waki meanwhile, warned witnesses appearing before the commission to avoid misleading it and instead focus on the truth.
“Our mandate is to investigate expeditiously circumstances that led to the post election violence and the role of security agents in quelling the same. We are also mandated to recommend accordingly,” he said.
Okonya read out a detailed analysis of the poll violence, narrating political activities that took place in the periods before and after the elections.
He said the aggression was mainly stirred by utterances made by politicians at public rallies during the campaign period.
Okonya specifically singled out the controversial debate on Majimbo (federalism) which, he said, divided Kenyans and fuelled ethnic tension.
“Allegations of rigging also dominated the campaign period and appeared to have prepared the youth prior to the announcement of the election results.”
“The country went into the election with a lot of suspicions and fears,” he added.
During cross examination, Ali told the commission that his officers were adequately trained on the use of live ammunition and when they are justified to use them.