Policemen also become victims to rising crime

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- "Praise the Lord! Alleluia! Blessed are they that die in the service of their country!" bellows the man on the church pulpit.
His voice rings and reverberates across the huge church building as the congregation responds with a chorus of Alleluia.
But, despite his clerical collar, the man conducting the sermon is no ordinary preacher.
In place of a flowing robe, Pastor Joram Anduli of the Redeemed Gospel Church of Huruma, on the eastern outskirts of Nairobi, is in full police inspector's uniform.
The occasion was last Sunday when Nairobi police, under the auspices of the Kenya Police Christian Association (KPCA), conducted a solemn service in memory of their colleagues killed by gangsters in the last few weeks.
KPCA was formed about six years ago to seek divine intervention in the force's struggle to spruce up its image, which had been tarnished by mounting incidents of corruption and other forms of crime, including armed robbery, within their ranks.
The service was a response to a new wave of crime in the Kenyan capital and other parts of the country in which, ironically, police seem to be the target.
In three weeks, 30 people have been gunned down, eight of them police officers, 18 gangsters and four others from stray bullets.
On Sunday morning, a senior police officer's bullet-riddled body was found in his car, which was parked on the side of a road in the east of the city.
Nairobi police Chief Geoffrey Mwathe told journalists on Monday that the officer seemed to have been slain by thugs somewhere else and his body dumped in the area.
On Saturday night, a seven-man gang armed with an assortment of guns, including AK 47 assault rifles, raided the Nairobi home of traffic police operations chief K.
The raid occurred right next to a police division headquarters, showing the gangsters' bravado and daring mien.
But the gang fled without causing any harm when the officer raised an alarm.
On Thursday night, another gang stormed the senior police officers' quarters in the west of the city and tried to enter area police division boss Jonah Kuto's house.
But they were scared off by the screams of a house-help.
But not to be so easily outdone, they moved to the adjacent house of Kuto's deputy, Noor Gabow Yallow, as he and his family slept.
They made away with an assortment of household goods, including a TV set, a stereo and a VCR.
These are but part of the long string of robberies targeting the police in the last one month alone.
Mwathe at the weekend ordered a major crackdown on the mounting crime in Nairobi.
"We have a duty to the people to curtail the crime wave, and we're going to do it," he told journalists after the church service, which he attended.
"We're sorry if the operation inconveniences a few innocent Kenyans, but you can't make an omelette without breaking an egg, can you?" Armed crime has been spiralling in the past few years.
This includes bank robberies, in which the financial institutions have lost millions of dollars in the past one-year alone.
To show their daring and abandon, in one such incident, a 10-man gang raided the headquarters of the Bank of India in downtown Nairobi last year.
And as they emptied the tills and the customers' pockets and bags, they sang hymns, apparently in praise of the Lord for seeing their operation through.
Opposition politicians blamed it all on the economy which, according to the central bank, registered a negative percentage growth last year.
"Everybody is struggling to eat, and we cannot blame the crime wave on the thugs alone," says MP Otieno Kajwang.
"Even the thugs have stomachs and children to take to school.
The government should find ways of attracting back donor aid and generally kick-starting the economy instead of coming up with academic poverty eradication papers.
" Others blame the police themselves for the thugs' viciousness and callousness.
Not a single day passes without the local media carrying a story of police gunning down a suspected thug.
The police are also known to kill innocent Kenyans on mere suspicion.
Late last year, the United Nations put Nairobi in the same class with the likes of Bogota in Columbia, among the world's most dangerous cities.
But the UN has since backtracked and said the Kenyan capital is not such a dangerous place to live in and that a number of other issues, including the infrastructure, electricity and water, were considered in the assessment.
Nairobi hosts such UN bodies as the Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the Centre for Human Settlement (HABITAT).

15 may 2001 19:33:00

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