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Police must avoid using illegal tactics

Tuesday December 5 2017

By EDITORIAL
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The country has gone through some difficult moments for most of the year, and the singular desire of almost every citizen is to see an end to the vindictive and emotionally sapping politics.

But we are far from that. Every often, the country just finds itself hurtling from one contestation to another, often times for the unmerited reasons.

At the weekend, the police arrested and detained National Super Alliance strategist David Ndii at the coast and eventually brought him to Nairobi for interrogation, before eventually hauling him before a court to face charges of incitement to violence. The merits and demerits of that case will, surely, be canvassed in court.

However, this incident opens a new battle, pitting the opposition Nasa against the Jubilee administration. It is bad politics and fuels the persistent acrimony between the two coalitions, stalling any efforts towards rapprochement.

RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES

First, the manner of the arrest and successive events were disastrous. The police literally pounced on Dr Ndii when he was on holiday with his family and seized him in a manner most uncivilised.

There was no search warrant, he was not told the reason for the arrest, the family was misled and kept in the dark about his whereabouts and neither was he allowed access to his lawyers.

Such tactics are reminiscent of the old and primitive Kanu-era operations, when opposition figures were routinely hounded from their homes or offices, detained by police incommunicado and dragged before courts for all sorts of charges. Yet the country should have totally shed such practices when it enacted a new Constitution that safeguards citizens’ rights and civil liberties.

Looked at comprehensively, the way the police service is conducting itself is becoming indefensible.

OLD TOOLS

It is fast regressing, borrowing old tools to deal with current challenges oblivious of the fact that the ground has shifted. All the occasions it has dealt with the opposition figures – stopping their rallies, teargassing and brutalising their supporters and routinely denying – demonstrate a singular inability to change and blind obeisance to some external forces.

Unfortunately, such designs can be counter-productive, making the subjects heroes and tainting the government’s image.

Any straight-thinking administration would not want to soil its name over such matters, not when it has enormous tasks ahead, including securing legitimacy from half of the nation that is disenchanted about it.  And not when it is rooting for dialogue and reconciliation to bridge the widening chasms.

INTIMIDATION

Arguably, part of the reason why the government is behaving the way it does is because of the declaration by the Nasa leadership that it plans to install Mr Raila Odinga as the “people’s president”, a position not tenable in law. Dr Ndii is right at the centre of the scheme and part of the government’s strategy is apparently to intimidate the brains behind the venture. We know for sure that the Nasa plan is doomed. It is an irritating misadventure.

But it appears to have caused a scare in the administration. It is creating tension and opening another frontier for conflict.

The leadership is plotting a push-back, among others, seeking to immobilise the protagonists.

Whatever the case, it is unacceptable for the police to harass and intimidate opposition figures the way it has been doing.

It must respect people’s rights. Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet must take charge, rein in the rogue officers and resist external influence to use the police to settle political scores.