NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 2 – The killing of a homeless man on Thursday in Mathare area has put the National Police Service on the spot, again, over the deaths of unarmed civilians in the hands of police.
Human Rights Defenders are yet to establish the details of the deceased even as his body lies lifeless at the City Mortuary, ahead of an autopsy.
“He had multiple gunshots,” a lobbyist told Capital FM News.
The man, according to multiple sources, has been spending nights out in the streets for a while and during the day, he would go to Nairobi’s Marikiti market where he would look for opportunities to earn his next meal.
The Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) has documented 18 deaths by law enforcers between March and May, with the numbers rising, despite public outcry against police brutality.
IMLU said tens of cases of injuries resulting from police beatings, including one victim who survived with a fractured nose, have been reported.
While IMLU Executive Director Peter Kiama told Capital FM News all the millions of shillings dedicated to police reforms have not gone to waste, he noted with concern that police brutality seems to have been institutionalized.
The good cops – those abiding by the law – he said, are a lonely lot in a police service where they have to keep on “checking over their shoulders.”
“The problem is the good cops have to keep on wondering how far does my commander want me to go…” he said during a phone interview with Capital News.
Such officers, he said, ” live in fear. There’s lack of uniformity when it comes to police respecting the law.”
While cases of police executions and other excesses are not new in the country, the latest trend has escalated since the country announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Three weeks ago, IMLU and other lobby groups among them Amnesty International (Kenya) wrote a petition to Inspector General of police Hillary Mutyambai over the latest killings and excesses by police.
“He has not responded to our petition. He owes us a response,” Kiama asserted.
It’s the “police system” he said, that has allowed the killings to continue.
“How do you explain that police are still killing, maiming and extorting, weeks after a presidential apology of similar incidents?” he asked.
“It’s the entire police service that stands indicted by all this.”
He said although Kenyans have an obligation to obey government directives meant to curb the spread of coronavirus disease but noted that those who are found infringing on them “should not be killed…that is not a justification.”
Between March and May, some 33 people have sustained serious injuries from beatings by police.
With the rising cases, Kenyans have resulted to social media activism, calling for justice and condemning the actions.
Kiama urged members of the public “to always record such incidents” so that those involved can be held culpable.
“Social media platforms are the future of vigilance. Remember the price of democracy is eternal vigilance,” the IMLU Executive Director said.
By last week, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) had received 72 complaints of police excesses since the curfew started.
The authority’s chairperson, Anne Makori, said 44 of the cases reported had been verified and are under investigations.
“I want to remind police officers that they will be held personally responsible for their actions,” she said.