Not so long ago, citizens were treated to scenes of a resident with severed hands, allegedly under the hands of County council inspectorate officers. This is not a first of the cases shared under the hands of the ‘no non sense officers’. We have heard and seen them manhandle hawkers and in some cases city residents along the streets of Nairobi in the name of weeding out street merchantry. One minute you could be walking minding your business and in turn of a second, you become a short race participant, only in this case no particular direction known as you join in the run that everyone seems to be participating in. The next word you hears is ‘Kanju’ (city council askaris) and instantly your steps increase and it’s the typical ‘mguu niponye’ scenario.
Asked, Nairobians’ say they fear ‘kanju’ officers more than they do policemen because they seem to carry no shame or fear with them. They will lift a lady with a short dress and shove them up their pickups or trucks without a care of exposure, not having in mind their own sisters or mothers could one day be mishandled by their colleagues for all and sundry to see. The other day, they were on a hunting mission for motorbike riders in the Central business District and in one of the media clips, a rider who has his hands up in surrender receives a slap on his face, albeit the fact that he had a helmet. One would wonder what is with the officers who seem to be unleashing their wrath on not so very innocent residents, yet they still need to be treated with dignity and in a humane manner.
As a national human rights institution, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, has played a key role in the reforms agenda, a critical component entrenched in various aspects of the 2010 constitution. Institutional reforms take into account both duty bearers (national and county governments) and rights claim holders (citizens) in order to co-opt citizen participation and policy formulation and implementation.
In light of the above, KNCHR is on the path to reforming ‘kanju’, herein the Nairobi County Inspectorate department that has, perhaps been a major stain that has tainted the name of an institution that is supposed to provide key services as opposed to oppressing many. In the month of August, the Commission paid a courtesy visit to the office of the Director of Inspectorate with an aim of creating an entry point relationship to formulate a working partnership that would see the inspectorate have a 360 degree turn around.
Article 29 of the constitution grants every person the right to security, including the right not to be treated, punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading manner. The same article also guarantees all the right not to subjected to any form of violence from either public or private sources. The harsh, force and sometimes inhuman treatment that county council inspectorate officers have been unleashing on citizens, and largely hawkers if continued, only leaves them as answerable to the law. Just like the reforms that the commission fought hard to ensure is infused in the National Police Service, it is with the same vigour that KNCHR hopes infuse in the county inspectorate department.
The reforms agenda, as mentioned earlier, fall not on duty bearers only. ‘Wanjiku’, as general mwananchi is fondly know has a role to play too by ensuring they adhere to the laws that be and not bend them to suit their circumstances. Imagine walking along Moi Avenue where you have a short kanju chase, which you walk unscathed, only for you to get to Kenyatta Avenue and do another sprint and another along say, Loita Street. This can only connote a sign of a county that lacks order which in turn encourages vices such as insecurity and further lawlessness. Regardless of the poverty levels that push more street merchants into the central business district and on dangerous spots such as the case witnessed in Githurai roundabout, order must be restored for a progressive city.
This notwithstanding, the County must incorporate proper and continuous human rights training for all their officers to ensure a change of attitude that will ensure the rights of citizens entrenched in the constitution are not violated. In the same light, the county must protect the dignity of its officers by providing them with resources that bring honor to their work. Many have witnessed council officers receive a beating from residents after the said officers attempted to arrest them in the city for varied offenses. A lot of the time it is as a result the lack of uniforms of the officer where the residents easily confuse the officers for thugs. Uniforms and identification badges, just as supplied to all police officers are a must as the council reform agenda sets sail.
In conclusion and as the journey to reforms begins, it must be reminded to all that aspired change should be guided by the national values and principles of governance as articulated in Article 10 of the Kenyan constitution that include among others the rule of law, participation of the people, human dignity, equity, justice, human rights and equality. Have you played your part?