2017 violence comes back to haunt Police IG nominee Japhet Koome

Japhet Koome

The Inspector-General of Police nominee Japhet Koome before the Committee of the National Assembly on Administration and Internal Security and the Senate Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations on November 8, 2022.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

The violent scenes witnessed in Nairobi after the 2017 elections returned to haunt Inspector-General of Police nominee Japhet Koome during his vetting by a joint parliamentary committee yesterday.

Mr Koome was hard-pressed to explain his role in the brutal crackdown on opposition protesters, the police raid on the University of Nairobi and the brutality police officers meted out on protesters at the electoral agency’s offices that year.

He, however, absolved himself from the unlawful killings and serious human rights violations that occurred during his time as Nairobi County police commander, saying investigations were done and he was not found culpable.

On the 2017 post-election violence and protests aimed at flushing out of office Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials, he said the conduct of the officers was investigated by the Independent Police Oversight Authority (Ipoa) and no one was found guilty.

Regarding the death of Stephanie Moraa in Mathare, he said: “I don’t want to leave here and be seen as a killer. I have zero per cent responsibility for the death of Moraa and others during the 2017 post-election violence. In 2017, we had to act fast as we were about to lose this country.” 

"Mr Clean"

Describing himself as “Mr Clean”, the 55-year-old said his vision is to transform the police service for a safe and secure Kenya, adding that he never compromises when it comes to leadership and integrity.

“I want to be remembered for transforming the service. I want to see officers who observe the provisions of the law, are professional and treat people with dignity at all times. I have always served the needs and interests of the people,” he said. 

On extrajudicial killings and police brutality, Mr Koome said he would push for the establishment of a coroner-general’s office to look into any unnatural deaths and carry out investigations. 

“We don’t condone or allow the killing of anyone. Every Kenyan has a right to life and anybody violating that will face the full force of the law. That’s the commitment I wish to give this afternoon,” he said.

He promised to push for the establishment of a directorate of well-being in the national police service to address issues of mental illness among officers as he linked the increasing cases of suicide in the force to poor management of finances by young officers.

Responding to a question on poor pay posed by Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda, Mr Koome admitted the service had been neglected for a long time and that some officers live in deplorable conditions.

He acknowledged that corruption is deeply rooted in the service, saying it was time to take the bull by the horns and end the vice.

“What is happening on our roads is ugly and unacceptable. We shall have a discussion with the service commanders on how to work with the public to take videos and other evidence of officers engaging in corruption and those who do so will be rewarded in monetary terms,” he said. 

If appointed, Mr Koome pledged to work with other agencies such as the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ipoa, Directorate of Criminal Investigations and human rights groups and take a multi-agency approach to maintaining law and order.

The National Assembly’s Administration and Internal Affairs committee and the Senate’s National Security, Defence and Foreign Relations committee will now retreat to prepare a report to be presented before Parliament.