On July the fourth the Kenyan capital of Nairobi went into uproar as a mass protest in reaction to the alleged extrajudicial killing of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwendwa and their taxi driver was held. The death of the rights lawyer seems to have been too much for the people of Nairobi to handle as the silence regarding the death of many a Kenyan was broken and the matter of extrajudicial killings by the Kenyan police forces was brought to the forefront in one of the strongest shows of citizen solidarity in the nation for a time now. Kenya has become infamous for its security forces who are believed to be on the rampage, and its government which seems to condone this behaviour and hides behind the war against terror while its police forces kill without impunity. Over 1500 Kenyans have been executed by the Kenyan security forces since 2009, and the number is on a rise.
Disappearances, killings and unlawful detention of Kenyan citizens by Kenyan police, has spurred the nation into a state of panic as it is becoming more evident to Kenyans that the police forces are more of a threat to the citizens than al-Shabaab or criminals. According to one of Kenya’s top independent journalists Mohamed Ali, one is five times more likely to get shot by a police officer in Kenya than by a mugger, also in 2014 in Nairobi alone police reportedly killed 127 citizens, these worrying statistics have led to the question “why?”. The police forces often have the same excuse for their deeds in almost every incident, this being that the people they kill are armed and dangerous persons and will be an immediate danger to the public or the police themselves. Regardless of this excuse which most critics label as a façade put up to evade accountability. The Kenyan special police units which are numerous, have at times revealed information that they kill people who are threats and that these killings are often targeted and well planned. There are claims that the Kenyan government has been running secret police death squads which target and kill Kenyans and are immune as far as accountability for deaths caused is concerned. According to late Muslim radical Abubaker Shariff, the Reccee squad a GSU (General, Services, Unit) squad in Nairobi is responsible for all the killings in and around Nairobi, that they have been awarded immunity from prosecution and that the squad is assigned with the duty of cleansing and making sure that all threats are eliminated. In simple terms their obligation is to “purge”.
What is unnerving is the level of impunity, and the leeway the forces (army included) are being given by the government of Uhuru Kenyatta. According to an officer of the law, if a person is killed by mistake, the death squads consisting of the GSU, the ATPU (Anti-Terror Police Unit) among others, tamper with the scene of the crime to make it seem like the victim was armed thus making him dangerous. The officer goes on to say
“Okay, you never wanted to kill that person but accidentally you have done it. What are you going to do? The person is gone; you will not bring him back”
It is this lack of accountability that has instilled fear into the hearts of the general Kenyan, leaving many wondering where the protection they are entitled to as citizens is going to come from if the police themselves are mercilessly slaughtering their own charges.
The perceived threat
With a staggering number of 3000 Kenyan citizens as of 2015(mostly Muslims) reported to have crossed the border into Somalia to join and be trained by al-Shabaab a Somali militant group, and a prevalently high crime rate in the nation, the police force of Kenya has adopted this brutal approach towards “justice” in what the government has labelled a war against terror.
In reaction to these so called internal and external threats the government of Kenya has mandated its special secret task forces to investigate and root out terrorists, and to avoid more attacks by al-Shabaab. According to human rights watch
“Suspected Al-Shabaab fighters targeted and killed at least 226 unarmed people between November 2014 and July 2015, along the coast and in the northeast. During three separate attacks on quarry workers and on a bus in Mandera County and in another attack on Garissa University, Al-Shabaab fighters singled out and killed those who could not recite an Islamic creed.”
With the Somali militants having inflicted such massive terror related damage on Kenya, the police forces and army frequently have been deployed into the regions where the terror has ensued to investigate. These investigations are often associated with detentions, deaths and torture and according to human rights watch, after alleged al-Shabaab attacks in 2014 security forces from various agencies were implicated in the detention harassment and assault of residents of the tana and lamu river counties, a similar occurrence was noted after the horrific 2015 attack on Garissa University by al-Shabaab, where again police and military forces were involved in the abduction torture and murder of suspects in the region. With no accountability for crimes of violence by the police dating back to the 2007 post-election violence it is worthy of immense doubt that Kenyan security forces will at any point willingly take the blame for these alleged heinous atrocities against their countrymen which they enact all in the name of peace. Besides the constant threat that Kenya faces from the Somali terror group there is a very high crime rate in the country.
With the extrajudicial killings mainly focused on the Muslim community the Kenyan security forces are bringing upon themselves the curse of a stronger and bulkier al-Shabaab following as young Muslims men are streaming out of the country to join the group, and with the multiple security groups reportedly receiving aid in the form of training from various international countries like the U.K, the Kenyan government turning a blind eye and the judiciary too weak to halt the incessant carnage it is unlikely that the legalised murders will come to an end any time soon. One is left in the end with multiple questions in mind for example, what has become of due process and the rule of law? Will the security forces in Kenya ever own up to their misdeeds? Will the killings stop? What will become of al-Shabaab and young Kenyan Muslims and most importantly will the upcoming 2017 elections starring the newly formed (upgraded) Jubilee party that is preaching equality bring a stop to these wanton acts.
Image credit: The Guardian