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Kenyatta vows major police overhaul

27 March 2014, 19:48

Nairobi - President Uhuru Kenyatta promised a major overhaul of the country's notoriously inefficient and corrupt police on Thursday, pledging better pay and conditions to try and clean up the force.

In a state of the nation speech to parliament, the president said there was an "unacceptable lack of coordination in our handling of crime", and said "public frustration and anger" over bad policing had "occasionally boiled over into mob injustice".

Although violent crime fell last year by eight percent, he said "this is nowhere near enough" and vowed to put more officers on the streets and give them better salaries, housing and health insurance.

He said the government will also provide the force -- whose officers often have to hitch a lift if called out to a crime scene -- with 1,200 new vehicles and more sophisticated surveillance equipment.

The lowest ranking Kenyan police officers are currently paid just $200 a month (150 euros), and find it difficult to afford housing once they have fed their families and paid for their children's schooling.

Officers and their families often have to share cramped and delapidated housing at police stations, sometimes with only a partition separating them from the next family.

Civil society sources say poor living conditions push some police to engage in or turn a blind eye to crime, rather than fight it.

Kenyatta said the current situation was "a direct consequence of under-investment over the past three decades".

Reform of the police was a cornerstone of Kenya's new constitution, which was put in place after the ethnic violence that followed the 2007 election.

Police were implicated in more than one third of the casualties during those disturbances, which involved more than 1,100 deaths and 500 injuries.

More recently some units -- particularly the anti-terrorism division -- have come under fire for alleged abuses including torture, arbitrary detentions and disappearances, notably of Muslims suspected of being sympathetic to Islamist groups.




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