NAIROBI, July 30 – The government has rubbished accusations by local and international lobby groups of human rights violations in the ongoing security operation in Mount Elgon, terming the charges as ‘propaganda aimed at discrediting security forces’.
In an investigation report released on Wednesday, Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali questioned the credibility of most of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which have recently released reports alleging torture and extra-judicial killings in the volatile region.
Ali said many of the NGOs had fabricated facts to ‘appease their donors’.
“All these are fabricated rumours,” he touted. “There is no truth in what these NGOs are saying. At no time did the army, the police or administration police engage in the torture of innocent civilians in Mount Elgon. Our officers are very professional in conducting the successful operation”.
A team of police investigators has been in the Mt Elgon region since May 22, probing the torture claims.
The security team was led by Nyanza Provincial CID chief Scaver Mbogho, Superintendent of Police Alexander Munyao from the CID headquarters, Chief Inspector David Sichangi of the Operations Department at the CID Headquarters and Inspector Amos Shilajilu, who is also an advocate of the High Court.
The team’s terms of reference included investigating all allegations of human rights abuses in Mt Elgon, identifying the perpetrators of the abuse of human rights, and making appropriate recommendations.
“I constituted the team to investigate the serious allegations made by these NGOs and we have found out that the reports filed by the NGOs were not factual at all,” said the Police Commissioner.
“All the findings filed by these local and non governmental organisations were based on mere rumours and conjecture. None of them seemed to rely on actual facts”.
Speaking when he handed over the report to the Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti, Ali said many of the NGOs which conducted investigations and filed reports from Mt Elgon were doing so for monetary gains.
“Most of these NGOs were not happy that the government was able to contain insecurity in Mt Elgon. They just wanted the crisis to persist so that they can continue getting donor funding,” Ali accused.
The report singled out the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) of leading the lot in ‘publishing rumours’ to mislead the public.
He said KNCHR had paid a non-registered doctor to perform medical tests on some of the victims in Mt Elgon to accuse the police and army of torture.
“We have established that the said doctor is actually a registered pathologist who is not licensed to do private practice. We are taking this issue very seriously and will be taking legal action against him,” he said.
Professor Saitoti on his part said: “It is totally absurd for NGOs to publish such reports, which are not based on facts. They are tainting our image. We have conducted investigations and established that the reports by NGOs are baseless.”
He cited another report by Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), which last week claimed that its staff had been denied access to provide medical assistance to residents in Mt Elgon.
“No one has denied them (MSF) access there. They are welcome to access the region and provide the residents with medical assistance,” he said, while suggesting that MSF’s report was equally ‘baseless’.
The main report records the chronicle of events since the creation of Chepyuk Settlement Scheme Phase I, II and the contentious Phase III, which led to the rise of the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) – an outlawed militia group opposed to the manner in which land was allocated in the area.
The report also highlights the security situation existent before and after the formation of the SLDF, and the subsequent joint security operation “Okoa Maisha”.
The investigating team studied and analysed several reports compiled by various organisations and purporting to document torture and other forms of human rights violations in Mt Elgon, Ali said.
“From the onset it was noted that, though known atrocities against the residents of Mt Elgon were perpetrated by the SLDF, these organisations emphasised on the alleged violations of human rights by the security forces,” part of the report states.
Organisations which compiled these reports, police said, included the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), Western Kenya Human Rights Watch (WKHRW) and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).
“The KNCHR was found to have neither the capacity nor expertise to carry out investigations for prosecution purposes. The three instances of alleged torture victims captured in their report attest to this as the cited identity card numbers were confirmed from the Registrar of Persons to belong to other people. Their report is therefore neither authentic nor analytical but based on unsubstantiated hearsay,” the report states.
On the ICRC findings, the police report stated: “Their report was found to be full of inaccuracies, some two people who had allegedly gone missing after arrest by security officers were found to have been charged and remanded in Bungoma GK prison. ICRC has no locus standi (legal standing) to comment or report on the security situation in Kenya, neither did they have the capacity to.”
The MSF findings were not spared either. The police report dismissed the international humanitarian organisation and said it ‘only fell prey to mischievous opportunists.’
“MSF’s report was found to be highly sensational and full of outright falsehoods. All efforts to substantiate their allegations proved fruitless.”
The police report further questions the credibility of the ICRC report, which ‘was found to be null and void ab initio (from the beginning) as the organisation is subject to international law in situations of armed conflict and total war.
“The Mt Elgon scenario was an internal crime situation with no prisoners of war hence the organisation had no locus standi. Therefore all the reports were at best a public relation exercise, unreliable, misleading and of no evidential value,” the police chief said.
He praised the work done by security forces, saying it had helped restore security in the region.
When taken to task to explain why the police had chosen to investigate themselves on alleged crimes they had committed, he said: “We had to do this because I felt the allegations raised were so serious, with grave consequences. We had to go to the ground and establish the facts instead of relying on rumours.”