By Winnie Kabintie
IPOA’s job is perhaps one of the most daunting, considering that the success of the body’s investigations is highly pegged on total cooperation from members of the police service; the same lot who are at the center of its scrutiny.
The public image and reputation of the Kenya Police continues to border on the negative especially in the wake of escalating cases of extra-judicial killings, which affirm the long held public view of the police as the state’s main organ of oppression and principal violators of human rights.
It is this negative image among other key things that the ongoing police reforms seek to change in an effort to transform the police service but evidently, other than the alteration of the name from a “force” to a “service” there is nothing much to write home about.
Consequently, The Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) continues to be swarmed with massive complaints from the public.
“We are dealing with a police service that is not professional in its work. If the force was operating as it should, we would have fewer complaints but because of the continuous abuse of human rights and how it delivers their service, it follows that we are swarmed up with complaints,” IPOA.
IPOA has made strides in its mandate to get justice for victims of police violations as witnessed in the recently concluded investigations, which will see a number of police officers face murder charges for.
Police Officers Facing Murder Charges
Among these officers is Administration Police Constables Samuel Chege and Jackson Letinina of Equator Administration Police Camp, who will be facing charges of manslaughter following the death of a police officer, Harun Mwang’ombe Maganjo , which occurred on 14th July 2015 in Kianugu area, Nyandarua County.
The two are accused of opening fire at the deceased and his two colleagues after mistaking them for thugs.
“The Authority’s investigations revealed that complaints had previously been made about rampant insecurity in Kianugu area by concerned residents at Ndaragua Police Station. On the material day, both the Administration Police and the Kenya Police Service officers proceeded to lay an ambush to arrest the alleged criminals without each other’s knowledge along the Nyahururu – Ndaragua road.
Administration Police Constables Samuel Chege and Jackson Letinina of Equator AP Camp arrived first and when the deceased with two colleagues who were in civilian attire arrived; they formed the opinion that they were the criminals and opened fire on them. Harun Mwang’ombe Maganjo was rushed to a local medical centre but succumbed while being transferred to Nairobi West Hospital in Nairobi,” read’s IPOA‘s statement in part.
Another officer also facing murder charges is police constable Dennis Odhiambo Sule of Bungoma police station, who is accused of killing Emily Naliaka on 20th January 2015 in Ndengelwa Village, Bungoma County.
According to IPOA, the officer assaulted the deceased during a raid on illicit brew dealers. Naliaka would later that night succumb to the injuries inflicted.
IG Biggest Obstacle
IPOA is mandated to investigate police misconduct as well as deaths and serious injuries caused by police. The body however continues to cite lack of cooperation from the National Police Service and particularly the IG as the biggest impediment to its investigations.
“Lack of cooperation right from the leadership of the National Police Service has been a challenge and it makes our work more difficult because it delays our investigations,” said IPOA chairman, Mr Macharia Njeru, adding that the police lack understanding of IPOA’s legal mandate.
“This is a result of orders from the IG himself, whom we must say has been an obstacle,” he says.
A statement released by IPOA’s board members last week further accuses the IG of having given orders that the body’s officers should not be granted access to any police station without his authority.
“It should be noted that the IG’s actions have grave implications on IPOA’s ability to hold the police to account as envisaged in the constitution and enabling legislation. The highest police leadership refuses to change and while it projects an image of transforming the police service, the reality is that it is business as usual” the statement reads.
The board’s statement was occasioned by a recent incident where the Kayole Police Station OCPD assaulted a IPOA investigating officer and locked up in a cell in what the accused officers allegedly said “was to teach IPOA people a lesson”.
According to a report by the KNHCR, Are We Under Siege? The State Of Security In Kenya An Occasional Report (2010 – 2014), extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance account for the highest number of people killed in insecurity related cases with a record number of 1, 894 extra judicial killings between 2010-2014.
Non-governmental watchdog Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) reports that the police killed 97 people in 2015 alone.
The recent brutal murder of lawyer Willie Kimani, together with his client Mr. Josephat Mwenda and their taxi driver Mr. Joseph Muiruri brought to the fore the gravity of police brutality in the country and the lengths officers will go to evade accountability.
Evidence produced in court in the case confirms that the murder of the three came about in an effort by the accused police officers to thwart a case lodged by Mwenda with IPOA following an unwarranted shooting by one of the officers.
“It was apparent that some of the Administration Police Officers alleged to have been involved in the shooting were interrogated by officers from IPOA. From the submission made before court by IPOA, it was evident that the investigation of the complaint was frustrated by lack of cooperation by the Administration Police hierarchy” reads a section of the ruling by Justice L. Kimaru.
Trouble began Once the accused officers got wind of information that Mwenda had lodged a complaint against them with IPOA and in an effort to cover up the crime, the officers went ahead to fabricate criminal charges against the victim while at the same time coaxing him to drop the charges.
He was charged with three criminal counts of being in possession of narcotic drugs, gambling in a public place and resisting arrest by a police officer. In addition the officers also charged Mwenda with six counts under the Traffic Act; riding a motor cycle without a helmet, riding a motorcycle without a reflective jacket, carrying excess passengers, carrying uninsured passengers, riding uninsured motorcycle and riding a motorcycle without a driving license.
“With a view to further “persuading” Mwendwa to withdraw the complaint, the same Administration Police Officers on 13th December 2015 arrested Mwendwa in the wee hours of the night. While on transit to Mlolongo Police Station, the same Administration Police Officers threatened to shoot and kill Mwendwa unless he withdrew the complaint lodged with IPOA”
It’s the culmination of these events that would lead to the Involvement of wilie Kimani, a human rights advocate, as Mwenda went ahead to seek further help from the International Justice Mission, where the lawyer served.
The mutilated Bodies of the three victims would later be discovered in a river in Ol Ndonyo Sabuk to the shock of the country and the international community as well, as the incident had made global headlines especially surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the three victims.
In his ruling Justice L. Kimaru observes that there was distinct lack of enthusiasm by the police to investigate the disappearance of the deceased petitioners when the incident was reported to them.
“The police belatedly took action when the Law Society of Kenya and Civil Society took up the deceased petitioners’ cause,” he said.
“It became apparent to the court, from the previous conduct of the police in the case of Mwendwa, that there was justifiable apprehension that the police would not be able to properly investigate the case with a view to bringing the culprits involved in the disappearance and subsequent murder of the three petitioners to book,”.
Justice Kimaru went further ahead to condemn the police for frustrating IPOA adding that the death of the deceased petitioners should, hopefully, be a watershed in the way complaints on misconduct by some police officers are investigated.
“It seems that the attitude of the Police Service hierarchy is that IPOA is an irritating body, which at best should be ignored and at worst should be obstructed from fulfilling its mandate under the Independent Policing Oversight Authority Act. It is shocking that some elements in the Police Service still think that they can operate without civilian oversight or that the Police Service is a closed shop where a civilian authority mandated by law cannot inquire into misconduct by its members,”.