OPINION: Selective application of the law and capture of the police by the executive is to blame for the chaos
Selective application of the law, compromised judgement and complete loss of independence as a result of capture of the Kenya Police Service and other law enforcement agencies by the Executive arm of the government in its battle to retain the presidency is to blame for the chaos, loss of property, life and limb as police continue to make wrong choices in enforcing the law, including when it chose to disrupt what would have been a peaceful welcome of opposition leader Raila Odinga by his supporters on Friday.
Persons in positions of responsibility, in particular those serving in sensitive dockets such as the police service have a duty to serve with neutrality. They have to be engaged in responsible decision-making; remain accountable for their actions; and avoid conflicts between their professional and political expediencies of the moment. Yet our police service has allowed its objectivity, independence and indeed honesty compromised, leading to the breakdown of law and order now being witnessed in all parts of the country.
Every Kenyan, whether in NASA or Jubilee is equal before the law, and must be treated as such by the law enforcement agencies. That is what the principle of equality demands, yet what we have seen in the period leading to August 8th and the repeat presidential elections held on October 26th is a police service, nay “a police force” that perpetrates extra-judicial killings with impunity and has the audacity to lie in broad day light even when there is glaring evidence to the contrary.
The failure by the police to enforce the law fairly and firmly is a recipe for lawlessness, a slide that is made worse when the police enlist vigilante groups and outlawed sects and watch in bemusement or turn against victims of such gangs during in retaliatory attacks that even the police seem to be unable to control.
The extravagant use of teargas, truncheons, water cannons, live and rubber bullets in situations that would have been handled differently as witnessed in the past point to an external hand outside the police service directing operations of law enforcement agencies.
When Police Spokesman George Kinoti admitted that “five deaths occurred when sections of the mob accompanying the Nasa convoy looted property and were killed by stoning after being caught stealing”, one is left wondering where the police were when the looting and the stoning of the said looters were happening.
The fact that Kinoti could provide such details that “two were stoned to death along Landhies Road, two next to County Bus Station and one along Racecourse Road” on a day the entire city center was saturated with law enforcement officers is the clearest confirmation that maintenance of law and order, and protection of life and property are no longer the focus of the Kenya Police Service at this time of political polarization when their professionalism and neutrality are needed most.
It is not possible that there were no police officers along the roads where the five were allegedly killed by mobs and where looting took place.
And if Mr. Kinoti’s version of how the five died were to be believed, then his statement can only be taken to imply that police officers who had been deployed in those areas only watched to gather information for the political propaganda it is now being used instead of preventing the looting and the subsequent lynching that allegedly took place.
It is now obvious that the Kenya Police Service long abandoned their moto of “Utumishi kwa Wote” (Service to All) and become partisan players in the battle for political power rather than remaining neutral and ensuring that all Kenyans enjoy their rights without discrimination based on their political affiliation.
It is not clear what the heavy deployment of law enforcement officers in and around Nairobi on Friday was meant to achieve other than to curtail the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedoms of association, assembly and expression of those who merely wanted to express their joy at the return of their political leader from a trip abroad. The total breakdown of the very and order that the police are supposed to maintain, the loss of property, lives and limb attest to what has befallen us before, and can recur when citizens begin to show contempt for the law and its enforcement officers because of their partiality.
The chaos witnessed on Friday November 17 could have been avoided had the police acted independently without taking instructions from politicians. But amendments to the Police Service Act that put the Inspector General of Police, his deputies and heads of its various formations to serve at the pleasure of the President have reduced the police to a mere appendage of the Executive, completely deprived of the autonomy it needs to serve all Kenyans with impartiality.