Kenyan security forces were ill-prepared in responding to the terror attacks in Mpeketoni Lamu county and Tana River county, and failed to protect innocent residents as the attacks continued.
This is according to a new report by the Human Rights Watch and the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
The Insult to Injury The 2014 Lamu and Tana River Attacks and Kenya’s Abusive Response report points a finger at the security officers, saying they did not have sufficient personnel, vehicles, and communication needed to counter the attacks.
The report released yesterday cites cruelty in the manner that the police officers deployed to the region treated the residents. It reads in part:
“A year later, there have been no successful prosecutions for the 2014 attacks at the coast, with the state dropping most of the cases for lack of evidence. Instead, starting in July 2014, security forces arbitrarily detained residents of the two counties and subjected them to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including rounding up men and boys, searching and ransacking homes and businesses, and beating male residents. Members of the security forces also stole money and valuables from residents.”
Between mid June and end of July, 83 civilians and four police officers lost their lives. Residents also witnessed destruction of 30 buildings and 50 vehicles.
The report further says that the Kenya security forces failed to respond to the attacks in good time, hence endangering the lives of innocent resident. According to the report, the attackers were in groups of 15 to 300 men armed with guns, knives and machetes, as well as heavy weapons such as bazookas and grenade launchers and targeted non-muslims as opposed to the claims by president Uhuru Kenyatta that the attack was tribal.
The human rights bodies are therefore asking the government to acknowledge the scope and gravity of the problem of abusive operations, publicly condemn abuses by security forces, and commit to taking all necessary steps to end the abuses.
They also want the President to ensure that all Kenyan security officers are retrained to ensure that they effectively deliver on their services and in line with international standards.
Besides, there is urgent need to increase funding to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority and at the same time ensure that the Kenya Defence Forces investigates its officers who have been implicated in carrying our abusive operations on innocent residents of Lamu and Tana River regions.
“We also want the Chief of General Staff, Kenya Defense Forces to investigate reports of KDF involvement in abusive operations in Ngumu village in Tana River; Maziwa “B” village in Tana River, Witu town in Lamu County, Mpeketoni in Lamu County, Hindi in Lamu County and Mokowe in Lamu County,” says the report.
The human rights groups also want the Inspector General of Police, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and National Police Service Commission to ensure that police end abuses in Lamu and Tana River counties and work with affected communities to improve avenues for communication and protection.