More than 122 people were shot and killed by police in Kenya over the first eight months of 2016, representing a seven per cent increase over the same period last year.
This finding is contained in Deadly Force, the most comprehensive database on death from police encounters ever published in Kenya. It was compiled from media and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) reports as well as reference records from human rights organisations.
This year, the number of killings by police is on track to surpass the 2015 count of more than 140 deaths, data from the special project, built by Nation Newsplex suggests.
Investigations by Newsplex in Kibera and Mathare slums in Nairobi suggests that the number of police killings is much higher, since many incidents are not followed up by police and are not reported to the media.
The eight months of 2016 are included in an inventory stretching back over 20 months to January 2015. In that time, the police have killed at least 262 people, or about 13 people every month.
But investigations by Newsplex in Kibera and Mathare slums in Nairobi suggests that the number of police killings is much higher, since many incidents are not followed up by police and are not reported to the media or human rights organisations.
An overwhelming majority of the people killed in the 20 months were young men and boys. During this period 248 males (95 per cent) and 14 females (five per cent) were killed.
Newsplex was able to identify the ages of the victims in one out of six killings. Of those identified, youth aged 16-25 are more likely to be killed by police than any other age group. The dead were mostly causal labourers and the unemployed.
Often, because of the socioeconomic background of the victims, most cases of police killings go unnoticed by Kenyans but this was not the case in 2011 when a man and his son were shot dead on by police sparking protests in Kawangware, Nairobi.
Mr Ibrahim Okech Ondego, 46, and his son, Joseph Nyaberi, 14, left their house in Kawangware at around 4am heading to Gikomba market to buy vegetables which he sold along Naivasha Road when they met two plainclothes police officers who claimed they were pursuing gangsters.
Residents said the police shot them and then a double-cabin pick-up arrived, and one of the occupants came out with a pistol and a panga which he placed besides the bodies.
The vehicle sped away and the two officers put the bodies in another pick-up and drove off. Police later announced that they had recovered two pangas and a pistol.
In that case, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights moved to court to seek justice for Ondego's family. In 2014, the High Court judge Isaac Lenaola ordered the government to compensate the family with Sh2 million for each of the two people killed.
Care of children
The National Police Service Act 2011 Schedule 6 provides that firearms may only be used when less extreme means are inadequate and for the following purposes: (a) saving or protecting the life of the officer or other person; and (b) in self-defence or in defence of other person against imminent threat of life or serious injury.
The schedule further provides that an officer intending to use firearms shall identify themselves and give clear warning of their intention to use firearms, with sufficient time for the warning to be observed, except: (a) where doing so would place the officer or other person at risk of death or serious harm; or b) if it would be clearly inappropriate or pointless in the circumstances.
In another prominent case, Justice Martin Muya of the High Court in Mombasa found two former police officers, Veronica Gitahi (former DCIO Kinango) and Constable Issa Mzee, guilty of manslaughter of a primary school girl, Kwekwe Mwandaza.
The 14-year-old was fatally shot by the officers in Kinango on August 2014. The two claimed that the girl had attacked them as they were discharging their duties and that they shot her after she attacked them with a machete.
The Police Service Act 2011 states in the Sixth Schedule that a police officer shall make every effort to avoid the use of firearms, especially against children.
Amid outcry from the public and human rights organisations, the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) filed an application under a certificate of urgency at Mombasa High Court (Mombasa High Miscellaneous Criminal Application No. 77 of 2014), seeking orders for exhumation of the body of the deceased for purposes of conducting an independent post mortem examination. IPOA also launched an investigation.
On September 9, 2014, the High Court granted the orders and the exhumation and post-mortem was conducted by the government pathologist assisted by pathologists drawn from IMLU network of doctors working.
Over the 20 months, 51 people or 19 per cent of all deaths occurred in January, more than in any other month. However, on a year-by-year basis, August in which 33 people died (27 per cent), has been the deadliest month in 2016.
The second-deadliest month is January with 21 killings or 17 per cent, followed by July with 20 deaths or 16 per cent.
Over the same period last year, the deadliest month was January when 30 people or 26 per cent were killed, followed by April with 22 deaths or 19 per cent and June with 17 deaths or 15 per cent.
So far, this year’s killings have occurred in 25 counties, two more than last year. When it comes to total deaths, two in five happened in Nairobi, equivalent to 49 deaths.
Tied in second are Siaya, Kisumu and West Pokot, where seven people were killed for each county. Each of the counties accounted for six per cent of all deaths.
In Nairobi and Kisumu the nature of the police killings and reasons given were myriad and included extrajudicial executions, passers-by, robbers and gang shootouts. In while in Siaya, all killings were related to political demonstrations were unarmed demonstrators, passers-by and bystanders were killed
In West Pokot County, all the killings were committed by a radicalised officer in the regular police. According to media reports, police constable Abdihakim Maslah, stormed Kapenguria Police Station and freed a suspected Al Shabaab terrorist who had been booked awaiting trial.
An overwhelming majority of the people killed in the 20 months to August this year were men and boys. During this period 248 males (95 per cent) and 14 females (five per cent) were killed.
Nairobi also leads in police killings per 100,000 people. In the first eight months of this year, the capital led the country in police killing rate, with 1.37 deaths per 100,000 people.
It was followed by West Pokot with a rate of 1.20 deaths and Vihiga with 0.95 deaths. Siaya was placed fourth with 0.73 and Kisumu rounded out the top five with 0.63.
A resident of Nakuru, the lowest-ranked county among the 25 that registered at least one killing, is 26 times less likely to be killed by police as a person living in Nairobi.
Investigations by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) since 2012 have found that police often plant firearms on their victims.
Newsplex ascertained the occupation of 119 or nearly half of those killed over the 20 months. Among those whose occupation were identified, nearly half of the people killed, 53 were recorded to be suspected gangsters or robbers, followed by police officers who were 23, or a fifth.
It is often difficult to verify police claims that those shot were actually criminals in the act of committing a crime, because police rarely divulge their names to the news media, which makes verification difficult.
The analysis also suggests that police are killing each other at a high rate. Circumstances related to police killings included work rivalry, friendly fire, crimes of passion, terrorism and extrajudicial executions.
In more than half of the killings the branch of police involved was identified. The data showed that Kenyans are most likely to be killed by regular and Administration police than any other unit.