NAIROBI Kenya, Jul 30 – Kenya’s lawmakers must reject amendments to a police reform package drawn up after the post-election violence in 2007, Amnesty International said on Tuesday, ahead of a parliamentary debate on the proposed changes.
The group argues that the reform package was introduced to ensure that rights violations committed by the police during the 2007-2008 post-election violence would not happen again.
“Attempts by the Kenyan government to water-down key reforms to regulate the country’s police force will allow human rights violations to continue and officers to act with impunity,” the group said in a statement.
The package transfers some powers that were previously the preserve of Kenya’s police chief to an independent and largely civilian oversight body, the National Police Service Commission.
The NPSC is supposed to be responsible for recruitment and discipline of police officers.
Amendments proposed by the new police chief David Kimaiyo and endorsed by the interior ministry would however either put those duties back in the hands of the police chief, or would require the NPSC at least to consult with the police chief and the interior ministry before taking any decisions.
“The amendments proposed would severely weaken the reforms and eliminate many of the safeguards created to discipline and regulate the police force,” Amnesty added.
The police responded to increasing civil unrest and violence with excessive force that resulted in the deaths and injury of hundreds of protesters.
“These reforms are vital for Kenya, and it would be disastrous if they get diluted at the eleventh hour,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.
“The police have been acting as if they are above the law for years. The government must honour the commitments it made in the wake of the post-election violence and carry through these essential reforms.”
Laws passed in 2011 provided for comprehensive police reform and a structural overhaul designed to address shortcomings that permit and perpetuate impunity for police abuses.
The Police Reforms Working Group speaking on the same issue said the proposed amendments will prevent the Independent Policing Oversight Authority from fulfilling its mandate of investigating and acting on police abuse of power, torture and extra-judicial executions.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Independent Medico-Legal Unit executive director, Peter Kiama said this will also remove critical safeguards for the Inspector General to be accountable to the public.
He said that taking power of the NPSC to independently develop vetting guidelines will prevent carrying out of professional, not politicized and objective police vetting.
“This will reintroduce a police State where you have a super Inspector General’s office with minimal accountability to the people, is beholden to the dictates of the President and Cabinet Secretary, and whose capacity to provide professional leadership to the rank and file will be greatly hindered,” he said.
He added: “We urge the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of the National Government to immediately withdraw the Bills before Parliament to allow for broader consultation with the public in the 47 counties, pursuant to article 10 and 118 of the constitution.”
“Given the fundamental implications of the proposed amendments, the proposed time frame is inadequate for any meaningful public participation to occur.”
The group recommends that the Clerk of the National Assembly to publish the two amendments in the media to enable Kenyans go through it.
“Failure to do this only confirms our fears that the Executive and Parliament are sidestepping public input into these critical reform proposals,” Kiama noted.
He added that, “In our audit of the 100 days of the Jubilee government, the police service would only be rated at zero with regard to existence of a clear roadmap for reforms.”
“We note that over the last 10 months, the institution of the police is better known for squabbles that have neither legal nor institutional basis, between the office of the Inspector General and National Police Service Commission.”