Disbanding DCI’s hit squad not enough, declare sanctions, Ruto told
The disbanded Special Service Unit (SSU) must be investigated for human rights violations, a group advocating for rights-based policing has said.
The Police Reforms Working Group-Kenya (PRWG) Wednesday said culpable officers who worked in the unit must be prosecuted for deaths, disappearances, and extortion committed.
PRWG, addressing a news conference in Nairobi, said there were 1,264 cases of executions and 237 enforced disappearances done by police, some from SSU, since 2017.
“We are aware that executions, disappearances, torture, and cruel treatment are not only committed by the infamous SSU,” PRWG said. They urged action extended to all security and policing agencies like Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Defence Forces, and the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit.
Past hit squads
This is the third special squad from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to be disbanded in the last 13 years. There are concerns that squads just assumed new names but maintained covert, unlawful operations.
In 2009, a unit codenamed Kwekwe was disbanded. The late Internal Security Minister, John Michuki, set up the squad in 2007 to crack down on the Mungiki sect.
KNCHR report, Cry of Blood, showed Kweke could have been complicit in over 500 extrajudicial executions between June and October 2007. The report said the killings were under official policy sanctioned by the political leadership, the then-Police Commander, and top police commanders.
Ten years later, in 2019, former DCI boss George Kinoti announced the disbandment of another hit group, Flying Squad, that drew some of its over 60 officers from the defunct Kwekwe. At that time, Kinoti scaled down the Special Crime Prevention Unit (SCPU) and renamed it the Special Service Unit (SSU).
In October 2022, President William Ruto disbanded SSU because it carried out extrajudicial killings and enforced differences.
Nation Africa reported that an inquiry on the July 2022 disappearance of two Indian nationals— Mohamed Zaid Kidwai and Zulfiqar Ahmen Khan—and their local taxi driver, Nicodemus Mwania, precipitated the disbandment of SSU. Since 2019 when SSU was formed, many Kenyans have disappeared as the two Indians did—and were later found dead—suggesting a link to the unit’s operations.
Now, PRWG wants the report that triggered Ruto to disband SSU to be made public.
“It is vital that the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) fulfills its role in exercising disciplinary control over police officers,” they said.
“To prevent the creation of units that act outside the law, the Commission must take responsibility for its function and mandate and undertake a radical transformation of the policing institution and system.”
PRWG also said disbanding SSU is not enough.
“We urge the Internal Affairs Unit of NPS to initiate investigations into the activities of the SSU…and to make strong recommendations to the Inspector General of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions to take action and seek justice and accountability.”
PRWG wants the recruitment and appointment to the police leadership to be reserved for officers without a record of human rights violations.
The advocacy group said the government needs to set aside funds to compensate victims of state atrocities and appoint a national coroner to facilitate an independent probe into questionable deaths.
“Additionally, we urge the Government to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance per its constitutional and international obligations,” PRWG said.