EXACERBATING THE PANDEMIC

Police must stop double standards in Covid-19 rules enforcement

Police must do their work and fully enforce the Covid-19 health regulations equally across all groups.

In Summary

• For police to ignore the law in a grave matter such as the good health of the people is despicable.

• The right to health is guaranteed in the Constitution  under Article 43 (1) (a)

Police in Mombasa forcefully disperse human rights activists protesting alleged Covid-19 funds theft on August 20, 2020
Police in Mombasa forcefully disperse human rights activists protesting alleged Covid-19 funds theft on August 20, 2020
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

A few weeks ago, Coast civil society network organised a protest to condemn the actions of the Covid-19 millionaires who stole funds meant to cure the sick.

This was around the period when infection numbers were on the decline after the expose on the theft of Covid-19 funds.

At the point where the protest was to commence, a contingent of police officers was deployed and made it clear that they would not allow any demos due to Covid-19 regulations. Satisfied they had met all health regulations as required by the Health ministry, activists defied the police and began the protest. What followed was teargassing, clobbering, arrests and prosecution of the protestors.

A few weeks later, of infections have been reported to be high again and the country has been put on notice about the second wave of Covid-19. Various media sources have been quoted reporting that hospitals are full with Covid-19 patients. However, despite the obvious threats, politicians continue to hold rallies with hundreds of people without social distancing or following any health guidelines. They are defying all health protocols and the police have chosen to totally ignore this and allow politicians to go about their business and risk the health and well being of millions of Kenyans.

This is very open and clear double standards by the police at the Coast. When police allow any person or group of persons to operate with impunity and break the rules so openly, they are themselves breaking the law and must be made to answer.

How is it that the police apply the same law completely differently between two groups? They deny and arrest civil society actors when holding a public process in the guise of Covid-19 regulations. For politicians who equally want to engage the same public, they are left to do so even when they go ahead and clearly defy all health regulations to contain the spread of the virus.

Article 27 (1) of the Constitution on equality and freedom from discrimination stipulates that “every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law.”

This means the police are violating the Constitution when they apply the law selectively by denying civil society that which they are approving politicians to do. Police must at all times be the custodians and enforcers of the law not the violators. For a police service that has been largely accused of violating rights during the Covid-19 pandemic, this is open indication that the accusations levelled against them may have some truth.

For police to ignore the law in a grave matter such as the good health of the people is despicable. The right to health is guaranteed in the Constitution o under Article 43 (1) (a) which states that “every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health…”.

What politicians are doing — facilitated by the police — is risking the lives of Kenyans and putting them at high risk of contracting Covid-19. The second wave of the disease has been exacerbated by politicians who have so far criss-crossed the Coast of Kenya particularly in Kwale and Mombasa, holding rallies not at all caring about the health of the people or their own. 

It must be remembered that as a country, Kenya has emerged from a difficult period in managing the pandemic that has so far claimed over 800 lives. Health practitioners have time and again warned about a second wave which can be more devastating than the first one.

What Kenya is experiencing with politicians and the police is a recipe for disaster, which could cost many more lives. If left unchecked, the current situation will lead to deep regret. If indeed it does get there, then the blood of the dead will fall squarely on the politicians and police.

As a people, we should not allow this to happen. Police must do their work and fully enforce the Covid-19 health regulations equally across all groups.