Stop the police brutality, erosion of human rights

With the increasing incidence of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators, Kenya’s democratic system is under severe test. And this the framers of the 2010 Constitution had exhaustively dealt with during the heated negotiations for a document to take the country to the next level. So far, it has held firm, but the bitter rivalry between the main political camps threatens to torpedo the gains of the supreme law of the land.

There have been several deaths in confrontations between police and riotous youth. The police cannot run away from this one as most of the victims suffered gunshot wounds. They must preserve law and order, but not by firing live ammunition at peaceful protesters. The culprits must be sought and weeded out of the National Police Service.

Indeed, the job of law enforcers is not an easy one. But that is no justification for brutality. In fact, the lethal attacks by police firing live bullets, lobbing tear gas and using water cannon appear to lend credence to Azimio coalition leader Raila Odinga’s sensational claim about a killer squad in the security forces targeting him and other opposition leaders. Police have several times fired live ammunition at their cars.

The deadly clashes are reminiscent of the horrible days of single-party dictatorship in the 1980s and ’90s. It is a shameful and primitive erosion of the rights and freedoms that Kenyans have been so proud of. The leaders, especially the President, should assure Kenyans that there are no such squad.

President William Ruto is in a particularly tricky situation. During last year’s election campaigns, he condemned police brutality and extrajudicial killings. On assuming office, he quickly disbanded a police unit suspected of being a killer squad and won the admiration and support of many fellow Kenyans. So why would he condone such evil?

Also, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has on several occasions warned police against the use of excessive force against unarmed civilians holding peaceful demonstrations. This has also attracted the attention of the United Nations.

Any attempt to roll back the democratic gains must be condemned and stridently resisted.