Human rights groups and security experts have raised concern over the increased cases of fatal police shooting of innocent civilians and the failure to investigate and prosecute them fully.
Last month alone five innocent Kenyans were shot dead by police officers either in suspected hit jobs, cases of mistaken identity or just sheer police impunity.
In all the five cases, the victims, who include a university student, were not linked to any criminal activity, which is usually the favourite line of defence for the police when they come under fire for extra-judicial killings.
The latest case to shock the nation was the shooting of Mrs Janet Wangui Kirubi, 41, and her nephew Bernard Chege, 26, by two police officers while relaxing in their car at Nairobi’s City Park on a Sunday morning two weeks ago.
Administration Police Constable William Chirchir from Makadara Police Station and AP Constable, Mr Godfrey Kirui, from Industrial Area Police Station, pumped 15 bullets into their vehicle.
The officers explained that they shot the two after they started behaving “suspiciously”—another favourite police line—by ignoring a stop order. They further intimated that the two were having sex in the car, a claim which was denied by the family of the deceased.
In these days of terrorism, a statement from the police said, the officers could not take any chances after prompting the curiosity of the officers by taking too long to disembark from their car.
Kirubi, a mother of three, died on the spot and was buried on Thursday in Murang’a. Her nephew narrowly escaped death with serious injuries and is still admitted in a Nairobi hospital.
The two police officers involved in the incident recorded statements and were freed on bond. “Same old story,” said Mr George Musamali, a former General Service Unit officer and now an independent security expert.
“The police usually mollify the public by arresting the police suspects, and taking statements from them. From past experience, often this is just the process of laundering them clean,” he said.
Even as he nurses his wounds, Mr Chege complained last week from his hospital bed of harassment from the police who he said want to forcefully collect DNA samples from him.
He said he had learnt that the officers wanted to carry out a DNA test to ascertain he was the one at the scene of the shooting. “I suspect these officers are up to something else. What do they want to ascertain when they are the same people who helped me get to hospital?” he told the media.
But this incident is not isolated. On the same day that Kirubi and her nephew were assaulted, a matatu conductor was also shot by another AP officer in Waithaka village in Dagoreti South, Nairobi.
The deceased, David Kariuki, was going about his usual business of picking up and dropping passengers when the incident occurred. Eyewitnesses said the police officer had been on a nightlong drinking spree.
Kariuki was buried last week in Thogoto, becoming another statistic, a victim of trigger-happy police officers. The officer who shot him is in police custody but is yet to be formally charged.
Ten days before Kariuki met his death, another fellow youth, 24-year--old Brian Chacha, a student at the Kisumu campus of KCA University, was shot dead by an off-duty senior police officer.
Chief Inspector of Police Sebastian Ambani, an OCS at Kehancha police station in Migori County, shot Chacha at a bar in Mamboleo area after they brawled while drinking.
On the same day young Chacha’s dreams were being snuffed out by the bullet of a rogue law-keeper, the police were announcing the killing of a “most wanted” criminal.
Shimoli Junior is the son of Edward Maina Shimoli, alias Carlos the Jackal, who was arrested, jailed, then gunned down shortly after he finished his prison term in 2007.
Buruburu Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss Jeremiah Ikiao said Shimoli Jnr had been terrorising sportsmen and fans near and around Camp Toyoyo stadium. The only problem is that the young man they had shot was not Shimoli Jnr, but 16 year-old Arnold Okongo who completed primary school last year and who was working as a part-time tout.
His father Thomas Okongo, the head coach of Jericho All Stars Football Club in Nairobi’s Eastlands, said police in plainclothes arrived just as he was boarding a matatu, pulled him down and shot him multiple times, even after he shouted that he is not the Shimoli they were looking for.
But when it became apparent that they had shot the wrong man, undercover cops claimed Arnold was a close friend and accomplice of Shimoli Jnr who is wanted for several robberies.
Before this, in late February, policemen shot dead Evans Njoroge, the secretary-general of the Meru University Students Association. His crime: Leading a demonstration against high school fees and poor learning conditions at the university.
Witnesses said two officers pursued him into a private compound in Karebe village and shot him in the head. “Police chased him through my compound before one of the officers shot him within my farm,” Dominic Limiri, a witness, said.
Witnesses claimed the officer who shot the student was dressed in AP attire, but changed into a T-shirt before leaving in a waiting car. No police officer was arrested for the killing.
These are just some of the egregious killings by the police this year. They add on to the unresolved killings of baby Samatha Pendo in Kisumu and Stephanie Moraa in Nairobi by the police in August last year during the demonstrations against the outcome of the presidential results.
Six-month-old Pendo’s skull was shattered by police officers who stormed their home in Nyalenda slums while pursuing the demonstrators. On the other hand, Moraa was hit in the head by a stray police bullet as she played with her friends at the balcony of their home in Mathare North Area II.
The police were roundly condemned by human rights groups for using excessive force to quell the election-related demos in Opposition strongholds.
A report released in late December last year by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) said that more than 90 people were killed by cops in election-related clashes.
However, the police said the force was reasonable and necessary in the circumstances. President Uhuru Kenyatta even commended them for being “firm” when confronting the demonstrators.
Whereas the issue of the amount of force applied by police to quell demos will always divide opinion according to party lines, some Kenyans have paid the ultimate price for poor police intelligence.
In October last year, Bunty Shah, the son Bobmill Group of Companies founder, Bobby Shah, was shot dead in his Westlands home by anti-terrorism police in another fatal case of mistaken identity.
On realising that they had the wrong target, the police disabled the CCTVs and vacated the compound, leaving Shah lying on the floor. His family is now demanding Sh730 million compensation from the government. The admission by the police that they got the wrong man in Shah’s case is indeed extremely rare for a police service that has grown largely impervious to public criticism over its misdeeds.
In April last year, Kenyans were left horrified when a video surfaced of a police officer dressed in civilian clothes wielding a pistol and shooting several times at an already badly injured man on the ground in Eastleigh, Nairobi.
The then Nairobi County Police boss, Japheth Koome, despite outrage over the shooting — which was termed by human rights groups as an extra judicial execution — said he has no apology to make over the action taken by ‘his officers’.
It is such kind of attitude from the police bosses that breeds and foments impunity within the police service, said KNCHR vice-chairman George Morara.
“That is not the kind of attitude we need for a reforming force,” said Mr Morara. “What lessons are the top bosses sending to their juniors when they publicly abet criminal acts?”
Indeed, police officers hardly get punished for violating the laws they have sworn to protect. The notable exception is the determination with which the police supported the prosecution of former Githurai police cop Titus Ngamau Musila alias Katitu who was recently jailed for 15 years for the killing a suspect in broad daylight in 2013.
Last week, the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) released a detailed six-year report that blamed the National Police Service for derailing most of the 9,000 cases lodged with them.
According to the report presented by former chairperson Macharia Njeru, police officers covered up crimes or tampered with evidence to defeat IPOA investigations in cases where police are implicated.
This, the report says, includes “numerous failures to notify the authority on deaths and serious injuries as a result of police action, mishandling, mismanagement or interference of incidence scenes.”
IPOA achieved only four convictions in six years.