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News :: Human Rights : International
Cultural Survival Calls for Halt to Police Disarmament Operation in Northern Kenya
18 Feb 2010
Human Rights Investigation Finds Kenyan Police Guilty of Murder, Brutality, and Impunity

Kenyan police forces are committing crimes against Kenyan citizens, not solving them, according to researchers for the US-based human rights organization, Cultural Survival. Following a two-week investigation in Samburu East and Isiolo districts, Cultural Survival is urging Kenyan authorities to call off the police disarmament operation in the North, scheduled to begin February 20.
"Having already committed criminal behavior and gross human rights violations, the police forces that have been terrorizing Samburu people are incapable of carrying out effective, impartial, and orderly disarmament operations. Instead, the police should be immediately withdrawn," wrote Cultural Survival's executive director, Ellen L. Lutz, in a letter to President Kibaki and other government officials.

The full Cultural Survival report, to be released March 1, reveals a pattern of police brutality that includes criminal offenses of murder, rape, theft, arson and assault, randomly inflicted on unarmed Samburu children, women, men and elders.

During the past year, full-scale police assaults have caused death, injury, terror, severe economic and property losses, and vulnerability to famine and disease for the Samburu people in Samburu East and Isiolo districts.

"In village after village, Samburu witnesses told us how hundreds of police ground forces surrounded their manyattas at dawn and opened fire while police helicopters buzzed the villages and cattle herds from above," reports Cultural Survival researcher Paula Palmer.
"In some attacks the police rounded up, took away, and essentially stole all the people's cattle. In others, they said they were looking for guns. In other attacks they just brutalized and terrorized everyone, raped women, beat children, and stole whatever they found of value in the people's homes, with no apparent reason."

Samburu women told the researchers that they are extremely fearful of what will happen as the February 20 disarmament deadline approaches. Many said they will flee with their children or hide in the bush, preferring to face the wild animals rather than suffer another police attack.

Cultural Survival is calling on the Kenyan government to withdraw police from the region, cancel the police-run disarmament program, and authorize tribal elders and civil society organizations to organize a cooperative community-based process of disarmament. "The elders command the respect of the young warriors," says Chris Allan, one of the investigators, "and they have a good track record of resolving disputes. Peace committees are already in place, and national human rights organizations are well represented in the region. There's no reason why a community-based program can't succeed if the police are out of the picture."

Other national and international commissions have accused Kenyan police forces of committing hundreds of extra-judicial killings, and the International Criminal Court is prosecuting Kenyan police administrators for committing crimes against humanity during the 2007 post-election violence. "The police attacks on the Samburu people follow this pattern of politically motivated police brutality and impunity, but this time they are targeting a particular marginalized ethnic minority," says Ellen L. Lutz. "They are criminalizing an entire people."

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