I stood in the middle of the room completely naked and shivering more in terrified fright than from the early morning cold wind rushing in from the open window.
I, Kumekucha, was at the CID headquarters and I was surrounded by at least half a dozen CID officers who wanted information from me that I did not have. Earlier they had asked me to strip completely naked (right down to my underwear) and they had told me in no uncertain terms that I was surely going to tell them what they wanted to know. Either that or my body would be at the nearby City Mortuary within the hour, riddled with bullets of course.
To tell you the truth I was very ready at that moment to “sing any song” they wanted and I would have readily confessed to anything they wanted me to confess to. Hell, I would easily have convinced them that I was the one who had assassinated President John F. Kennedy (although I was not even born when he was felled).
Now you have to understand that the year was 1985 and I had barely been out of school for 2 years. I was still young, naïve and clearly—contrary to what the CID officers staring at my well built (I was an international rugby player) naked body thought—not the material for the hardcore Mwakenya anti-government movement. What happened to me next is not as important as the effect and impact the encounter had on my life. Naturally I was never the same person again.
To start with I was very bitter because I was completely innocent and yet I suffered so much trauma in the hands of the Kenyan police in just 3 days in their custody. In fact in those days I had not written a single word in any political story, I was a mere film critic.
I hardly used to touch alcohol before that fateful morning at CID police headquarters but I was very nearly wiped off the face of this earth by the bottle in the months and years that followed.
As the police commissioner was captured on national TV this past week defending the police force and emphasizing that his boys did not use excessive force in dealing with post-election violence, the same TV was showing images of members of the civil society being “handled violently” by the same police force. Their only crime was to hold a peaceful demonstration demanding the resignation of former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya and that of the Attorney General as well.
As I watched Major General Ali put up an academy award winning performance, my mind went back to some of my journalist colleagues who were not as lucky as I was in the hands of the Kenya Police. Top on my mind was a cheerful brash press photographer called Wallace Gichere who used to work for Hillary Ngweno’s Nairobi Times, the first indigenous local daily newspaper to be launched in these shores. He stayed on when the newspaper was sold to Moi’s Kanu and changed its’ name to Kenya Times. Gichere used to look at me unbelievingly and tell me that I was too young then for the tough game of journalism in
Well, in the hands of the Kenya Police his life was quickly destroyed. They threw him off a building and made sure that it was not high enough for him to die. The official story was predictable. They said Mr Gichere was trying to escape from police custody and forgot that he was not on the ground floor. Mr Gichere never walked again and was of course never able to work as a press photographer again. His life slowly ebbed away on the wheel chair. I am certain he was innocent of whatever he was being accused of. His only crime was that the guy spoke his mind, always. Of course matters were made worse by the fact that he a Kikuyu and those were the Moi years.
But alas, it is not the intention of this post to be some sob story for all the victims of police brutality in
Clearly police brutality did not start under Maj Gen Ali (although it has risen to new unprecedented heights under his watch). Actually the problem can be traced back to 1963. One thing that any serious historian will have to acknowledge is the fact that
And admittedly with good reason. Many other countries in
So it is quite understandable that when the front runner for the job of
So how can one seriously hope to have a professional police force when the person who heads it is a political appointee more interested in political patronage to retain his position? Why should senior police officers put in the effort and initiative when the tradition of promotion by merit left with the colonialists? I believe this seemingly minor point is at the core of the problems we still experience with our police force to this day.
My dad served with distinction in the Kenya Police and rose to the rank of senior assistant commissioner of police. The old man was trained by the colonialists and is a stickler for discipline and principals. It is instructive that he was bound to ran into serious problems with the establishment while some of his corrupt colleagues made fantastic fortunes and were never at any time scared for their lives. It amuses me today that growing up I was sure he was making a mistake being so principled and ending up in so many problems as a result. Today he is not only one of the inspirations that birthed Kumekucha but time has proven him right. A vast majority of his corrupt colleagues are now 6 feet under. One in particular who worked for the Special branch lived his last days in a horrific manner that has never left my mind. I now understand the expression; “Do you sleep at night?” This man who joined the police a year before my Dad did couldn’t sleep at night and even with heavy consumption of whisky would only finally succumb to sleep of the stupor kind at 3 am in the morning. And this happened daily. Finally the whisky ate up all his insides and he died a terribly painful death. Meanwhile my dad who never took anybody’s shilling is still enjoying his retirement and snores loudly most of the night.
That is one of the most important lessons I have ever learnt from this life. It is especially relevant today because to many Kenyans the almighty shilling is not the most important thing, rather it is the only thing and how one obtains it is no longer as important as ensuring that you have plenty of it.
The old man has repeatedly told me one thing so many times that it has almost become boring. Raising standards is a very difficult thing and when you lower them, recovering is virtually impossible.
The colonialists left a well structured and very disciplined Police force with important rules in place. What we did to it after that was to lower standards and ignore the rules. The agonizing truth is that we will never recover.
The only answer now is to get rid of the
More Police stories later today and tomorrow as well: Don’t miss to read later today about the crazy and bizarre CID methods of solving crime.