By Livingstone Nyando
In the run-up to the 2022 elections, there were fears that it could lead to loss of lives as a result of police conduct just as in the previous three general elections. With this fear in mind IMLU’s advocacy and security sector reforms programme, put up a series of interventions to arraign this possible menace. This was as a realization that the Kenya Police, has over the years served as the State’s main organ of oppression and principal violators of human rights operating in a culture of low accountability. It is well documented that the police have often been implicated in acts of violence, torture and killings during the electioneering period.
As part of mitigating the above IMLU through the support of its partners including OHCHR, DIAKONIA, and MISERIOR among others put a series of activities aimed at contributing to peaceful and credible elections with police complying with human rights and law in their conduct. One of the interventions was training the police officers as recommended by the UN special rapporteur report on extrajudicial killings.
To this end in March 2022, we put together the training of the eight Regional commanders and 18 county commanders on public order management and human rights premised on the fact that the police have always had a history of adopting violent means to respond to public unrest and oftentimes operate with high levels of impunity and are averse to any attempts to hold them to account. The police commanders were drawn from the 18 counties that IMLU together with its partners under the Mulika Initiative have identified as perceived hotspots for electoral violence. The consortia focused on conflict sensitivity based on NCIC reports, electoral cycle trends and media reports; as well as cosmopolitan demographic especially across ethnic and party lines in coming up with 18 counties of project implementation.
The training came handy as it was able to not only strengthen the skills of commanders on public order management and GBV prevention but also led them in appreciating their roles in electoral process. They were able to interrogate and reflect on their obligations of ensuring enjoyment and safeguarding of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The outcome of the training of the top most commanders was very successful in that the National Police Service picked the cue to implement it to their other cadres of commanders countrywide and invited us as observers to the same. Trickling down of the results of the training was evident in the way the police conducted themselves during the entire electoral period with no visible evidence of violence from their side. The training was able to increase the officers’ understanding on their obligation in promoting human rights standards while managing the public, deter usage of excessive force by the officers when managing crowds. This was able to also enhance their professionalism in the management of public order through developing their capacities in undertaking their mandate on ensuring respect for human rights, constitution and rule of law during the electioneering period.
Training on public order control is an important part of police culture, and must be adopted continuously. The Kenyan Constitution and international human rights law require that police officers are properly trained in the lawful use of force and non-discrimination to prevent human rights abuses. Further, according to the National Accord Agreement, police officers should be retrained to the highest possible standards of ethics and integrity to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and dignity of the Kenyan citizens. For the police reform process to move forward, there should be strict adherence to the constitution, which requires “police to be professional, competent and accountable, respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms at all times”.
As we usher in the new administration, it is our hope that they will further increase the political will and have less interference in the police reform process.