The attack on a patrol of police officers by cattle rustlers in Baragoi points starkly to the institutional weaknesses that exist within the police force. It seems almost implausible that cattle rustlers no matter how organised would be able to attack and kill 42 out 107 trained, armed police officers, in what the police spokesperson Eric Kiraithe has termed “easily the worst single attack on police.”
While this may be the worst attack on police forces it is certainly not the first time the police have had trouble dealing with violence. The police experienced difficulties in handling the recent Mombasa riots; there was also the violence in Tana River in which 9 police officers were killed, and several other incidences over violence seem to have overwhelmed the police force in the last two years.
This latest attack on the police raises questions about the manpower, competence and training gaps that exist within the disciplined forces. It also raises questions about the operational preparedness and logistical capacity of not only the disciplined forces but also of the Ministries of Internal Security and Defence to deal with violent crisis on any scale, let alone a national one.
Since 2007/2008 several institutions, both national and international – the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence, the UN Special Rapportuer who was in the country to investigate extrajudicial killings, the National Taskforce on Police Reforms head by Judge Philip Ransley, and Police Reform Implementation Committee –have all made recommendations with regard for the need of a large scale overhaul of the police force.
However apart from Parliament’s passing of three crucial police reform bills – the National Police Service Bill 2011, National Police Service Commission Bill 2011 and Independent Policing Oversight Authority Bill 2011 – in August the rest of the reform process has pretty much happened away from public eye.
The ongoing reforms which the Ministry of Internal Security initially estimated would cost over 80 billion Kenya shillings over a three year period are supposed to address the capacity gaps through proper remuneration and housing, refurbishment of police stations, new equipment and vehicles, upgrading communication equipment and skills training. But from recent event it’s hard to tell how well the reforms are going.
In the current situation five people have been charged with the killings of the police officers in Baragoi. And after lack of decisive action or direction from the President, Ministry of Internal Security, the Ministry of Defence or the Police Commissioner until three days after incident; the President has ordered the deployment of the Kenya Defence Force to Baragoi, a move that has received widespread by Turkana MPs.
I think it would be fair to say at this point that Kenyans confidence in the police, and the ongoing police reforms, is at all time low. It would be interesting to hear from the Commander in Chief, the Ministries of Defence, and Internal Security as well Police Commissioner on the state of the police force and the ongoing police reform process.