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Unease over plan to hire more police reservists

By | November 3rd 2011
By | November 3rd 2011

By John Oywa

You often see them wearing battered khaki uniforms with rifles dangling from their shoulders. Some walk barefoot under the searing harsh weather in the arid north. When cattle rustlers strike, they are expected to protect defenseless pastoralists.

But the Kenya Police Reservists are increasingly coming under the spotlight, amid allegations that many of them could be fuelling the endless bloodshed in northern Kenya.

A day after the Government announced it was arming more police reservists to help end inter-communal killings in the troubled region, The Standard has learnt that human rights and civil society organisations have been prodding the Government to review the structure and recruitment of the reservists or even scrap it altogether following claims of corruption, misuse of weapons and incompetence.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission, for example, insists that the police reservists are more of a liability than a solution to the security in the pastoralists regions.

"Although started with good intentions, it must be categorically stated that the Kenya Police Reserve and the home guards have on the contrary, fuelled crime and livestock thefts, among pastoralist communities," says the commission in its report.


Deployment reviewed

In a report titled: Morans No More- the changing face of cattle rustling in Kenya, the Kenya Human Rights Commission says many of the reservists are partisan in protecting communities in distress and their recruitment was influenced by politicians from their clans. Internal Security Minister George Saitoti on Tuesday said more reservists would be recruited and armed to help quell the skirmishes in the Isiolo County, where more than ten people have been killed, property damaged and schools shut following clashes between local clans.

A number of civil society organisations, however, want the deployment of reservists reviewed, and if possible, they be replaced by regular security personnel. An International NGO- Ikvpax Christi, recently raised the red flag over the use of police reservists and home guards to fight insecurity, saying they were not only ill-trained to fight the bandits but were also comprising the lives of the communities they are expected to guard by colluding with the aggressors.

But Prof Saitoti, who spoke in Nanyuki while assessing the security situation in Isiolo, appeared to respond to the concerns raised by the NGOs when he said the reservists would be thoroughly vetted before being armed, according to the new National Police Act.

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