Opinion and Analysis

Kenya should tackle challenges facing policing

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British High Commissioner Rob Macaire. Photo/FILE

British High Commissioner Rob Macaire. Photo/FILE 

By Rob Macaire

Posted  Tuesday, February 1  2011 at  00:00

Not for the first time, I am moved to write about policing in Kenya.

Many Kenyans whose views I respect have told me they think that, although politics gets all the attention, security and policing are the crucial issues for the country.

I agree. All of the country’s other gains, in economic development, political reform, and increased investment in infrastructure, are jeopardised if security and justice are not assured. Kenya’s not alone in facing this challenge.

So the evidence caught on camera of policemen executing suspects on Langata Road was a sobering reminder of how far there is to go.

Since then the newspapers and radio phone-ins have contained plenty of comment from ordinary Kenyans that they support the use of lethal force by the police – many have commented that the courts fail to sentence criminals, so the police have no choice.

I have heard the same in private from senior policemen. And one can understand that anyone who has been a victim of violent crime isn’t attracted to arguments about the human rights of the criminal.

But this as Paul Muite pointed out, any country where the police have a free hand to act outside the law and against the Constitution becomes less secure, not more.

Everyone would support the right of the police to use lethal force where their or other people’s lives are threatened.

Justice system

But killing people as an alternative to arrest cannot be acceptable, anywhere. It will always end up with innocent people being killed.

That isn’t to say that the courts and prosecution system work properly: they do not.

And that is the reason often given for extra-judicial killings by the police. But it just doesn’t stack up: you can’t wait for the reform of the criminal justice system in order for the police to start obeying the law.

The UK is a supporter of the Kenyan police: we have provided training and advice to a range of police units, and worked in close support of the police reforms taskforce and its Implementation Committee.

So we know from first hand that there are many, many dedicated and selfless police officers in Kenya.

Individuals who put their lives on the line, and who for little reward and thanks provide a vital service to the public. Officers who go the extra mile to help the weak.

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