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Policing without killing

By | November 18th 2009

By Pravin Bowry

Last Thursday Kenyans woke up to news that nine gangsters suspected to be Mungiki members were killed in a 12-hour operation by our law abiding and law enforcing agency, the Kenya Police.

It was reported the Commissioner of Police, Mathew Iteere, had declared war on the sect and vowed to hunt down all its members. It is pertinent to note that deaths took place in separate instances.

Illegal killings

Iteere further reportedly accused Mungiki members of kidnapping, rape, extortion, murder, illegal possession of firearms and robbery with violence and vowed to vigorously pursue criminals who have made Kenyans lives a "nightmare"

The duty of law enforcement agencies such as the Kenya Police must of necessity be undertaken within the confines of law. A citizen is believed to be innocent until proven guilty and wanton killings by police cannot further the cause of crime prevention, rule of law or of Kenya’s security image.

The law does not permit killings as a means of prevention of crime. The distinction between lawful acts in this cause of duty, in nine instances in a day or extra judicial killings is difficult to appreciate. The temptation to call the killings summary executions cannot be resisted.

Assuming that the persons killed were indeed involved in perpetuation of crimes, the police are by law and training mandated to apprehend criminals and only use reasonable force to protect themselves, other citizens or property.

The police legal mandate, even in grave crises and danger, is to maim and not kill. In the reported cases, no reference to any arrests was made. There was no mention of the fact that the killings were in self defence by the police.

When the new commissioner was ushered into his office, it was the hope of Kenyans to have a law abiding force, but little appears to have changed since the departure of Maj Gen Hussein Ali.

All powerful force

To brand a fallen Kenyan who cannot and will not defend himself criminal or Mungiki is repulsive. The pain and suffering each family of the deceased will go through can only be appreciated by those who are touched by the demise.

The all powerful force will inevitably take the nine bodies to the mortuary, get a police pathologist to do a post mortem and in all probability not even identify them. The deceased will be treated as rotting pieces of wood.

The regrettable feature of our law is that the same police force which killed these so called criminals are the ones who are obligated under the law to initiate an investigation and an inquest.

The certain possibility of acute bias remains a reality. Who in his right mind would perpetuate an independent impartial and fair investigation into his or her own misdeeds?

It was tragic for the Commissioner of Police personally to laud the killings at a press conference at Vigilance House.

Need for answers

Law will only be vindicated if photographs of each deceased or the so called Mungiki adherent are published, families given opportunity to attend post-mortem with their legal representatives and circumstance and cause of their death investigated independently.

The Judiciary, too, must play its part on not treating the inquest files off handedly and without disregard to the anarchy of self- exoneration by the law enforcing agencies.

The aggrieved families of the deceased will never get to know the truth, but Kenyans need to know why innocent citizens get butchered by those who are supposed to protect them.

How did Justice Ransley’s recent task-force address this sad situation remains to be made public?

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