The Most Brutal Police in Africa

Police forces across the globe are sworn in to protect their citizens. While most officers do this job with sincerity, there are always police officers that do not. Instead, they involve themselves in corrupt practices and even cases of brutalities on citizens they are bound to protect. 

The culture of police brutality is particularly common in Africa, where some countries’ police services excel more in these attributes compared to others.  

The following is a list of the five African countries with the most corrupt and abusive police forces. In the most recent World Internal Security and Police Index, four of these five countries were also classified as having the worst police services in the world. 

The Top 5 Most Brutal Police in Africa

5. Democratic Republic of Congo Police Force

The Democratic Republic of Congo is located right in the heart of Africa, or in Central Africa. Congo appears to perform very badly when it comes to its police force’s efficiency and integrity. 

The Congolese police force has a reputation for brutality as a result of the country’s tight political atmosphere and vulnerability to crises. 

Any effort to disrupt public order is greeted with harsher measures by the country’s security forces, who perceive it as a challenge to Felix Tshisekedi reign. 

Between May and September 2018, 27 young men and boys were detained and 7 others were forcibly disappeared as part of an anti-crime campaign. The campaign, called “Operation Likofi IV” by police, targeted alleged gang members in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. 

Human Rights Watch discovered that police officers, often dressed in civilian clothes, apprehended suspected gang members, known as kulunas, at night from their homes or other locations without a warrant. In many cases, police blindfolded and bound the victims before transporting them to unidentified locations and killing them. The bodies of the victims were frequently dumped near their homes early the next morning by the police. The majority of the victims were strangled in an apparent attempt by authorities to divert attention away from the police. 

“Strangling, shooting, and disappearing suspects in custody is never a legal way to combat urban crime,” said Ida Sawyer, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Africa director. 

Beating up journalists is a common practice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on September 1st, 2021. During a prohibited protest in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s capital, police assaulted journalists and damaged the headquarters of a media outlet. 

Police also assaulted journalists and seized their press credentials. They also fired tear gas at the headquarters of RTVS1, a media outlet owned by Adophe Muzito, a government critic and one of the protest’s organizers, causing significant damage. The journalists inside were unable to work and were barred from leaving until the evening by police. 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index. 

4. Uganda Police Force

Uganda, officially known as the Republic of Uganda, is one of the landlocked countries in Eastern Africa. 

The use of pepper spray or a water cannon to break a protesting mob has been very commonly used by members of the Ugandan police force. They merely rely on a stick and an electric wire to accomplish their objectives at record speed. 

In fact, security personnel have shot individuals dead in broad daylight and In conflicts between security services and palace guards in the western town of Kasese, for example, at least 156 people were brutally murdered, and 100s others were imprisoned. The Ugandan government gave an official death toll of 103 in March 2017.  Human Rights Watch, however, estimated that at least 156 people had been killed in the clashes. 

According to the BBC, at least 12 people were allegedly killed by security officers enforcing measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in July 2020, despite the fact that the country had only confirmed its first death from Covid-19. 

The killings are believed to have been carried out by police officers, soldiers, and members of the Local Defence Unit, an armed civilian force (LDU) 

At the end of 2020, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext for repression through the Uganda Police Force in order to silence his opponents ahead of the Presidential Elections. 

During the election campaigns, dozens of people were killed in election-related violence, the majority of whom were shot dead by police and other security forces, including unidentified gun-toting plainclothes individuals, and dozens more were injured. President Yoweri Museveni publicly stated that 54 people were killed in the protests and unrest that followed the arrest of the leading opposition presidential candidate and popular musician, Robert Kyagulanyi, on November 18 and 19. 

Amnesty international reported that  “The African Union, and the United Nations must increase pressure on Ugandan authorities to end acts of political repression and to respect human rights before, during and after the elections.” 

Ugandan security forces Continuously harass and attack journalists. In November 2020, the International Press Institute called on Uganda to investigate police attacks on reporters. Human Rights Watch, a watchdog based in New York, also said that Museveni’s government was using COVID-19 rules as a pretext to violate rights and crack down on the opposition and the media. 

At a pre-election news conference with senior security officials, Uganda’s police chief Martin Okoth Ochola refused to apologise, saying reporters would be stopped from trying to go to areas where their lives could be at risk. 

“You are insisting you must go where there is danger. Yes, we shall beat you for your own sake to help you understand that you do not go there. Yes, we shall use reasonable force to ensure that you don’t go where there is a risk. Actually, I have no apology,” he said. 

3. Nigeria Police Force

Like its counterparts in Kenya and South Africa, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is notorious for corruption and violence. World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI). also revealed that the police force is responsible for a large number of extrajudicial executions. 

It’s amusing that the savagery of NPF personnel has no bounds since members from other security organizations also participate in these odes.  

Nigeria was rocked by days of nationwide protests over police brutality on October 22, 2020, following widespread allegations of kidnapping, harassment, and extortion by a controversial police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). 

So, what exactly was SARS, and why was it so contentious? 

For more than 25 years, SARS was at the forefront of combating the country’s most serious crimes, including armed robbery, kidnapping, assault, and murder. However, it became notorious over time for alleged abuses committed with apparent impunity. 

Amnesty International issued a damning report in June 2020, claiming to have documented 82 cases of police brutality in Nigeria between 2017 and 2020. 

the report said.  “Detainees in SARS custody have been subjected to a variety of methods of torture including hanging, mock execution, beating, punching and kicking, burning with cigarettes, waterboarding, near-asphyxiation with plastic bags, forcing detainees to assume stressful bodily positions and sexual violence,”  

When the protests turned bloody on October 11, 2020, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari issued a directive disbanding the controversial SARS unit and redeploying its officers. Protests, however, continued in cities across the country, with some young Nigerians vowing to remain on the streets until the entire police force is reformed. 

Following the disbandment of SARS, a new tactical police unit, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, was formed, and the government stated that they will be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

However One year after peaceful EndSARS protests ended in a brutal crackdown by Nigerian security forces in Abuja, Lagos, and other parts of the country, Amnesty International said no one has been brought to justice for the torture, violence, and killings of peaceful protesters, while reports of police human rights violations continue. 

2. Kenya Police force

Kenya is located in Eastern Africa, and its landscape climbs from the Indian Ocean’s flat coastal plain to mountains and plateaus in the interior. Kenya is also one of the African countries with a police force that is known for pervasive civilian brutality and systemic corruption. Activists in the country are constantly at the mercy of the country’s police force. And more often than not, they are dealt with by sticks. 

It was in the 2016/2017 WISPI report when the Kenyan police force was ranked literally the worst in the world and was only followed by Uganda and then Nigeria. 

The fact is that the Police in the country use any means at their disposal to disperse the protest. Due to the constantly changing political atmosphere, protests are also particularly common, and the government has no intention of letting them continue. When the police attempt to disperse the crowds, it often leads to many deaths and unlawful detentions. This becomes especially true when protests are made against the government. 

The “Missing Voices coalition,” which consists of 16 human rights organizations whose purpose is to end disappearances and killings in Kenya, met with mothers of victims and other survivors of police abuse in Nairobi, according to the Voa News. “They Were Us,” a campaign by the coalition, was also launched. Between January and September 2021, the coalition said it documented 119 police killings and 23 enforced disappearances. The allegations are denied by the police. 

Anne Makori, the chairperson of The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), told Kenyan editors in September 2021 that the court was handling 98 cases of police abuses against the public. According to the IPOA, eight police officers have been convicted since 2010. 

According to the Missing Voices coalition, which investigates unlawful killings, 167 people were killed or disappeared in 2020. According to the report, 157 of those deaths were the result of police killings. 

1. South African Police Service 

For those unaware, South Africa is located at the bottom-most region of Africa, with a coastline that stretches across more than 2,500 kilometers. 

However, South Africa is also commonly known as the world capital of police brutality. Some numbers always go a long way in proving such claims. Across the entire country, there were 244 killings and 124 rapes conducted by police officers in 2016 alone.  More so, protests are one of the most unpleasant things for the South African Police, who would use all measures at their disposal to put a stop to it. 

Similarly, another 145 cases of police torture of activists and innocent citizens were reported and recorded in 2016 too. It’s also been established that the South African government’s budget is insufficient to deal with the avalanche of legal lawsuits against the Police. 

 According to Foreignpolicy reports, South Africa’s police force is one of the most brutal in the democratic world. The country’s history of police brutality and human rights violations can be traced back to its apartheid legacy, when the police were used to dominate and discriminate against Black communities, as well as to hunt down enemies of the regime. However, the country’s transition to a mixed race democracy has left a legacy of brutality. 

Former police officers report that policing improved in the first five years of democracy, with a clear focus on community policing, building community relations, demilitarization, and human rights training. However, everything changed after the year 2000. 

Officers’ training was reduced from two to one year, and the recruitment procedure is full of corruption, with jobs sometimes on the open market.  

For the first time in history, police commissioners were political appointees who lack the essential skills and expertise to lead a nation’s police force.  

The head of the justice and prevention program at the Institute for Security Studies Gareth Newham noted from 2000 to 2017 Presidents and their successors in South Africa appoint national police commissioners mainly because of their perceived allegiance, not competence, “They are just appointed to act in the political and personal interest of the president,” 

According to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), a government watchdog body, more than 42,000 criminal complaints against the police were filed between 2012 and 2019, including rape, killings, and torture. 

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