NAIROBI, June 8 (Reuters) – Kenyan human rights groups demanded on Friday that the government halt police shootings of unarmed men in some of Nairobi’s poorer areas, after 12 people were allegedly killed in the capital in one month.
Kenyan police face frequent allegations of brutality and extrajudicial killings from civilians and rights groups, but officers are rarely charged and almost never convicted.
Six human rights groups in the Social Justice Network coalition said the government should start investigations after the spate of killings in Dandora, a low income neighbourhood in Nairobi’s east. Police have said the shootings were directed at suspected criminals.
“Our communities have suffered for so long in silence and life has become unbearable,” said Javan Omondi of the Dandora Social Justice Centre, one of the rights groups, at a news conference.
The groups said those found guilty of the killings after investigations within the police force should be tried for their crimes.
Police spokesman Charles Owino denied police personnel were killing people extrajudicially and blamed the deaths on a culture of violence widespread in the slums.
“We would not want at any time to have any person dying. Our duty is to protect everyone,” He said.
“We have a challenge in the slum areas…there are so many youths who are gangsters in those slum areas,” he added, and said police only use live fire as a last resort.
The government established the Independent Policing Oversight Authority in 2011 after police were blamed for the deaths of dozens of protesters in violent clashes following a disputed presidential election in 2007.
But the authority has only managed to secure a handful of convictions against accused policemen despite numerous complaints against the police from the public.
Reporting by Carlos Mureithi; editing by Elias Biryabarema, William Maclean