Human Rights Groups Accuse
Kenyan Police of Excessive Force, Killings
By Cathy Majtenyi Nairobi
11 March 2008
Kenyans are beginning to come to terms with the violence that
followed the country's 2007 elections in which more than 1,000
people were killed and as many as 600,000 were displaced. There
are growing calls for investigations into the extra-judicial
killings and other human rights violations that occurred after
Kenyans went to the polls in elections that many believe were
rigged. Cathy Majtenyi reports from Nairobi.
More than 1,000 people are estimated to have been killed in
violence following Kenya's December 27th elections, which many say
were rigged in favor of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and his
Party of National Unity at the expense of Raila Odinga, who heads
the Orange Democratic Movement party.
A list of the dead compiled by the Independent Medico-Legal Unit
provides gruesome details of how people were killed in the
This list by the Kenyan human rights group is a description of 80
Dr. Jane Nyanyuki is the IMLU's program manager for rehabilitation
and documentation. "Our pathologists' report revealed that 43
percent of the examined bodies had gunshot injuries to various
parts,” she said. “Specifically those which resulted in death were
to the head, the chest and the abdomen."
The group says it is likely that most, or all of the bullets came
from police firearms.
Executive director Samuel Mohochi explains why. "It is the state
that wields the instruments of justice which include firearms, so
the primary assumption we will start with (is that) only state
agencies are lawfully allowed to have firearms."
The conflict also involved an ethnic dimension, with certain
groups burning and destroying the homes and businesses of other
groups in tensions that date back to colonial times.
Kenyan and international human rights groups accuse police of
using excessive force to break up post-election demonstrations and
They maintain that the number of gunshot and other deaths in the
western areas of Kenya was proportionately higher than in areas
supporting the ruling party.
This was the case in the opposition stronghold city of Kisumu,
according to human rights activist Chris Owalla. "In Kisumu,
during the violence, most of the people who were shot were shot
from behind, which means that they were surrendering. Either they
were running or they already surrendered," he said.
Police commissioner Major-General Hussein Ali has rejected
accusations that police used excessive force in dealing with the
But human rights groups are concerned that violence could erupt
again, despite internationally-backed efforts to achieve
Gladwell Otieno, executive director of Africa Centre for Open
Governance, explains, "We are receiving worrying reports of
re-arming, arming, training by militias on both sides,
particularly in the Rift Valley."
Human rights groups also are worried that authorities are putting
pressure on those displaced to return to their homes. These groups
say many areas are still not safe for certain ethnic groups.
And there is the worry that people may be returning to places
where there was widespread destruction of property and there is
nothing left to support them.
This will be among the problems to be resolved following the power
sharing agreement signed on February 28th by President Kibaki and
opposition leader Odinga. While both men have called on Kenyans to
work together to restore peace to the country, the hatred and
abuses that occurred will clearly take a long time to heal.