Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When the Police See Red

When constabulary duty is to be done,
A policeman's lot is not a happy one!

A week ago I had a conversation with a total stranger at my local pub which centred on the rampant insecurity and the recent deaths of 3 policemen at the hands of armed gangsters. The fellow made an interesting point: the police are at a distinct disadvantage because they are required to identify themselves while the thugs are anonymous faces in the crowd. So to even out these odds the police simply treat all as potential gangsters, shooting first and asking questions later.

Reports in yesterday's Nation seem to bear out this out.
Police in pursuit of suspected car-jackers shot dead an innocent vegetable trader, Cyrus Kabiru Mwaniki, at his kiosk in Dandora estate, Nairobi, even as the man went on his knees begging for mercy...Mr Mwaniki’s younger sister, Anne Wambui, who also stays on the same plot, recalls hearing gun shots outside the compound and running with the neighbours to peep through the cracks on the wooden gate to see what was happening. Ms Wambui remembers hearing three gun shots minutes apart and the voice of her brother pleading to be spared as he was not a thief. "Mwaniki shouted about 10 times, 'I am not a thief! I am not a thief!' But finally he went silent after the third gun shot was heard," said a tearful Ms Wambui...."It took him some time to realise they were police officers and when he came to, he knelt and started pleading saying he was not a thief," said a man who was being served in the kiosk opposite at the time of the incident. The witnesses said police shot another man who was running away before ordering Mr Mwaniki to lie down and also shooting him on the head, killing him instantly.
Mr Benson Mwangi Waraga’s body was found at the City Mortuary only 10 hours after he was arrested from his business premises near the scene of a shoot-out between police and gangsters... A picture taken by a Nation photo-journalist between 2.30pm and 4pm on Thursday at the River Road scene of crime shows Mr Waraga sandwiched between a policeman and an unidentified person, both of who were being forced into a police Land Rover...When he went missing from the police station, his relatives were worried and started looking for him. They later found his body at the mortuary. The father of eight was [according to the police] among those killed in a shoot-out between the police and gangsters near City Park on Thursday afternoon.
The question is: Are the police justified in engaging in extra-judicial murder in their bid to rid society of the agents of insecurity? A while back I argued on several blogs that that should not be the case. When the infamous Matheri was gunned down in dubious circumstances (following a "shoot-out" with police which witnesses say never happened), many applauded the police action then. I hope that they will be rethinking their stand in the light of the latest events.


R said...

That's a tough question. I mean, from the sidelines, it's easy to say that our cops are too quick to pull the trigger.

But, why lie, I don't think I would act any different if I'd been mingling with violent types who'd think nothing of putting a bullet through my brain.

It's a sad life, that one.

Bar the cops who solicit a bribe, I try to go out of my way to be polite and friendly with cops because I know they have quite a hard time of it.

Joshua Wanyama said...

At this pace, everything will be like the Wild Wild West. Who protects the common man when no one watches over the protectors or ensures their powers and actions are checked?

Anonymous said...

Good to have you back - it's been almost a month!

Anonymous said...

kenyan police and the police culture is TOTALLY SICK...and the citizens and the politicians are totally out of touch with the bottomless-pit it has become!!!!!!!!! THE EXAMPLES YOU HAVE GIVEN ARE COMPELLING CASES BEGGING for a national inquiry that should be headlines in every media channel. when police can justify killing innocent civilians......and get away with it so effortlessly....without being held to exhaustive examination is long overdue!

Anonymous said...

@ G
The police in NY used this same excuse when they shot an innocent man on his wedding day.

The response of the community was that if some INDIVIDUAL cops can't take the heat of being a cop then they need to consider alternative professions.

If a cop is so scared as to shoot at everything that moves then he needs to move on

But perhaps this is not a good example because in this cases there wasn't even a pretence of "in the heat of the moment" "in the fog of a shoot out"



3N said...

I believe this approach is detrimental to providing security in the long term. It as if the police are telling the thugs; if you want a shoot out we are more than willing to engage.

And providing security for a city cannot be approached this way.

Have you ever asked yourself why Kenyan police officers do not carry out investigations before approaching and shooting to kill a suspect?

Maybe if they had talked to a few neighbors of Mwaniki they would have known he was not a criminal and thus not have had to shoot him.

And even let us assume he was indeed a criminal. Why shoot him if you can arrest him? And if you shoot, why shoot to kill?

I think whichever government takes control in 2008 has a very daunting task to train and equip our police force so that they can deal with security issues in a more civil manner.

Last but not least, sorry gathara, I am blogging on your page – what happens to these innocent victims.

Does the government have any procedure in place to compensate and acknowledge blunders by the Kenyan police?

Unknown said...

Quite alot has happened in the last few weeks since this blog...

Just gives credence to all your ops. That COPS (read fellow thugs) were killed prompted more (violent & extra-judicial) killings. And Michuki supports it (trust a colonial officer!!), the central Kenya MP's who created this monster have been quiet (not surprisingly - the Murungarus, Karumes, Koigis and Kabogos). What wea are witnessing are power politics beyond our (mwananichi - read rike Rucy) comprehension.

I cry for my beloved country - I don't know who said the earth was thirsty for my brother's blood; that my sister is capable (and thus should) look after her children alone; that my grand-parents needed to be mutilated to show the president they mean business...

We've just missed the stage where the dogs were, and the pigs want nothing to do with us. This nation begs for pun intended!