Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kenya: Kenyan police accused of raping women in 2007

By Cathy Majtenyi - Voice of America

More than one year ago, Kenya erupted into wide-scale violence over disputed elections. In the mayhem, thousands of women are believed to have been raped. The exact number is not known, as many women are afraid to report rape for fear of being killed or stigmatized. Human rights groups say the country's police and security forces committed many of these rapes.

At least 1,000 women across Kenya were raped during chaos that followed the country's December 2007 elections.

Human rights groups say many of these rapes were perpetrated by police and General Service Unit, or GSU officers.

Ellyjoy Karimi is with Care Kenya. She says one-quarter of the more than 300 rape cases that Care Kenya is involved with were committed by men in uniform.

"They used to come and ask the women, can you open the door, we need to check if Mungiki (a gang) are here, we need to check if the people who are spearheading this violence are inside here," she said. "So they come in, pretend they are checking for any equipment or any harmful objects, then they start attacking."

That is exactly what happened to Mary Rose, not her real name. The elderly grandmother says three masked GSU officers raped her in her house, breaking her pelvis in the process. She courageously reported the rape.

"When I went to the police station to report, I was told it had taken too many months and they could not record my statement," she said. "They also asked me whether I was thinking I would be paid by the government and that is why I was coming in to file the complaint. They were demanding to know where I was all that time. "

Reporting crime can be uphill battle

For most rape victims, reporting their cases has proven to be a nightmare.

"The same neighbors who rescued these women are the same ones who are telling them, do not dare. You will be so dead if you try to reveal any information regarding the GSU and police who violated you," she said.

Police spokesman: most crimes ocurred at camp for displaced

Eric Kiraithe is spokesman for the Kenyan police. He says over 200 rape cases were reported to police, but only 15 cases made it to court, with 12 convictions.

He says says that these alleged incidents occurred only at a camp for those displaced by the violence.

"This is the time there was this fraternizing, giving sweets and all of that, giving a little bit of rations and that is when rape by security officers occurred," he said. "Otherwise I would want to tell you very authoritatively a lot of allegations during that period against security personnel were mere propaganda."

Fear of death keeps others silent

Kiraithe says that rapes were perpetrated by gangs of young men on drugs.

Susan Ann, not her real name, knows this too well. She was gang-raped by a group of young men living in her neighborhood while her son was forced to watch.

"I fear a lot, because these are people who come from this area and we know them and they also know you. You cannot report them, and if it is known that it is you who gave the information, they will finish you," she said.

Victims accuse the police of failing to properly investigate rape cases and protecting accused colleagues, a charge police deny.

Last March, Kenyan police formed a commission made up of women officers to investigate post-election rape cases.

Published with the permission of Voice of America
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
Putting principles before profits