NAIROBI, September 9 – The establishment of the Police Oversight Board has drawn mixed reactions from various quarters.
There are those who are not contented with the composition of its members while others are putting its objectivity to question, considering they will report to their masters whose conduct and orders they are supposed to probe.
Questions have been raised how the board would investigate the actions of police officers and be expected to report the same to the Commissioner of Police and Administration Police Commandant.
Clause two of The Kenya Gazette notice of September 4, which spells out the mandate of the board states: “The board shall recommend to both the commissioner of police and the administration police commandant the appropriate action to be taken or remedial measures aimed at resolving the complaints.”
While the notice states that the board shall also be responsible for checking the actions of the two police chiefs, one is left wondering what actions they are likely to take on issues that blame them for omissions or commissions.
Some of the newly-appointed board members have also raised concerns over such issues, and are now demanding assurance that theirs will not be donkey work.
“Mr Minister we want assurance that our recommendations will not be left to gather dust when presented to the AP and Police chiefs’ desks,” former AP commandant Maj S.M. Muiu told Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti on Tuesday.
This was a clear sign of discontent already taking root amongst the board members but Professor Saitoti was quick to allay the fears: “This is not a public relations exercise, we have invested very deeply on this matter and we certainly know that we do require this board. All recommendations of this board will be implemented fully.”
But even as the Minister sought to allay fears of discontent, there was a more serious issue at stake: the absence of the police chief during the inauguration ceremony. Curiously, Major-General Hussein Ali did not show up to witness the launch of the oversight board.
He did not even send a representative.
Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe declined to comment on the matter. Even the minister played down the absence.
“The fact that he (Maj-Gen Ali) is missing here does not mean that he is not supporting this idea,” he told curious reporters during the Wednesday launch.
The board, appointed on September 4, will be chaired by Rt Rev Philip Anyolo.
Board members include retired deputy police chief Alice Kagunda, lawyer Ahmednassir Abdulahi Yussuf, former Provincial Commissioner Peter Otieno Raburu and James Mageria.
Others include former AP Commandant S.M. Muhiu, Dr Jean Njeri Kamau, Dr Julius Kipng’etich, Dr Pius Akavanga Kigamwa and Brig John Waweru.
Joint Secretaries to the board will be drawn from the complaints department at Police headquarters and the AP complaints desk.
Previously, all public complaints against the police were directed to the complaints desk headed by former Nyanza Police chief Grace Kaindi.
The oversight board was established following numerous complaints that the police were unlikely to be objective when left to investigate their own.
One classic example is the complaint against the shooting of a youth in Kisumu during last December General elections and many other shootings which occurred in that region and are now supposed to be investigated by Kaindi who was the commander there at the time.
The new board’s core mandate is to receive and evaluate complaints from the public against the police, complaints from the police themselves against their colleagues and reviewing complaints resolved by the police.
They will also develop a sectoral National Action Plan and a coordinating framework to promote, monitor and evaluate effective implementation of discipline within the police force.
A cross-section of police officers interviewed welcomed the establishment of the board but expressed fears over its composition.
There are those dissatisfied with the presence of former police officers in it, some of whom, they said, failed to carry out adequate reforms when they were at the helm of the police.
“It is a good gesture by the government because now we have somewhere to report whenever there are injustices in the force, but we wonder what role some board members who failed to reform the police will do. Some of them are to blame for the mess at the force today,” a police officer who sought to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation said.
Another officer said; “We are certain that this board will go along way in improving the police force, let us just wait and see.”