Kenyan police shot dead at least eight people in Nairobi slums over the past two months, violating laws on the use of excessive force, Human Rights Watch said with officials determined to end the incidents.
Recent victims of police violence are young men from poor areas shot by officers at close range, the New York-based rights group said.
One was killed last month during a protest in Nairobi’s Kasarani neighbourhood over poor road conditions.
A witness told Human Rights Watch (HRW) a 19-year-old was going to work when he encountered people running from police. He dropped to his knees to plead with police to allow him to pass but was shot in the chest the witness said.
Kenyan police say they do not use excessive force. “We have cases where police officers killed. They have been arrested and charged in a court of law for the offences,” police spokesman Charles Owino told Reuters.
A report published last year by police said the force was becoming “friendlier” and “people-centred”.
“The National Police Service is on a reform trajectory and has undergone changes and transformation aimed at improving service delivery to Kenyans,” said the report, called “New Dawn”.
Police in another poor Nairobi district on Christmas Day picked up four young men from a children’s home and shot two dead, accusing them of being criminals, witnesses told HRW. Officers removed the bullets and spent cartridges from the scene one witness said.
The killings come amid public anger in the East African nation over police brutality and government’s failure to hold officers to account despite an official police watchdog receiving millions from foreign donors.
In November, nearly half of Kenyans surveyed by police watchdog IPOA said they suffered police abuse of power.
A 2018 Reuters investigation found IPOA was struggling to fulfil its mandate. At the time, it secured convictions of police officers for committing crimes in two cases, despite receiving more than 9 200 complaints since it was established in 2013. To date, it has secured six convictions.