Police Brutality : We have one enemy, coronavirus not the people

Kenya has already recorded 3 deaths related to Police Brutality since the Coronavirus curfew began

Pulse editorial

When President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a Nationwide Curfew to help fight the spread of COVID-19, Kenyans did not foresee a night of terror but a concern from the Head of State who had the interest of his people at heart.

However, the manner in which police conducted themselves during the curfew left a lot to be desired with a section of Kenyans being whipped and tormented by the men in blue.

Cases of police officers clobbering Kenyans on day one of the curfew were all over social media, with netizens condemning the brutality that was unleashed on Kenyans who found themselves outside past 7pm, majority of them not by choice.

President Kenyatta’s order to have a countrywide curfew took effect on March 27th, just three days after March 24th, a day used to honour victims of gross and systemic human rights violations across the globe.

Since the curfew began, we have already lost three people who were allegedly clobbered by Police officers meant to reinforce 7pm to 5am curfew.

On April 1st, 2020, Kenyans woke up to the news of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji ordering immediate investigations into the death of a 13-year old Yasin Muitel who died after being hit by a police bullet.

Yasin Muitel was hit by a bullet in the stomach while on the balcony of their home in Kiamaiko estate, Nairobi. This leaves one wondering why police officers would use live bullets when all they are supposed to do is make sure people stay indoors. Doesn't this mean that officers are using live bullets while implementing the curfew? Which should not be the case. This should not be tolerated at all in the country, we have one common enemy which is coronavirus and not the people.

Two other cases of death from police brutality were recorded, one in Mombasa where a 26-year old boda-boda rider Hamisi Juma Kambiliwa died after being beaten by police after taking a pregnant woman to hospital.

On Thursday, April 2, 2020, Ramadhan Juma who hails from Kakamega County was reported dead, with allegations that he was assaulted by police officers who were implementing the curfew directive.

A section of of leaders as well as social media users questioned whether the curfew was now competing with Covid-19 deaths in terms of deaths.

On April 1, 2020, the Head of State conveyed an apology to Kenyans during a virtual meeting with two Kenyans who have recovered from coronavirus.

I apologize to all Kenyans for excesses that happened during the implementation of the curfew. I want to assure you, that if we work together and understand that this problem needs all of us, we will overcome it,” President Kenyatta said.

On the other hand, Police spokesperson Charles Owino insisted that Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) will take up investigations on any cases of indiscipline among the police officers.

This statement lifts another lid, on the number of cases that IPOA has Managed to Investigate and even prosecute those involved.

Greatest violators of Human rights

A report that was released by Amnesty International Kenya in 2018, pointed out that majority of Kenyans believe the biggest risk to their lives is unlawful police killings and harassment. In a number of instances Police have been listed as the greatest violators of Human rights.

The excessive use of force and misuse of firearms by security personnel dealing with the public appears to be a silent policing policy. IPOA, a body that was established in 2013 to deal with police immoderations, has not had a significant effect on misconduct and criminality in the service.

Despite the amendments of the constitution of Kenya in 2010 to hold police accountable for their actions, police brutality remains rampant with many incidents being reported and documented by media and civil society organizations.

Government agencies like IPOA and officials from Government and specifically Police spokesperson Charles Owino should emulate the president and first offer an apology to Kenyans. What we continue to see from these individuals is outright arrogance and disregard for Human rights, point in case the Citizen TV interview where the Police spokesperson refused to respond to a simple question.

Pulse Live believes that whenever such a question is raised, the official tasked with the responsibility should provide answers to Kenyans.

IPOA on the hand, say that their job ends at investigation stage and they have their findings forwarded to the DPP for prosecution. Doreen Muthaura, a Commissioner with IPOA recently disclosed that in the past eight years, the Authority has managed to secure conviction of only six police officers, blaming it on the technicalities of the judiciary.

Enforcing the Curfew was a chance for the police to earn the trust of citizens of the great Republic of Kenya, but like always they are there to ruin the party and this is one of the reasons, we have found it hard to believe in campaigns like ‘Askari ni Rafiki’ - Your friend cannot beat you to death just because you are not home at the set time.

In January, President Uhuru directed the Inspector General of police Hillary Mutyambai to dismiss any officer deemed incompetent and in his exact words, "I therefore direct that all those rogue officers who will be found responsible for gross misconduct or incompetencies be dismissed and not transferred as it has been the norm. We will not be transferring corruption or incompetence from one place to another."

On Thursday, it was reported that four police officers had been indicted in Nakuru over police brutality witnessed on the first day of the curfew. While this is a commendable move, these atrocities did not only occur in Nakuru but across the country, with multiple videos shared on social media as supporting evidence.

If these cannot be looked at as incompetence or misconduct given that the directive by the Inspector General was to have anyone found outside during curfew hours was to be arrested and charged, then Kenyans should brace for more deaths in the hands of people tasked with protecting them.

Pulse Live would also like to commend the few police officers who were human enough and resorted to helping Kenyans caught up with the curfew. Amina Mutio Ramadhan is one of the officers who worked selflessly to give the police force a good name. Baringo AP Commandant Ibrahim Abachilla was another leading on the front-line by calling on area residents to rush home, as he offered them hand sanitizer.

Such acts of humanity should be emulated by police officers enforcing the Coronavirus curfew and together we will over come this pandemic.

Kenyans should also play their part in observing the dusk to dawn curfew as we combine efforts in mitigating the spread of Covid-19.

Additional writing by Brian Oruta.

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