By Gaudence Were,
October 18th, 2017,
Police killings have always been a topic for discussion in Kenya and a reality affirmed by human rights activists and organizations both local and international. Amnesty International has already released a report detailing 33 post-election killings in Kenya, a report that the Kenya police has vehemently denied. The 37-page joint report with Human Rights Watch documents the excessive use of force by the police and security personnel on protestors. The deadly use of excessive force on protestors has always been the trademark of the Kenyan police in political protests, especially by opposition supporters.
The reactions on these killings have always bordered on political lines, especially for the citizenry. In social media and on the streets, some members of the public seek to justify civilian deaths at the hands of the police that the protestors were either looting or destroying property. Other anti-protest supporters also feel that whoever goes out to protest is under the instructions of the political leaders he claims allegiance to. The argument, therefore, is that these people do not understand what they are fighting for in the first place. On the other side, protestors argue that they have valued concerns and affirm that they are fighting for transparency and democracy and for the enforcement of their rights.
The recent cold blood killings of civilians by the police in parts of Kisumu and Bondo, evidently the opposition’s strongholds, have led to public outcry. The movement now dubbed #luolivesmatter seeks to address the perceived targeting of members of the Luo community by the police. The campaign is justified by the shooting of individuals in specific body parts including the head, neck, and chest that can be interpreted as the implementation of a shoot to kill orders. The situation is made worse by footages of police officers overpowering and clobbering civilians in opposition strongholds.
Following the Supreme Court of Kenya’s September 1st decision that the IEBC conduct fresh elections, the political tension in the country has gone a notch higher. With the government insisting that there be elections on the 26th of October 2017, the opposition insists on reforms in the IEBC before the fresh elections. What once started as the inclusion of two candidates on the ballot has led to a court battle that will see the Third Way Alliance party presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot is included on the ballot. The opposition party leader Raila Odinga in a surprise move withdrew from the elections presenting technicalities as to whether there would be valid elections come October 26th. Whereas opposition supporters hold protests to compel the IEBC to meet their demands for reform, the government feels that these are just sideshows so that the elections are not conducted come October 26th.
New twists and way forward
On 17th October 18, 2017, IEBC commissioner Roselyn Akombe issued a press statement in New York resigning from office. Ms. Akombe feels that the electoral body has become a partisan body that can no longer conduct free and fair elections. She states that members of the body have taken political stands and that it is a party to the current political crisis that the country is currently facing. The former commissioner added that it would be prudent for the commission to make it known that it has been compromised and can no longer hold free and fair elections as had been ordered by the Supreme Court. In an interview with BBC, Ms. Akombe stated that she does not feel safe enough to come back to Kenya. In fact, she has never felt safe enough.
At this point, no Kenyan ought to feel safe enough amidst the political tension and intolerance. Unlike Roselyn Akombe who did not feel safe and fled to the USA, other citizens may not have that particular privilege. The wounds are deep. Additionally, the indoctrination that many Kenyans have gone through is one that requires years and years of effort to mitigate. Unless the citizenry who feels oppressed and those who disregard the rest of the population are handed conciliatory gestures, the country shall never heal.