KDF, police units tension brew over Lodwar arrest incident

Friday, April 19th, 2024 02:00 | By
Turkana Central Sub-County Police Commander Samuel Boit (right, standing) with four KDF soldiers at Lodwar Police Station where they were arrested after assaulting and disarming an officer. PHOTO/Print
Turkana Central Sub-County Police Commander Samuel Boit (right, standing) with four KDF soldiers at Lodwar Police Station where they were arrested after assaulting and disarming an officer. PHOTO/Print

Tension is now brewing between the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the National Police Service (NPS) over an incident on Wednesday where some soldiers were arrested and locked up by the police.

Yesterday, KDF termed the arrests of its soldiers in Lodwar on Wednesday as ‘demeaning’ and intended to embarrass and humiliate them as questions emerged over the incident that has generated heated debate on social media.

The KDF also said preliminary investigations had established that the soldiers neither assaulted the police officers nor stormed the police station as alleged by the Turkana Central Sub-County police commander Samuel Boit.

“Our attention has been drawn to videos, photos, and texts circulating on both mainstream and social media on the arrest of KDF soldiers at a Lodwar Police Station,” KDF said.

They added: “Joint investigations by the relevant competent authorities to further establish facts on this unfortunate incident are ongoing and the outcome will inform the next course of action.”

Spikes on the road

On Wednesday, four KDF soldiers were arrested following a nasty altercation with their counterparts from the NPS in Lodwar town.

Police claimed the soldiers had assaulted and disarmed Constable Cleophas Makhapila who had been deployed on day roadblock duties together with county enforcement officers.

Police further alleged the KDF soldiers led by a Lieutenant Okello raided Lodwar Police Station bringing to a standstill the proceedings at the nearby Lodwar law courts as  wananchi watched in utter shock.

There were reports that there was an altercation after the soldiers claimed that the police officers delayed in removing the spikes from the road.

The driver of the KDF’s water bowser is reported to have alighted and slapped the officer. Another officer then grabbed the police officer’s AK47 rifle and cocked it before ordering Constable Makhapila to go down on his knees but the officer refused.

The KDF soldier then fired four rounds in the air before they left with the rifle to their military camp at Loturerei. The Department of Defence (DoD) condemned the incident saying though localized and occurring at a tactical level, it was of great concern to the entire KDF fraternity.

“It also degrades the complementary spirit in Multi- Agency environments, and operations. The orchestration of the detainment is demeaning in context, intended to embarrass, humiliate, and to create alarm,” DoD said.

Professionalism and restraint

According to Ulinzi House, the exercise of professionalism and restraint by KDF troops operating in Lodwar is recognized and commended.

“The troops deployed in Lodwar and in other areas remain professional, subordinate to civilian authority, as stipulated in the Constitution of Kenya 2010, and a reliable partner in the Multi-Agency approaches towards enhancement on the delivery of security dividends,” DoD added.

According to a police report, the four had disarmed Makhapila at a roadblock near Turkana University College, slapped him and ordered him to go down on his knees before one of the soldiers shot severally in the air after the officer refused to kneel before them.

The bullish soldiers, who were at the time riding in a water bowser towards Moi Garden to fetch water, then ordered the officer to collect his firearm at Loturerei army camp in Kanam Kemer Ward.

“It happened that officers delayed removing the erected spikes at the said roadblock and the KDF water bowser was approaching. The driver of the said water bowser alighted and slapped the officer on his right cheek,” stated the report.

“Another officer alighted using the passenger door and grabbed his AK47 assault rifle and cocked immediately. He uttered the words ‘Sisi tumeua Al Shabaab wengi, naweza kumaliza wewe sai.’ He ordered Cleophas to go on his knees but he refused. He fired four rounds of live ammunition.”

The besieged officer then informed Commander Boit of the incident an alert was put out to other patrol roadblocks to keep an eye out for the KDF soldiers and the water bowser, eventually tracking them down to Moi Garden.

The soldiers were requested to drive their water bowser to the station to establish what had happened but they resisted, forcing the police officers to arrest and escort them to the station, leaving behind the water bowser. The development led to more soldiers arriving at the station in a bid to compel the police officers to release their mates as other officials of the Sub-County Security Committee, engaged with KDF bosses over the matter.

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