EXCESSIVE FORCE

Excessive force by police on first night of Covid-19 curfew

Police appeared to take the curfew order as a license by government to use excessive force.

In Summary

• One would mistakenly believe that Kenya was in a state of emergency and police were quelling chaos while the possibility of being stuck in traffic and missing the curfew is extremely high on a Friday evening in Nairobi.

• Despite condemnation from the Kenya Editors Guild and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, police used the opportunity to beat up people and in some cases allegedly take bribes.

The much-touted police reforms to instil discipline in the Kenyan force appeared to be a mirage on Friday night. See story https://bit.ly/3at0TKG

The much-touted police reforms to instil discipline in the Kenyan force appeared to be a mirage on Friday night.

Police officers exercised excessive force in the name of enforcing the night curfew declared by the National Security Council.

Video clips shared by Kenyans would have one conclude that the declaration by President Uhuru Kenyatta was a license to the police to beat up Kenyans.

 

One would mistakenly believe that Kenya was in a state of emergency and police were quelling chaos while the possibility of being stuck in traffic and missing the curfew is extremely high on a Friday evening in Nairobi.

Police officers patrolled the streets of Nairobi CBD and other counties in preparation of the nationwide curfew declared by President Uhuru Kenyatta to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The guidelines issued on the curfew by Vigilance House say that police can use "proportionate force where non-violent means are inadequate to achieve the objectives of the curfew."

However, Kenyans witnessed the use of force by police officers even in incidences where they could have avoided being violent.

Motorists were made to get off their vehicles after which they were beaten by police officers who exercised no restraint on their action.

In blatant disregard of Kenyans’ rights, police officers in the full glare of cameras were captured beating up Kenyans in various locations and especially in Nairobi and Mombasa.

As early as 5pm, there was a clip of a police officer assaulting an NTV cameraman in Mombasa as the curfew to board the ferry at 6pm approached.

Despite condemnation from the Kenya Editors Guild and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, police used the opportunity to beat up people and in some cases allegedly take bribes.

 

Kenyans also took to social media to condemn the actions by the police calling on the government to take action against the officers involved.

In one clip, a truck driver who was transporting foodstuff was made to alight before being caned.

 

He tried to explain that he had read the order and those dealing with food items were exempted from the curfew.

"Are you foodstuff?" one police officer asked him before ordering him to get into the vehicle and drive off.

This was however not before the same officer and his colleagues used their canes on the driver as he got back into his truck.

In another separate incident, a driver was made to get our of his vehicle and even before he could explain why he had not made the curfew, the police officers started beating him.

He was at one point forced to run for his life as the more than five officers mobbed him with some shouting “ua yeye (kill him)” as he ran.

In Mombasa, there were photos of men, women and children being forced to lie on the ground while herded together.

In another incident in Nairobi, three men were made to lie down by a male and female officer for whipping before being told to go away.

This would be said to beat the purpose of the curfew, which was declared to enforce social distancing and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Police Spokesman Charles Owino appeared to defend the police while warning Kenyans to respect the curfew, which runs from 7pm to 5am.

Speaking on Citizen TV, Owino claimed that the police were being forced to use force due to provocation by members of the public.

"Don't try blaming the police.... first ask yourself, are you doing the right thing? There are clear instructions there is a curfew," Owino said.

Kenyan police officers have been documented to have an appetite for the use of excessive force to the extent of extrajudicial killings.

There have been ongoing reforms for years seeking to professionalise the force but the actions of the police officers on Friday night raised a lot of questions on this.