“Poll chaos murderers and rapists to walk free,” screamed the headline in last Saturday’s Nation. The Star had a similar headline, trumpeting that “5,000 post-election suspects to go scot-free.”
Wow, I thought when I picked up the papers, how could this be? When had trials been held? And when had they been found guilty?
But as I read the news reports it turned out that the story was not on “murderers and rapists,” getting away, but rather, on the report of the taskforce put together by the Director of Public Prosecutions to look into the 5,000 plus police case files.
These were supposed to be investigation files but the taskforce reported that what was in them was so scanty, so shoddy that they could not move forward in any professional manner. And in many of these cases, there was not even a mention of any suspects!
And yet, the Star was categorical stating that “thousands of people who murdered, raped and burnt people’s homes…are likely to go scot-free….”
Why did the media convict these nameless, faceless people, even calling them murderers and rapists? The media have been scrupulously careful with their descriptions of Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura, Joshua arap Sang and William Ruto, never once calling them rapists or murderers, even though they have been found to have a case to answer.
The media’s approach to the ICC Four is the correct one, since they are innocent until proven guilty, though the fact that their cases have been confirmed shows that the preponderance of evidence tilts against them. But for some reason the presumption of innocence does not seem to extend to those in shoddy police files.
The latter approach is very police-like, where they often act as judge, jury and executioner when it comes to poor and ordinary Kenyans.
The police often decide who is guilty and of what, and then take the extreme action of killing them as they have done with thousands of Kenyans. One would be forgiven for thinking that last week’s headlines were written in Vigilance House and then sent on to the media houses!
But what made the headlines more irritating was that issues arising from the taskforce’s report were not really about suspects, or murderers and rapists.
It was about the total incompetence, shoddy work and unprofessional conduct of the police! It is four years since the election-related violence and yet the police are handing over incomplete files without “witness statements of complainants or investigating officers.”
And this is the same police force that we want to entrust to investigate the “big fish” that planned, financed and organised the violence? The same force that is unwilling to arrest Philip Moi despite court warrants?
Surely the headline and emphasis of the story should have been on the police and the fact that their incompetence presents a clear and present danger to all Kenyans for they are unable to neither provide security nor perform simple investigations that could deter future violence!
Surely they should be asking for the resignation of the top cadre of police officers after such a debacle!
How will victims ever get justice from this unrepentant, unreformed and refusing-to-reform police force? How will those whose complaints are against the police themselves for murder, rape and looting ever get solace?
Clearly there is still so much that we don’t know about who planned, financed and organised the election-related violence.
The ICC will do its part, we hope, but another way of getting to the bottom of the violence would have been to arrest those who executed the various forms of violence and through them get to know who was behind what, when and where.
But with the current force and leadership, this is looking more and more like a pipe-dream, to the great satisfaction of the powerful political elite who have a lot to answer. And it is them keeping us divided, fearful and unhealed.
The police played — and still play — a dangerous destructive role in the violence and its aftermath, as documented in numerous reports. It is unlikely that it can be reformed sufficiently before the next elections.
So just as we have domestic and international elections observers, it is time we got domestic and international observers to monitor the police during the election period. Then, perhaps then, we can have some confidence in the security of the elections.