Benedict Wachira SDP SG on #KillerCop Debate 

Some of the questions that have been running in my mind since Saturday:

A few years ago, there was this common style of robbing people at Kenya Cinema. A young well-dressed woman would point at some random young man and claim that he had snatched her phone. In the confusion, her thug colleagues would then join in pretending to be ‘good Samaritans’ and steal from him as they, and other passersby (who probably had their phones stolen not so long before then) would beat him up thoroughly. After a one minute mob beating, the poor chap would end up looking like an actual thug. Blood all over, confused. May be even accepting the accusations in exchange for mercy. The watchmen around Kenya Cinema would thereafter get their cut.

Would it be alright for the police to appear and shoot this “phone thief” on the spot? How would we know that the chap is not a phone thief if we do not allow the necessary processes to take place? Would we just take the young woman’s word?

We can argue that these young thugs are victims of poverty, and corruption at the high level. And that is true. But once I was asked whether thugs are the only victims of this high-level corruption…are we (the majority) not all victims? Should we then all become thugs? I was asked what people should do in the meantime. These young chaps do not rob the Waigurus and the Kaburas. They violently rob a mjengo guy coming from a hard day’s work, a single mother who earns 7k a month etc. They use pure terror. Sometimes they are well known in the community, but they successfully instil fear in the people to the extent that no one can report them or testify against them in court.

What do we do in the meantime even as we organise against the big thieves? Against the system?

We talk against extra-judicial killings because we believe in the rules of natural justice. We believe in processes and procedures. We believe in the rule of law. But when a bigman is accused of corruption, we forget about all those ideals and demand for their blood hapo hapo. If the bigman is eventually cleared by the courts, we tell the people that they have been freed because the courts are corrupt, incompetent etc……. then the following day we tell the people that those young violent thugs should be taken to those very courts. The corrupt and incompetent courts.
Isn’t this confusing?

If you walk into many criminal courts today, you will find mentions for cases that are three or five years old. Even when the investigations are complete. This is unlike in the Political Parties court where matters must be heard and determined within three months. Or in election matters which must be determined within six months. Such delays are tiresome and/or practically impossible for some witnesses, who usually drop off along the way. The delays also interfere with the quality of evidence that is eventually presented in court.

Isn’t the neglect of timely justice in the criminal section something that we should deliberately and actively rise against?
Some people are praising the police for “working hard” to end crime by killing these thugs on the spot. The same police arrest hundreds of innocent people in the low-income areas and wekelea them with petty crime charges so that they can get bribes. The same police who claim that you have flouted some traffic rules when you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. The same police who plant bhang on youths so that they can extort money from them. The same police who for a bribe will let you go even when you have broken certain laws.

Are these the people that some Kenyans want to entrust with such judicial powers? Where will such powers begin and end? Should they for instance, shoot (on the spot) drivers who deliberately endanger the lives of their passengers and other motorists through dangerous and careless driving?

Whenever a policeman/woman is killed by thugs, the police unleash terror on all thugs in the area. We saw the solidarity with which the lawyers protested the extra-judicial killing of one of their own. May be that’s how things work.

But how is it that the police know where and how to get these thugs when such shit happens? Isn’t it a well-known fact that some of these rogue police actually work with these thugs? Can we really exonerate such police from the robberies and the murders that these thugs commit? For the supporters of extra-judicial killings, shouldn’t you then pray that more policemen are killed by these thugs so that they can in turn kill more thugs?

What kind of society will we live in if we encourage the Police to break the law? Who else should we encourage to disrespect the law? Where should it begin and where should it end? What kind of a society will we have if agents of the State do not uphold the Rule of Law?

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