Hawkers back proposed law to jail brutal Nairobi askaris for life

Council askaris hang onto a van overloaded with suspects. Many have been accused of brutality and criminal excesses. [File, Standard]

City residents have expressed mixed views over a bill that seeks to jail rogue and brutal city inspectorate officers (askaris) for life.

The Nairobi City County Inspectorate Services Bill states that any ‘askari’ who subjects a person to cruel or inhumane treatment commits a criminal offence, whose punishment is life imprisonment.

“It will be unlawful for inspectorate officers to subject any person to torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment,” the Bill reads.

Osman Bishar, a boda boda rider operating around Jevanjee Gardens, fully supported the bill, saying it would help curb the menace of inspectorate personnel variously known as askaris or  ‘Kanjo’.

Bishar said he had on several occasions been mistreated by the county officers who asked for bribes to allow them operate in certain areas in the city.

Beatings

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“I totally agree with the MCAs because Kanjo has taken us through hell. A trader who sells paintings and mirrors across the street almost lost his eye after he was beaten senseless last week by the askaris,” said Bishar.

Cyprian Otieno, a hawker who sells clothes at the khoja/globe roundabout, also opined that if the strict penalty was imposed on the county askaris, they would act within the confines of the law.

Otieno said a trader’s biggest nightmare was a ‘Kanjo askari’, as they use force if one doesn’t give in to their often criminal demands.

Citing past cases, he said some of his colleagues had  been scarred and others even lost their lives at the hands of the officers.

Harsh sentence

Shadrack Kinaka, a beautician at the Nairobi Bus Station, said, “rogue officers usually harass and torture us because they know they are well connected. Once they know their life is on the line, they become a bit reticent.”

But a section of the residents felt sentencing askaris to a life imprisonment was inhumane treatment in itself.

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Nicholas Kioko, a taxi driver operating outside Simmers club, felt such a sentence would be too harsh. He said the penalty should be proportional to the crime.

“If it is murder then they should even be hanged, but if it is the normal squabbles, they can be settled in court,” he said. “We have to remember that the officers are our brothers and sisters and should be reasonable when meting out such penalties,” he added.

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