The Kenya Police have persisted in the use of unconventional, illegal means in managing crowds during peaceful street protests and demonstrations. This is a trend that has not only affects the common mwananchi but also the political class, specifically those in the opposition or those opposing government policies and unconstitutional decisions. Most peaceful demonstrations organized by citizen’s end up in violent bouts as a result of the unconventional ways employed by the Kenyan Police to deal with crowd control. In the pretext of conducting their lawful duties, Police officers on a number of occasions have descended on peaceful demonstrators and illegally dispersed them. In many of these instances, members of the public, including the third estate have been victims of illegal arrests and beatings at the hands of those charged with protecting them. As such, these actions by the Kenyan Police have led to breach of many constitutional and legal provisions that are enshrined in various laws like the Public Order Act and National Police Service Act amongst others.
In one of the many instances, (May 2016) the opposition’s clamor and peaceful protests for the removal of IEBC commissioners was dispersed by armed Police officers who beat up and fired tear gas at peaceful demonstrators ,thus infringing on their Constitutional right to demonstrate and picket. This unwarranted act by the Kenyan Police was condemned by members of the Public, Civil Society and Politicians from both side of the Political divide.
The law requires Police officers to discharge their duties with diligence and most importantly respect for human rights that are provided for under Chapter Four of the Constitution in order to foster and promote relationships with the broader society. Despite clear legal provisions and regulations on the use of force, the , the current crop of Police officers is often trigger happy, and quick to use force in managing crowds at the slightest provocation.
There is urgent need for the Inspector General of Police to put in place stern measures to ensure that Police officers manage crowds in a professional and orderly manner as there is no room for unwarranted use of force in light of the new Constitutional dispensation.
The KHRC, in its clamor for Police reforms and observance of human rights, has constantly been on the forefront to remind the Police officers that there is no compromise to the rule of law and respect for human rights. As such, Kenyans cannot allow the rights enshrined in the Constitution to be sacrificed in the pretext of enforcing law and order. To this end, KHRC is committed to jealously guarding all Constitutional gains to ensure that Kenyans enjoy the rights enshrined in the bill of rights and also to ensure that Police officers appreciate the essence of managing crowds within the confines of the law.
By Reginald Kimeu-Transformative Justice