This week the country was treated to horrific pictures of police brutality reminiscent of the “Nyayo days”. When the police appeared to be a law unto themselves. The name General Service Unit (GSU) evoked fears that could chill your spine.
It is not clear yet how the “peaceful demonstrations” against IEBC, as CORD terms it, turned so ugly and quickly. But, as expected fingers point to police’s overreaction. Perhaps, the Law Society of Kenya puts it better, that, the police show lack of training and inability to handle unruly demonstrators professionally.
“.. The police must be trained to efficiently and safely extract from lawful protests those whose behavior falls outside Article 37 in a manner that respects even such persons’ unlimited right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 25(a)).” LSK said in reference to the unorthodox use of force during the IEBC demonstrations.
It is not lost to the country that not so long ago, Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) launched investigations over GSU policemen. There were allegations of them using excessive force and raping rioting University of Nairobi students. Additionally, it’s still vivid in our minds how police teargassed Lang’ata Primary School pupils. Our men in uniform appear to be less and less interested in the rule of law.
This is worrying trend, especially as we near the general elections with political temperatures rising. The horrific events of 2007/2008 post-election violence should remind us to exercise restraint and tolerance with one another. In the meantime, we are following keenly the investigations by IPOA on the anti-riot police who were out of order.
However, while the right to picket and demonstrate should be respected and accorded to all Kenyans, it should be a last resort. The opposition should adhere to the rule of law for the sake of the nation. Ways that are legally structured can help tone down the political temperatures. CORD’s demands are echoed not only by the civil rights groups and activists, but also by certain quarters in the government. Indeed with such a large backing, IEBC impasse can be resolved without much mayhem unless there are other ulterior motives. Having said that, the government should also purge from within the security forces those bent on disregarding the law.
We have already lost too much as a country from important regional infrastructure projects that Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda are enjoying. In the name of political instability and insecurity. The government should therefore re-evaluate their strategy and take serious the call to create a peaceful environment in the country because it has everything to gain from political stability.
Meanwhile, when our MPs resume sitting in June, it would be prudent that they revisit the security laws in this country such as the Security Laws (Amendment) Act that had vague areas that could lead to infringement of individual’s rights, the freedom of expression and the media as guaranteed under Articles 33 and 34 of the Constitution.
Indeed, for the sake of the country’s prosperity, our MPs should table new laws or amendments that will ensure rogue police are winnowed out of the forces and professionalism entrenched in the security system and where such laws exist, seek better ways to enforce them.
A starting point would be to consider not only the training of our police force but also the time spent in training. Additionally, is it wise to recruit otherwise irresponsible individuals with weak academic background to the Police Force? Does this have anything to do with the deviant behavior witnessed among the police?
Lastly, recruitment officers should be trained on better recruitment practices. Outdated recruitment procedures should be done away with, in favour of scientific methods in tandem with the best global practices. Otherwise, 2017 elections could become our worst nightmare.