Police brutality: It’s more than few bad apples, Utumishi kwa Wote or attack on all?
This week, Kenyans were treated to ugly scenes from the Nairobi County Assembly as a section of MCAs attempted to initiate the impeachment of Speaker Beatrice Elachi.
A number of MCAs had made their way to the assembly to serve Elachi with a notice of motion of her impeachment. However, the speaker locked herself in her office and when police arrived, they immediately used force to disperse the MCAs.
Kenyans witnessed police firing teargas inside City Hall against legislators.
As if that was not enough, Kenyans also watched in shock and disbelief as Mlango Kubwa MCA Mutheu Musyimi was attacked by officers with kicks, a pipe and a rungu right in assembly precints.
At least four men in police uniform descended on the county legislator and battered her as she sat down and pleaded for mercy.
It is despicable that four armed men, let alone police, would engage in such uncouth behaviour against a defenseless woman. That those men were police, more so in uniform, is 10 times worse and cannot be left unchecked.
The question in every right-thinking Kenyan’s mind is: What goes on in the minds of police officers when they engage in such torture. What part of police training do they apply when four officers attack a woman who is not even holding a stick? Police work is meant to be Utumishi kwa Wote. However, more and more, Kenyans are instead experiencing Uvamizi kwa Wote (Attack on All) as police continue to torture the people.
The horrific scenes from the Nairobi Assembly are yet another demonstration that the police in Kenya remain a force and not the service they claim to be.
Every other day, senior police officers claim it is only a few of them who engage in such appalling behaviour. However, the rising number of cases of police brutality are too much for Kenyans to believe it is just a few officers.
A few days before the Nairobi Assembl assault and teargassing, two people were shot dead in Garissa by police officers. A few days before that, one person died while in police custody in Kilifi. Earlier, killings were reported in Kisii, Lessos and Kwale, where even a six-year-old boy, a four-year-old girl and a seven-month-foetus met their deaths at the hands of the police.
These cases are far too numerous to be just ‘a few bad apples’.
What Kenyans are now living with is a police force that has refused to respect the fundamental rights of citizens. Officers are openly defying the Constitution and turning the country into a police state.
While certain human rights can be limited, the Constitution provides that torture is one of those rights that cannot be limited under any circumstances. Article 25 (a) provides: “Despite any other provision und – (a) freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
If we allow police to continue in this manner, Kenyans will lose their dignity and be forced to live in fear of the same officers who are meant to serve them. This, we cannot allow.
The country has come a long way from the dark days when the police were a law unto themselves. The days of detention without trial, political assassinations and Nyayo torture chambers are long gone. We cannot allow ourselves to return to that past. The police must realise the winds of change in the country will not wait for them to catch up.
They must drop their torturous and murderous approach and strictly adhere to the Constitution.
Clearly, the problem with the police must be dealt with urgently. The few bad apples are one too many and have now spoilt the entire harvest. For every atrocity reported, we must now hold responsible the very top offices, beginning with the Inspector General.
We must demand to know why this continued oppression of the people by police is happening under their watch. They must take political responsibility.
Only by doing so will we end this carnage.
By Hussein Khalid