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  • Writer's pictureIrungu Houghton

More reasons why our police are not ready for the Haiti mission

Recent police conduct lapses casts shadows once more on Kenya's insistence on deploying 1,000 police officers to Haiti as part of the Multinational Security Support Mission. The United Nations Security Council approved mission places Kenyan police officers on an international stage at a time when serious questions are being asked about the mental wellbeing, ethics and discipline of the Kenyan police Service writes Martin Mavenjina and I.

 

In the last week, eight police officers have arrested for extorting bribes and stealing from the public. The amounts being investigated are not insignificant. Sh 2.2 million in one case, 522 bags of rice and Sh 40,000 bribes in other incidents. One of those arrested featured in the viral arrest of Ian Njoroge.

 

Ian Njoroge’s (19) act of road rage and violent attack of Corporal Jacob Ogendo flipped the nation into its own rage first against the university student and then overnight against the police service. The youthful suspect alleges the Officer demanded a Sh 10,000 bribe for a traffic infraction. The police and DPP preferred robbery with violence charges and then unsuccessfully attempted to apply the unconstitutional standard of “teaching the public a lesson” to deny bail.

 

As if it couldn’t get worse for the Inspector General, every justice sector stakeholder’s worst nightmare materialized with Thursday’s Makadara Court shooting.  A fraud case involving Jennifer Wairimu, the wife of Londiani police station commander Samson Kipruto, went horribly wrong with the senior officer wounding Principal Magistrate Monicah Kivuti and wounding three police officers responding to protect all present. Magistrate Kivuti tragically died two days later.

 

These domestic incidents come at a time when Kenyan Police Officers seem set to be deployed to Haiti. The framers of the Kenyan Constitution did not envisage the police would serve outside Kenya's borders. This deployment was initially challenged and resulted in a High Court order blocking it due to its unconstitutionality and the absence of reciprocal agreements between Kenya and Haiti. Despite this, subsequent bilateral talks and the signing of a reciprocal agreement on March 1, 2024, reaffirmed Kenya’s decision to deploy its officers. This legal and constitutional ambiguity remains contentious.

 

With a population nearing 56 million, Kenya's approximately 110,000 NPS officers are already stretched thin. According to media estimates, 20,000 officers are assigned to VIP protection and specialized units, leaving the police force unable to meet the United Nations recommended ratio of one police officer for every 450 citizens. Currently, Kenya could have one officer for every 1,150 citizens. Deploying 1,000 officers abroad may further impair the police service ability to maintain domestic law and order as required by Article 244 of the Constitution.

 

Even if we overlook last week, Kenya's police have a consistently troubling history of human rights violations. They include inhumane treatment, unlawful and arbitrary arrests, disruption of peaceful demonstrations and disproportionate use of lethal force. Concerns that these officers might commit similar violations in Haiti without adequate accountability frameworks to address such actions are not easy to dismiss.

 

Kenya faces numerous and complex security challenges that terrorism, small arms proliferation, organized urban crime and illicit financial flows. Is it prudent at time when our resources are domestically limited and the security challenges immense to still deploy? Financial sustainability remains a critical concern. The mission's trust fund has received only USD 21 million out of the estimated USD 600 million needed for operational costs. It remains unclear whether mission will be adequately financed to meet its objectives. Weak public information disclosure following the recent US-Kenya state visit leaves parliament and public uncertain what human rights oversight safeguards and adequate resources have been mobilized to ensure a successful mission.


Given what we have seen this week, the absence of robust public mechanisms to hold officers accountable for misconduct abroad must raise serious ethical and legal questions. What are the rules of engagement and what measures have been taken to ensure a human rights compliant and corrupt free deployment?

 

This opinion is co-written with Martin Mavenjina is Kenya Human Rights Commission Transitional Justice Senior Program Advisor and was also published in the Saturday Standard,  15 June 2024

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