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Silence the killer police guns against our young generation

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By KALTUM GUYO
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Many would agree with me that Kenya police have gone beyond being trigger-happy and become a killing machine.

There is no justification anywhere (in law) for the police to fatally shoot innocent people, least of all unarmed ones. The poor youth of this country have been turned into dart boards for the police to aim their live bullets at and it must stop. Full stop.

I get many emails from young people, mainly in the slums of Kenya, on the subject of ‘shoot to kill’ policy used by the police and they are crying out for help. They form groups to try and keep themselves and their friends safe from the police when, ironically, they should be running to the law enforcers for help.

NGOs are also out to try and support victims of police brutality, but what does the government do? Deny there is extrajudicial killing! This is coming from the minister in charge of security for all. If not extrajudicial killing, then we are talking of a bloodbath. Either of them being miscarriage of justice of an unimaginable scale.

We cannot stop crime by exterminating youth. Police are assuming an extraordinary level of illegal power by summarily executing whoever they deem to be a “suspect”.

Presumption of guilt is not within the official role of the police. They have no legal power to pass such an ultimate sentence on a suspect, whatever the crime. We have it in our laws (Article 26 of Chapter 4, to be exact) that everyone, including a criminal, has a right to life.

The primary role of the police is to maintain law and order. By taking away lives so brutally and violently, they break the very laws they are meant to enforce. How did the police end up above the law?

The level of violence police are meting out in towns such as Mombasa is very personal to me. I grew up there feeling safe and secure. Granted, the crime rate has, indeed, increased in the coastal town, and so has the level of poverty.

Crime is no excuse for the police to act outside the law, however. Violence is not an effective crime control method and never was. The police well know that plastic bullets and stun guns are better alternatives to live bullets.

The picture of poverty is the same for youth around the country, who are struggling to find opportunities to earn a living. Those opportunities are not going to be created through the barrel of the gun, but employment policies that would create sustainable jobs. We are going to war with our socio-economic challenges.

There were loud cries of presumption of innocence recently when many senior state officials were charged in court over corruption. We were meant to believe that they had the right to steal public funds to their heart’s content, to enjoy the due process of the law and, in the meantime, have the right to return to their comfortable offices safe and sound until proven otherwise.

I could not think of a legal system more discriminatory towards the poor than the one we have. It seems it is alright to advocate for the life of those that embezzle funds from crucial departments — whose criminal acts could lead to death and leave many more walking dead — but it is not to save the life of a poor chap who is, sometimes, forced to steal just a morsel of food to sustain the very life that is lost through the bullet.

We have our policing values completely mixed up and it is leading to intolerable suffering. The police need to understand that, for them to succeed at their job, they must establish a healthy relationship with the communities they serve. They need to be friends, not foes. Continued use of violence, especially on the poor, alienates them more and turns communities against them.

We have witnessed a few such incidents, when the public turned against the police. Many such cases may not be justified but, if injustice pushes people too far against the wall, they are bound to fight back for their rights using the same violence.

Respect for the rule of law is inherently interlinked with the work of the police. The departure from it by the police has the potential to plunge the country into lawlessness. Who can keep order when those mandated to do so are at the front of the queue flouting the law with impunity?

The lack of separation of powers within the criminal justice system is a dangerous trend. It is time lines within it were made crystal clear in order to maintain smooth and fair administration of justice.

Security in the country is paramount in attracting investment. But that does not mean it should be maintained through loss of blood of otherwise innocent civilians. The violent and abrasive form of security keeping does very little in enhancing a good image of the country.

It is time to humanise the face of the police service. New uniforms and digitisation of the service are not enough. Human rights ought to be at the fingertips of every officer.

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