By Sammi Nderitu
In the recent past, Kondele in Kisumu County has been on the news for all the wrong reasons, especially during the electioneering period. The area is known for its negative reputation in violence, protests, police lobbying teargas on demonstrators, police killings and among other vices.
However, in the just concluded August 2022 elections, the area stood out in stark contrast to its negative past. While many people expected violence, and running battles with the police as a result of their preferred presidential candidate not winning the election, Kondele remained calm throughout the period.
When the IMLU team met with Fredrick Kirui, the Officer Commanding Station (OCS) Kondele Police Station, we asked him the reason behind the peace during such a volatile time and the role of the police in maintaining peace in the region.
“In the lead-up to the general elections, there were talks of Kondele being volatile. Some people had projected that the area was going to experience post-election chaos and violence. This line of thinking was informed by previous experiences,” says Fredrick.
He observes that since the advent of multi-party, the area had never experienced a peaceful electoral period. Pre-and post-election chaos was a regular occurrence. However, in this year’s election, Kondele turned a new chapter. The area was peaceful and did not experience business disruption as has been the case in past elections.
“I can attribute this to several factors. One, the members of public deliberately purposed to maintain law and order. They realized that they are the ones who suffered when their properties are destroyed, people are injured or even killed while they are fighting with the police,” says the OCS.
The OCS adds that the violence that was previously experienced in Kondele during the previous election seasons was mostly necessitated by unresolved anger from aggrieved supporters of certain politicians. “Over time, the constant chaos has given this place a negative perception. Once we established this, we worked on helping political party supporters in this area to understand the negative aspect of venting out their anger.”
Fredrick says that for the members of the public to understand their roles in managing post elections grievances, several NGOs conducted training and engagement between the police and members of the public. “These NGOs and CSOs also contributed in cultivating a good working relationship to the trainings which strengthened community and police partnerships.”
The OCS says that when the IEBC announced the presidential results during the August polls, police in Kondele area were determined not to engage in running battles with members of the public. The aim was to ensure that Kondele remained peaceful with normal business activities going on uninterrupted. “There is a group of protesters that went to the streets and started burning tires in an attempt to provoke the police into reacting with tear gas and batons to quell the chaos that they had started. However, we highly restrained ourselves and chose to observe from a distance. A group of demonstrators even marched to Kondele Police Station compound while charging at the officers in an attempt to create a confrontation. We chose to act professionally. Running battles on the street are not always the solutions to resolving conflicts. We can always choose a different path to peace and that is that the police in Kondele resolved to do.”
In trying to foster a good working relationship between the police and the community in Kondele, the OCS notes that his station is actively working with the local Community Policing Committee (CPC). He says the police station meets with the CPC once a month for a meeting to deliberate on various security matters and how the cooperation can be enhanced further.
He praises the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) for continuously training police officers and CPC members in order for them to deliver on their mandate.
“I commend IMLU for the training that my colleagues and I received in Nakuru a few weeks before the elections. The training went a long way in equipping us with knowledge and skills in managing some of these sensitive matters.”
As a result of sustained training on police and CPC members in Kondele, especially on public order management, Fredrick notes that the area has seen a decrease in the number of complaints that are forwarded to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) by members of the public. “This is attributed to the relationship that we have built with the public in addition to upholding the rule of law and maintaining professionalism at all times.”
The OCS calls on IMLU to train more police officers as well as CPC members within Kisumu County. This is in addition to establishing a fund that the CPC can draw from when they are running their daily activities.