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Kenya: Time For a New Approach to Fighting Crime


There has been a rise in violent crime in Kenya since the beginning of this year, prompting calls for President Mwai Kibaki to personally lead in fighting crime. The incidences range from robberies to carjacking. For example, two Americans were shot dead during a carjacking incident in late January. This past Sunday, Kenyan-born internationally acclaimed Aids researcher Professor Job Bwayo became the latest victim. Bwayo was a lecturer in medicine at the University of Nairobi. The Kenyan police said the crime rate is nothing unusual.

Maina Kiai is chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. He said it’s time for Kenya to re-evaluate its approach to fighting crime.

“In this country policing and crime are very much inter-related and often times we have found that there are either direct or indirect linkages between criminals and the police. They have tried this hard line approach , but for the last 20 years, we had an unofficial approach of shoot to kill which has not reduced crime. So what we are arguing or suggesting is that may be it’s time that we think the approach to crime,” he said.

Kiai said the rising crime rate should be treated as a national priority because he said even the police have been victims of the criminals. He said on the average about two police offers were killed a month in the last six months.

Kiai also said the police need to re-evaluate their strategy of dealing with suspected criminals.

“The police have been operating on this shoot to kill approach for the last 20 years. So they have been killing suspected criminals but also killing innocent people and getting away with it. One of the issues for us is that there is no process and no system of accountability in the police force. So whenever a shooting happened, we don’t know if the police are telling the truth; So we’re basically arguing may be if we start arresting these suspects and interrogating them, may be we’ll know what the root cause of the problem is. May be it’s within the police; may be it’s within the politics; may be it’s in something else,” Kiai said.

But director of police operations David Kimaiyo said there is nothing unusual about the current crime rate in the country.

“We don’t have any serious problem as such. It is a normal issue that we are tackling just like any other country that is handling issues of crime. It could have happened to anybody. It’s only that it happened to a professor. So it’s not an issue of saying may be crime is rising or may be it was targeting individual persons,” he said.

Kimaiyo said Kenyan police have all the necessary policies in place to fight crime, including community policing.

“That is one of the areas that even his Excellency, the president is concerned with,” he said.

Kimaiyo said Kenyan police are on the hot pursuit for the killers of professor Bwayo.

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