Police’s ability to ensure peaceful voting queried

A Kenya Police pass out parade. Photo/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Residents of counties mapped out as violence hotspots have opted to boost security around their homes and business premises to safeguard against any break-ins during the elections.
  • Some traders have reduced their stock to minimise losses in case of attacks.

A new report has expressed fear that police may not be prepared to guarantee a peaceful General Election in Kenya.

The Amnesty International report Police Reform In Kenya: A Drop In the Ocean says that police operations and procedures that were in place five years ago during post-election violence have remained unchanged.

The document is due for release later on Wednesday.

“The reality is that the elections will take place with the pre-reform policing apparatus, despite new leadership and a new Police Act. Because of the failure to properly support the police reform process, many fear rank-and-file police officers may not fully comply with all provisions of the new policing structures,” says the document.

The new structures are contained in the National Police Service Act, as well as the National Police Service Commission Act, which came into force last year, but are yet to be fully implemented.

For instance, senior officers are required to be vetted and those found unfit sent home or be removed from the key positions they hold.

“With five weeks to go to the elections, the Kenyan authorities must show the political will and take urgent measures to prevent human rights abuses during the election period,” says a statement from Amnesty International’s deputy Africa programme director Sarah Jackson.

The global human rights body wants a code of conduct produced to guide officers should they be required to quell chaos so as to ensure police do not use unnecessary force.

The report further says: “There is much work to be done to implement reforms in the police, both before and immediately after the elections. With elections weeks away, the sense of urgency behind this work is palpable.”

In the 2007/2008 poll chaos, 1,300 people were killed and over 600,000 others displaced from their homes.

According to the report, delays in implementing the new policing laws mean that many of the same old police structures will still be in place during the March 4 vote.

The document claims an unnamed government official told Amnesty International that new laws and equipment introduced since 2008 are just a “drop in the ocean”.

The report gives examples of security unpreparedness, saying police failed to protect the public in the Tana Delta, where 200 people have been killed and 112,000 displaced since August 2012.

“And there has been little movement towards bringing the police to account either collectively or individually for these human rights violations,” it adds.

Ms Jackson said: “The authorities should ensure there is a clear strategy for how the elections will be policed.”