Why civil society groups are unhappy with Maraga report on police

President William Ruto receives the security agencies welfare reforms task force

President William Ruto (right) receives the security agencies welfare reforms task force report from former Chief Justice David Maraga at State House Nairobi on November 16, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

A section of civil society in Kenya have criticised a report by the police reforms taskforce chaired by former chief justice David Maraga, saying it failed to address the root cause of the problems between the service’s top leadership and the National Police Service Commission (NPSC).

The civil society groups also wondered why the report failed to recommend specific actions against the police service leadership, right from the Inspector General of Police, Japheth Koome.

On NPSC, the groups rejected a proposal to hand the commission a negotiated exit, saying they should instead be taken through a tribunal, as part of the procedure set out to kick out members of constitutional commissions and independent offices, where NPSC falls.

They faulted the Maraga taskforce for failing to offer clear guidance on addressing National Police Service (NPS) leadership actions, while highlighting that such omission undermines crucial accountability and transparency needed for a just and rights-compliant law enforcement system.

“Constitutional Commissions and Independent bodies play a vital role in our constitutional structure. Kenyans should not take lightly when Commissioners surrender their power or fail to fulfil their mandate. Commissioners’ independence, security of tenure, and salaries are ring-fenced to ensure they do not take instructions from any authority other than the Constitution, pushing them out of office without allowing them to account for their actions is not in the country’s best interest concerning protecting government organs and institutions,” the team said in a statement.

The civil society groups that issued the joint statement are Kenya Human Rights Commission, Katiba Institute, Independent Medico-Legal Unit, Amnesty International Kenya, International Justice Mission, the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, Federation of Women Lawyers, International Centre for Transitional Justice, Transparency International Kenya, Constitution and Reform Education Consortium, and Kenyans for Peace, Truth and Justice.

Others are Kariobangi Paralegal Network, Defenders Coalition, Social Justice Centres Working Group, HAKI Africa, Social Welfare Development Program, Women Empowerment Link, Social Justice Centres Working Group, Shield For justice, Wangu Kanja Foundation, and Peace Brigades International Kenya.

Further, the team accused the Inspector General Koome of overstepping the authority of the NPSC saying that he has engaged in unacceptable behavior, such as withdrawing security from NPSC commissioners.

"The taskforce does not give guidance on what should happen to the NPS leadership, which usurped the powers of the NPSC contrary to the law and the constitution. The Inspector General has publicly taken on the NPSC and at one time withdrew the Commissioner's security when they disagreed with his unilateral and public promotion of senior officers without the input of the NPSC as required by law. This unacceptable conduct coming from holders of constitutional offices and needs to be censured," they said in a statement.

The team also insisted that the report failed to address human rights violations and neglected to incorporate principles from policy documents that advocate for democratic and community policing, placing a strong emphasis on human rights protection.

They emphasized that community policing was instrumental to enhancing the police’s capacity to detect, preempt, prevent, and address crime while fostering engagement with the public.

“We note that the taskforce did not mention community policing as a part of policing strategies in Kenya, which has been neglected despite being a legal requirement (1) PRWG-K notes that during the 2023 Cost of Living Protests “Maandamano”, areas where Station Commanders had established relationships with the communities experienced significantly less violence,” the team said.

The civil society groups praised the taskforce for acknowledging that the executive, led by the Cabinet Secretary of Interior and National Coordination, has been excessively managing the NPS and Inspector General, in contradiction to the constitution.

They also concur that operational interference by the executive has been a consequence, partly stemming from the removal of the competitive hiring of the Inspector General of the NPS through the 2014 Security Law.

The team also rejected a proposal by the taskforce that the National Youth Service (NYS) becomes an automatic entrance route to the police service.

The civil society group, however, supported the taskforce proposal to raise police, prisons and NYS officers’ lowest ranking members by up to 40 per cent. 

They also backed a proposal by the taskforce to limit operational deployment of officers to six months and regular deployments of three years in one county, before an automatic transfer.