Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kenya Replaces Police Chief After Abuse Claims

NAIROBI, Kenya 9 September 2009 Sapa-AP


President Mwai Kibaki has fired Kenya's police commissioner,
whose officers are accused of having committed executions and
rapes, in a shuffle that drew praise from human rights activists.

Human rights campaigners welcomed the firing of Mohammed Hussein Ali but said it was only a small step in reforming the security

Six years ago, Ali was brought in to clean up the police but did
little to tackle a culture of corruption and abuse. The U.N.
alleged the gray-haired, mustachioed police commissioner even ran
death squads after the bodies of hundreds of young men were found
dumped at morgues and other sites during a crackdown on a banned gang. Many were last seen in police custody.

Human Rights Watch and the state-funded Kenya National
Commission on Human Rights say police also looted and raped and
killed Kenyans during weeks of riots that followed the contested
December 2007 elections, in which more than 1,000 people died.

Ali, who next heads the country's postal service, denied the

"Unfortunately during my tenure vilification of police became a
national pastime," he said. "Police work is not a public relations

Ali was replaced by Mathew Kirai Iteere, the former head of the
police paramilitary General Service Unit, a government statement
announced, without giving a reason for Ali's dismissal. Iteere's
unit has also been blamed for some abuses.

The poorly paid police are heavily armed but have little
investigative capacity and are easily bribed with kitu kidogo -
Swahili for "something small."

Leslie Lefkow, a senior researcher in the Africa division at
Human Rights Watch, said those who committed abuses must be held accountable and that a special tribunal should be set up to
investigate abuses committed during the election period.

"This is a welcome first step but we need to see a host of
measures by the Kenyan government to address the widespread abuses by the Kenyan security forces," she said.

A U.N. panel in February called for Ali's resignation.

"Killings by the police in Kenya are systematic, widespread and
carefully planned," it said. "They are committed at will and with
utter impunity."

Harun Ndubi, a director of Kenyan civil rights group Haki Focus,
said appointing a new chief without instituting wide-ranging
reforms is akin to "changing the furniture in a condemned house
whose walls are meant to be knocked down."

The police have repeatedly denied committing rights abuses or
extrajudicial killings.

Two activists who tracked the gang-related killings were shot
dead a few minute's walk from the house of the president earlier
this year. A police whistleblower who provided information to the
national human rights body was also shot dead. The killings have
yet to be solved.

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