May 25, 2020, the world is taken by storm by a video circulating throughout social media. In the video, police man Derek Chauvin could be seen with his foot on George Floyd’s neck.
The deceased is seen gasping for air while he begs for his life. Sadly, his cries fell on deaf ears and within moments his life was cut short. His children left fatherless and his wife was without a companion. All these simply because a member of the police force abused his
power and took a life that he was meant to protect. The world took it an act of racism but a
silent theme beneath it all was that of police brutality.
Police brutality is the excessive and unwarranted use of force by law enforcers. It is an
extreme form of police misconduct or violence and a human rights violation.
In Kenya, this evil has been in play for far too long with the police claiming lives and
maiming men and women that they are meant to protect. In February 2018, local and
international rights organizations reported more than 100 cases of police killings of
opposition protesters during the 2017 presidential elections. In the June 2016, the Human
Rights Watch found that at least five people died while sixty more were wounded by gunfire
in the Nyanza region as police tried to obstruct two protests demanding the reform of the
electoral body. These were just the tip of the ice berg. In 2020, corona virus struck the
country and on 27 March the dusk to dawn curfew was imposed by the head of state. The
imposition of this curfew shone light on the real face of the Kenyan police force and what
they really are capable of. At least six people died from police violence during the first 10
days of the curfew. What followed were TV headlines being filled with pictures and videos
of police ruthlessly beating men and women who violated the curfew even if by a second.
Arguably, it can be said that the police tossed almost the same number of people in hospital
beds just as the pandemic. Kenya was facing a twin pandemic; police brutality alongside
On 1 August 2021, two brothers — Benson Njiru Ndwiga, 22, and Emmanuel Marua
Ndwiga, 19 — were last seen alive in the town of Kianjokoma, in Embu County, Eastern
Kenya. They were then detained for being outdoors after the 10 p.m. nationwide curfew.
Three days later, their bodies were found in the morgue. The police claimed that the two had
fallen from a moving vehicle. However, an autopsy revealed that the two had succumbed to
death as a result of head and rib injuries. These were occasioned by the police who had
sought to detain them.
The boys were laid to rest and the parents have been left with only a memory of what life was
when their children were alive. The mother recalled with tears cascading down her cheeks
how helpful her sons were and how she had hope that they would lead a better life than them.
“The boys are gone and even if I was to get other children, they cannot be like them,” said the
mother. Her only plea was to the government that they should not to let any other woman
undergo such suffering and let justice prevail.
This in turn leads to my next question, what is being done to curb this police pandemic that
has struck our society? What measures is the government taking to ensure that the victims
During, curfew the president apologized on behalf of the police force but no measures were
taken to curb this problem. It was as if to say, “we are sorry but we won’t stop”. Fred
Matiang’i, the interior minister, met with the brothers’ (the embu brothers’) family and said
that the government would “stop at nothing to ensure justice is served.” Apologies and
promises are not justice. The culprits must receive their due punishment and be held
accountable for their heinous acts
Moreover, what is IPOA doing to fight this menace in our society?
The independent Policing Authority, IPOA, was established in 2011 to provide oversight
over the police among other functions. However, the authority lacks the teeth to carry out
investigations that lead to convictions. Of the thousands of cases of police misconduct it has
received since its conception, very few have resulted into convictions. Though nearly a
decade old, the authority has secured convictions for fewer than 10 cases, despite receiving
more than 9,200 complaints .The authority appears overwhelmed by the sheer number of
police misconduct cases reported to its offices. Its work is further undermined by a hostile
environment as its officers sometimes face hostility, lack of compliance and intimidation
from senior police officers. Moreover, it has been deemed as one of the most corrupt bodies
in Kenya as is seen by a research carried out by One.org/Africa
Justice for the victims of police brutality seems like an empty promise. The culprits get to
walk away freely while the justice system watches and sympathises with the victims.
So I wonder, are the police above the law simply because they enforce it? Where is justice
for the Wanjikus’ who have suffered the same fate as the parents of the Embu brothers?
Does the law against such inhumane acts exist only in paper when it comes to the police
force? Does the rule of law no place in our police force?
To our government I ask: when will the empty promises and fake apologies come to an end
and some real measures are set up to combat this injustice?
To our police force I ask with a bleeding heart: When will the bloodshed stop?
When will mothers and fathers stop crying over the blood of their young ones that you
claimed in the name of “law enforcement”? Shall we fear robbers and murderers and our
JKUAT LEGAL CLINIC