Wed, Apr 6, 2016
Police brutality can take the forms of forced arrest, assault, rape, looting and to some point killing through various crude methods. These acts are on the increase in Africa.
A video has been doing rounds in the Kenyan social media platforms showing police ruthlessly beating protesting University of Nairobi students.
Nairobi County Police Commander Japheth Koome denied any police involvement saying that in actual fact, the officers recovered crude weapons from the students who he said had planned to cause chaos.
The students were protesting the election of Babu Owino as the chairman of the University’s Students’ Organization- SONU for a record fourth time.
In the video police officers are seen taking turns to beat helpless students who were made to lie on the ground, rendering them helpless.
In his argument, the police boss claimed the video was not shot during the protest and that the old video was uploaded by bloggers to discredit the National Police Service.
"If there was any form of harassment and especially on female students we have not received a complaint. The anti-riot officers were well guided and finished their operation well," said Koome.
Old video or not, the fact remains at some point in time the police brutally assaulted unarmed youths and this excessive use of power should be controlled before it gets out of hand.
This denial of such cruel acts by police bosses is continuously inflating the power and ego of the men in uniform to the point where they even attack journalists during live recordings.
Last month, following the Uganda’s disputed Feb 18 presidential elections, in the government’s crackdown against the media, some journalists were harassed while they were reporting outside the home of the opposition leader Kizza Besigye.
One such journalist is Bahati Remmy who was arrested while she was reporting.
“As you can see, we have been arrested by police and they are taking us away to an unknown destination,” a breathless Remmy is heard telling viewers in the video.
Although she was later released, the NBS Television Journalist told the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ)-Uganda that police officers pushed, beat and pulled her hair while in custody.
Elijah Turyagumanawe, a Television Reporter also with the privately owned NBS was arrested and detained. While in custody, he continued to report about the unfolding events, and a few moments later he was released without even recording any statement. The journalist also said that they were pushed, insulted and threatened by the police.
According to the journalist, his arrest was a decoy by the authorities to avert attention from the arrest of Besigye which happened almost concurrently.
These are just a few instances where police officers have used ‘moderate cruel’ methods in the name of exercising their duties.
In some other countries like South Africa, police brutality has attracted criticism from human rights observers across the globe.
The nerve-wracking acts of the police officers, in South Africa in 2013 and 2012 grabbed the attention of the world.
In 2013, eight South African police officers tied a Mozambican national to the back of a police van and dragged him for 400 meters leading to his death. The officers were filmed tying Mido Macia to the back of a van that dragged him inhumanly along a Johannesburg street.
This unfolding happened just a year after some police officers opened fire on striking mine workers killing 34 in the process.
The South African Human Rights Commission's Kayum Ahmed condemned the act saying the death of Macia has put into the spotlight the violence and brutality of the police force, he was speaking on a local morning television program.
According to Ahmed, the death of the Mozambican national underscored three important issues - it showed how police abuse their power, it also puts into the spotlight how South Africans treat foreign nationals and the fact that people were watching this as it unfolded.
He, however, noted that the incident "does not mean that all the police officers are like that, some police officers are doing the best they can under difficult situations".
Police have since admitted at the Farlam Commission that they planted weapons near the dead miners.
The Guardian reported that the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria had recorded an increase in the number of people shot dead by police. The institute reported that the number doubled between 2006 and 2010, with deaths of people in police custody or resulting from police action rising to 860 in 2009-2010, disturbingly higher than the period 2003-2008, when they averaged 695 a year.
But the current situation in South Sudan is more worrying as the armed forces have been accused of carrying out atrocities on vulnerable citizens even on small girls.
Recent reports on South Sudan’s armed forces atrocities have caused an uproar across the region.
The UN and Amnesty International reports brought to light the misuse of power by the authorities in Africa’s youngest nation in the name of “scorched earth policy”.
According to the reports, perpetrators of the horrendous acts of violence allegedly uses crude methods including civilians being burned alive, being hung from trees while others are cut into pieces.
Sexual violence has been used as tools of war to terrorize women and young girls with older women being forced to watch as their young daughters are gang raped by up to nine men.
Armed forces cruelty has been detailed by the Human Rights Watch in their article ‘The Power These Men Have Over Us’ which highlights sexual exploitation and abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia.
The document shows how the men deployed in the war-torn Somalia, turned against the same people they were supposed to protect and assaulted them.
The continued police brutality in Africa should be taken seriously and handled with utmost urgency. They need to be tamed to deter them from abusing power and taking advantage of the people they are meant to protect. More and more whistle blowers and human rights activists should continue calling to attention the end of the misuse of power by the armed forces across Africa.
Image credit: Reuters
Kajuju Murori is an enthusiastic writer with a bias towards development stories that ignite positive change among individuals in the society.
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