A tuktuk operator in Nakuru who was recorded on video while locked in a violent struggle with two traffic police officers now says he was provoked to a fight after they harassed him.
In an exclusive interview with the Nation on Monday, the tuktuk operator revealed that he decided to defend himself because he had been a victim of constant harassment from traffic officers who demanded bribes.
He said that, on that day, they had stopped him in what he thought would be a routine traffic stop.
“I was carrying three passengers heading to town and when one of the officers signaled me to stop l complied,” said the man who is in his 30s.
As he slowed down to stop, one of the officers hit and smashed one of his side mirrors using a police button.
“I got angry and demanded to know why he had destroyed my side mirror. The officers became arrogant and threatened to tow my tuktuk to the Nakuru Central Police Station. I knew l had to resist the harassment,” he said.
He disclosed that the officers had stopped two other tuktuks that were ahead of him and he saw the police receive money from the drivers.
“In my mind, l was prepared to resist. I decided not to part with any money that day. They have been intimidating us all along, but l felt enough was enough and that is why l decided to confront them,” he said.
The anger at his smashed side mirror and the memory of the incessant harassment, he says, prompted him to act in resistance.
“I am the bread winner in my family and l rely on my tuktuk to earn my keep. So l felt angered by police bullying and their threats to arrest me,” he explained.
He said he was not remorseful for his actions, insisting that traffic police officers must stop harassing motorists by taking advantage of the ongoing crackdown.
Eye witnesses interviewed by the Nation also criticized the traffic police who, they said, mount random roadblocks and harass motorists as they demand bribes.
“Police should reform and stop intimidating motorists even when they have complied with the law. We are fed up and we want action taken against junior officers who are cashing in on the ongoing crackdown,” said Mr David Kuria, a boda boda operator.
The incident has elicited heated debate across the country and brought to the fore the need for civic education among Kenyans on the concept of policing and the benefits of a police service.
Cases of civilians attacking police officers have been on the increase in various parts of the country, raising concerns.
The incident came just days after Interior CS Fred Matiang’i asked civilians not to blame police officers as they also suffered at the hands of civilians.
The National Police Service, the Independent Oversight Authority (IPOA) and the Kenya Motorist Association condemned the attacks against police men.
Speaking on phone, Inspector General Joseph Boinnet said that action will be taken against civilians filmed attacking police officers.
He said that it was worse for a civilian to attack a police than it was the reverse as it attracted very serious sanctions.
“The law is very clear and it does not allow such conduct. It is a grave mistake to raise your hand against a police officer,” he said.
Mr Boinet said that investigations were ongoing and that the culprits will be arraigned in court as soon as they are arrested.
IPOA on its side condemned the attacks saying that the actions threatened internal security.
In a press statement, IPOA spokesman Denis Oketch said that it was unacceptable for anyone to take the law into their own hands.
“With a serving police service and a robust judiciary in place, it is unacceptable for anyone to take the law into their own hands. This is likely to foster anarchy and break established order in society,” he said.
This comes in the wake of a sustained countrywide crackdown by the government to enforce traffic rules.