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Kenyan police give and take a kicking

It’s proving a torrid year for Kenya’s police and security forces. Today New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report detailing the wholesale torture, beatings and rape of communities in the far northeast of the country during a disarmament exercise.

This followed hot on the heels of damning criticism of the police force’s callous and illegal treatment of refugees from Somalia (again contained in a report by Human Rights Watch), which came only weeks after a United Nations investigator lifted the lid on police death squads and yet another brutal disarmament exercise, this time on the other side of the country.

Police reforms are now underway but the country’s top policeman — a military man by profession, handpicked by the president — remains in place. It remains to be seen whether the promised reforms actually change anything or are just used as a fig leaf to mask the status quo.

The context for all of this is a pervasive official impunity in Kenya, seen nowhere more clearly than in the complete failure of anybody of any significant rank or position to face justice for the violence that took about 1,500 lives following the December 2007 elections.