WAR ON COVID-19

Kenyans face Sh10,000 fine for violating curfew order

Tough consequences for offenders include a three-month jail term.

In Summary
  • The curfew is meant to slow down the spread of the coronavirus disease.
  • Security officers will begin night patrols to arrest offenders.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Defence CS Monica Juma at Harambee House, Nairobi, on March 15, 2020.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Defence CS Monica Juma at Harambee House, Nairobi, on March 15, 2020.
Image: MERCY MUMO

You risk a fine of Sh10,000, three-month imprisonment, or both if arrested by security officers for violating the curfew order imposed by the State.

The curfew was imposed by the National Security Council and gazetted by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i as a measure to contain the coronavirus disease.

The punitive Public Order Act, which has been in place for decades, grants security agencies sweeping powers to enforce the curfew and force Kenyans indoors between 7 pm-5 am daily.

Those found roaming around with rungus, pangas or any other weapons will not only be arrested for contravening the order but also charged with possessing offensive weapons.

While security officers are barred under the act from using excessive force to enforce the curfew during the declared hours, the same law gives them sweeping powers to use reasonable force.

Such reasonable force, the law says, would include subduing offenders and arresting them for arraignment, but where there are extreme cases of resistance, they would use firearms to enforce law and order.

“....firearms and other weapons likely to cause death or serious bodily injury shall, if used, be used with all due caution and deliberation, and without recklessness or negligence,” reads in part Section 14(1) of the Public Order Act.

It adds, however, that “nothing in this section shall derogate from the lawful right of any person to use force in the defence of person or property".

The initial, Public Order Act enacted by the British colonial authorities in 1950 and revised in 2009, just imposed a paltry Sh1,000 fine on offenders, alongside an option of a three-month jail term, or both.

However, radical amendments by the National Assembly in 2014 saw MPs enhance the punishment to Sh10,000 fine, a three-month jail term, or both.

The radical changes also granted the Interior minister the ultimate powers to impose curfew restrictions, powers that were initially vested in the provincial commissioners.

According to the current law that governs curfews in the country, no Kenyan will be allowed outside their usual residences between the 10-hour period, with security officers granted powers to arrest those found roaming.

“Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of a curfew order or any of the terms or conditions of a permit granted to him …....shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both such fine and such imprisonment,” reads the Public Order Act.

During the restricted hours, no Kenyan, except security officers enforcing the curfew, would be allowed to carry an 'offensive weapon'.

The law defines an offensive weapon as any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to a person, or capable of being so used, or intended by the person having it for such use, and includes any panga or similar weapon.

Those found with weapons will be arrested and arraigned for not only contravening the curfew order but also possessing weapons without lawful authority.

“Any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, the proof whereof shall lie on him, has with him in any street or public place any offensive weapon shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand shillings, or to both such imprisonment and such fine,” reads section 11(1) of the Act.

The law, however, gives leeway to watchmen at work during the curfew hours to carry weapons for defensive purposes as long as they are within enclosed premises where they are assigned duties.