What the Report Says
The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), whose principle mandate is "to hold the Police accountable to the public in the performance of their functions," has on the 14th of July, 2014, released a damning report on “Operation Sanitization Eastleigh” publically known as “Usalama Watch.” The operation had been launched to curb the increase in terror attacks happening in the country. The reports states: “The purpose of this new Operation was to flush out Al- Shabaab adherents/aliens and, search for weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs)/explosives and other arms so as to detect, disrupt and deter terrorism and other organized criminal activities.”
While the supposed intentions were good, what actually transpired were clear violations of human rights. The report cites that the Police:
a) detained suspects in overcrowded and poorly kept facilities. Many of the washrooms at Industrial Area, JKIA, Kasarani and Buruburu Police Stations had blocked drainages. Children were also incarcerated in the same overcrowded facilities as adults, thereby violating international law.
b) acted unethically and engaged in extortion activities — asking for bribes — so as to not search certain buildings or release detainees.
c) seemed to have specifically targeted ethnic Somalis with 1474 of the 2742 people screened being of that ethnicity.
d) had poor record keeping practices at the time of the detention of the suspects. In some of the Police Stations, the detainees’ particulars were recorded on loose papers instead of the Occurrence Book (OB) and the cell register, as per procedure.
e) lacked proper coordination and planning. This resulted in buildings being searched several times in one day by different parts of the force which facilitated several repeated cases of extortion by junior officers.
f) violated constitutional rights by holding detainees, who were not arraigned in a court of law, for more than 24 hours.
The operation has also jeopardized any chances of community policing meaning members of the public are not encouraged to come forth with information that may be of benefit to national security due to the harassment and humiliation undergone under “Operation Usalama Watch.”This report brings to light what many have claimed to be an ongoing trend in the Eastleigh area of Nairobi. It seems that this time though, the Police's brutality went beyond what the public and the authorities, such as the IPOA, can tolerate.
What happens now?
The IPOA has also set out recommendations, with timelines, to the Police to enhance their command structure, their harmonization within the force, their training on human rights, and their cleanliness of detention facilities among others. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Police service will heed any of these recommendations and more importantly what consequences will be faced if these recommendations are not implemented.
Is this the beginning of Kenya having an accountable Police Force or will it be as it has always been with money being wasted on commissions and reports with no further action? Time will tell.
If you are interested in reading the full report, you may find it here: