Skepticism greets Kenya police changes

September 10, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 10 – The appointment of Mathew Iteere as new Police Commissioner continued to draw reactions from various leaders and civil society activists, many of who termed it a move by the government to hoodwink the public on police reforms.

Kangundo Member of Parliament Johnstone Muthama said there was need to emphasise on comprehensive institutional reforms “rather than the change of guard at Police headquarters.”

Speaking during the first General Assembly of the Federation of Evangelical and Indigenous Christian Churches of Kenya, (FEICCK) on Thursday, Mr Muthama was of the opinion that societal changes did not depend on the chosen leader but on the society itself.

“What we are lacking are not officers with the capacity to deliver.  What we are lacking is the capacity to obey the laws of the land,” he said. “Unless the laws of the land are obeyed, even if we bring Jesus here, He will find the going tough.”

The Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) on its part joined other rights activists in welcoming the appointment of the new police chief but vowed to continue demanding for comprehensive reforms.

IMLU’s Executive Director Sam Mohochi said “by replacing Ali and the seven other officers is not enough because Kenya has been yearning for total reforms.”

“We would want to see institutional reforms in place. The change of leadership at the level is not enough,” he said.

Mr Mohochi told Capital News in a telephone interview that unless an independent oversight body was established, no reforms would be seen to have been done in the police.

“There is urgent need to have an oversight body to oversee the police excesses. This is part of the reforms we would want to see among others,” he added.

Mr Mohochi whose organisation has been on the forefront in documenting numerous cases of torture by security agencies told Capital News that the police are not fit to investigate themselves whenever such cases occur.

“This is not the first time we are raising the issue of an oversight body, various commissions especially the Waki report has documented it and most recently the Ransley Taskforce,” he said.

Mr Mohochi insists that there is need to have a total overhaul of the entire police force’s top leadership as recommended in the interim report by the Ransley team.

“What was done on Tuesday is not enough, there should be a total overhaul of the police department – that is what the Task Force on police reforms says. It is not just changing the commissioner and a few senior officers around him,” he said.

Release Political Prisoners (RPP) Executive Director Stephen Musau said they may consider taking the immediate former Police Commissioner Maj Gen Mohammed Hussein Ali to court over crimes he allegedly committed during his five-year tenure at the helm of the Kenya Police.

Mr Musau said “many atrocities including extra-judicial killings and other killings committed during the post election violence were committed under his watch, hence the need to hold him accountable.”

“He must be held to account for all his deeds, people were killed under his watch and he must face some of those charges,” Mr Musau said and revealed his organisation was mobilising other civil society organisations in seeking justice for families of those killed.

He did not however, state how soon they would move to court to prosecute the former Police Commissioner who has since been re-deployed to head the Postal Corporation of Kenya.


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