Villagers view burnt out home by Sungusungu belonging to an alleged crime suspectThe Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) together with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) jointly have expressed concern over the manner in which crime and security matters have been handled in Gusiiland. Follow-up investigations carried out by the three organizations on previous fact-finding missions conducted by our respective organizations reveal a disturbing pattern. The investigations were prompted by reports of continued violations allegedly perpetrated by the outlawed Sungusungu vigilante received by our respective organizations.
On 14th October 2011 in a press statement while launching a preliminary report in Kisii on crime and insecurity situation in Gusiiland, the three commissions noted that though some members of the public and government officials had informed the team that Sungusungu is no longer in existence and that those who used to be members of Sungusungu are now members of Community Policing, findings indicate that the groups’ criminal activities are still prevalent in various parts of Gusiiland. The complete findings are to be published in a report tilted “Sungusungu: Merchants of Terror and Death in Kisii.”
The preliminary findings however indicate a worrying development in the Gusii situation where there seems to be no clear distinction between Sungusungu activities and community policing. The joint statement emphasized that that any issues of crime must be addressed within the clearly defined confines of the law. While community policing entails an approach that seeks actively to prevent, detect crime, reduce fear and improve communication between the community and police, what is taking place currently in Gusiiland is a serious perpetration of crimes and human rights violations under the guise of community policing.
Among the serious crimes and violations committed by the Sungusungu listed by the three commissions include:
- Overstepping community policing mandate for example arresting and detaining suspects in illegal holding cells and passing judgments in Kangaroo courts;
- Murders of suspected ‘criminals’, and in some instances denial of burial rights in their homes;
- Assault and causing grievous bodily harm , sometimes even based on false accusation and set up;
- Issuance of threats where in some cases politicians, public officials as well as civilians are reported to be using Sungusungu to issue threats or assault persons believed not to be in good terms or in political agreement with the said persons;
- Enforced disappearance;
- Extortion of funds from members of the public allegedly for payment of security services;
- Sex for protection;
- Parallel justice system where due course of law is interfered with and ‘punishment’ is meted out extra judiciously.
The team noted that there were underlying issues to this problem, land and property ownership tussles as well as strong cultural beliefs play a critical role in fuelling acts of general crime and insecurity in Gusii-land, being the leading cause to the these gross human rights violations.
The mission was informed by interviews by the three commissions of various actors including Faith Based Organizations, Community Based Organizations and Civil Society Organizations, the Provincial Administration, the Police, the victims and members of the public who shared the information that informs our findings and subsequent recommendations.
The full press statement on the issue is in the post below.