Kenya: Police Service Attempts Reforms But Rights Abuses, Graft Claims Continue

13 November 2019

When he presented his last speech before leaving the National Police Service, former Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet said he was satisfied with police reforms and that they were on an "upward trajectory"

Mr Boinnet cited reorganisation and restructuring of the service, which saw the partial merger of the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police service, elimination of duplication duties, changes in the police curriculum and welfare interventions for police officers, including medical covers and improved housing.

"The National Police Service has already undergone tremendous changes and transformation ranging from infrastructural development to human capital development, tooling, kitting and equipping police officers to respond to modern-day security challenges and addressing the social welfare of officers," he said.

Laws passed in 2011 contained an ambitious framework for police reform, whose aim was to overhaul the force in order enhance professionalism, efficiency and accountability, and build the public's trust.

Eight years later, however, the country is still grappling with rogue police officers, human rights violations, corruption, inefficiency and unprofessionalism in the police service.

In addition, a number of police officers still live under squalid conditions despite a budget of more than Sh10.3 billion in the 2015-2018 financial year for new houses for them.

'DIRTY' ORGANISATIONS

Security analysts, civil society and human rights organisations believe police reforms have failed despite the government's release of billions of shillings.

Peter Kiama, chairman of the Police Reforms Working Group (PRWG-K), attributed this to selfish interests among those in office in institutions put in place after the Ransley report was adopted by the Cabinet in 2009 and various laws passed.

"There is criminality within the service. The vetting that was put in place to clean the service failed," said Mr Kiama, who is also the Executive Director of the Independent Medico Legal Unit.

"Oversight bodies have been dominated by people who only care about their own interests and have forgotten about the mandates of the institutions."

BAD REPUTATION

Over the last few months, Kenyans have witnessed the arrest of several police officers after a series of well-staged bank, hotel, highway robberies as well other crimes including possession of ivory.

Three institutions formed as a result of the three laws passed to facilitate the reforms have been faulted by the PRWG-K, the umbrella body of human rights and civil society organisations.

They are the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa), the transformed National Police Service and the National Police Service Commission (NPSC).

During a protest at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat) on Monday, five police officers were captured in a video assaulting a female student.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i and Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai immediately condemned the incident and promised to take action against the police officers.

In a statement, the CS said he was concerned by the matte in which they handled the protesters.

"I have observed the events at Jkuat with profound concern. The use of force by police is clearly outlined in the National Police Standing Orders," the minister noted.

POWER STRUGGLES

The National Police Service said it had directed the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) to investigate and make recommendation for action against the officers, while Ipoa condemned the brutality.

"Ipoa condemns in the strongest terms possible [the] incident in which members of the National Police Service were caught on camera assaulting students," stated a statement signed by chairperson Ann Makori.

Power struggles at the authority led to the dismissal in October of Chief Executive Officer Maina Njoroge, barely 15 months after he replaced Joel Mabonga, who retired in 2018.

PRWG-K expressed concerns that the wars within the authority would interfere with its independence and its role in enhancing accountability at the police service.

"The Ipoa board is not providing oversight and support to the secretariat. They have focused on salary reviews and harmonisation with other commissions, bodyguards, and generally matters of their own interest," Mr Kiama said.

VETTING FAILURE

Interventions such vetting, that were put in place to create accountability and separate the wheat from the chaff within the service, have also failed.

Just last week, over 300 police officers whose cases were pending before the NPSC after a vetting that cost over Sh800 million were restored and the commission said they would not be subjected to any disciplinary action.

New chairman Eliud Kinuthia said the commission resolved to disregard recommendations of its predecessor, Johnstone Kavuludi, and that vetting of officers across all ranks had been temporarily suspended.

"We will give them a second opportunity. The recommendations made after their vetting will be treated as null and void," Mr Kinuthia said.

TECHNOLOGY

Reforms aimed at using technology in policing have seen the country invest more than Sh450 billion equipping the police service with modern infrastructure.

They include the Sh15 billion Command, Control and Communication (IC3) Centre, acquisition of 30 Armoured Personnel Carriers in February 2016, as well as acquisition of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle and the police helicopters.

Despite the IC3 centre having a very high capacity for face recognition in Nairobi and Mombasa where they were installed, cases of robberies in the cities remain high.

In addition, incidents of police officers dying as a result of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have not been tamed by the APCs and MRAPS.

CIVILIAN RELATIONS

When it comes to poor police-civilian relations, the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies (CHRIPS) recommended that the Interior ministry and the NPSC consider introducing a long-term change management programme in the NPS.

PRWG-K recommended that the government channel resources to significant courses such as county policing authorities and community policing.

Apart from that, the organization recommended the implementation of Section 116 of the National Police Service Act which gives powers to the Inspector-General of Police to manage police budget and ensure that every police station, post, outposts, unit, unit base and county authority is allocated sufficient funds to finance its activities.

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