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Police bosses throw rogue juniors under the bus

Thursday April 2 2020

curfew

Police subject commuters to inhumane treatment at Likoni crossing in Mombasa, as they enforced nationwide curfew on March 27, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VINCENT ACHUKA
By VINCENT ACHUKA
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You are on your own. This is the message that the National Police Service, under pressure from public, civil society groups, religious and political leaders, is passing to its officers who were unlucky enough to be caught on camera brutalising Kenyans while enforcing the dusk-to-dawn curfew.

About a dozen officers have been interdicted as the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) takes up investigations on incidents last Friday that caused a public uproar.

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) is also investigating.

The level of brutality during the curfew which, according to sources, was driven by a policy to force Kenyans be in their homes by 7pm is now haunting the officers charged with the responsibility of enforcing the order.

A number of officers are claiming that they are being victimised simply for carrying out their orders.

They argue that the whips and clubs they used were provided by the same government that is now hunting them down.

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NEW STRATEGY

In the curfew enforcement guidelines seen by the Nation, police officers were allowed to use proportionate force where necessary.

“Use proportionate force where non-violent means are inadequate to achieve the objectives of the curfew,” says one of the guidelines issued by Deputy Inspector-General Edward Mbugua on March 27.

Among the officers who have been interdicted is the policeman who was caught on camera clobbering Nation Media Group photojournalist Peter Wainaina in Mombasa last Friday, hours before the curfew began.

Coast Regional police boss Rashid Yakub has apologised for the incident and promised action against the Administration Police officer.

Others who have been interdicted are two corporals and a sergeant in Nakuru. The three were caught on camera assaulting Mr Anthony Ndung’u, a lorry driver employed by food distribution company Ponty Pridd Holdings.

Since the Monday night killing of a 13-year-old boy in Kiamaiko, Nairobi, allegedly by the police, security bosses have been forced to change strategy.

BE CIVIL

By last evening, it had not been established whether the bullet that killed Yassin Hussein Moyo came from a police officer’s firearm.

The results of a forensic analysis of all firearms held by officers who were on duty that night are expected to be released by the end of the week.

But, afraid of getting themselves similar condemnation should another killing happen, police bosses have instructed officers enforcing the curfew to be more civil.

This has seen scores of Kenyans caught outside their homes during the curfew getting arrested and fined since Tuesday night as opposed to being beaten up.

And while this has forged a humane face to the curfew’s enforcement, there is a slow reintroduction of night-time activity in some neighbourhoods in Nairobi.

Police officers have resorted to erecting road blocks rather than patrolling.

UHURU SORRY

On Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta apologised to victims. Speaking via live video feed to the first two Kenyans to have been cured of the virus, he regretted the manner in which police officers enforced restrictions on movements and public gatherings.

“I know especially when we introduced the curfew in the initial stages there were some challenges. I want to apologise to Kenyans for the excesses that may have happened,” said President Kenyatta.

And, in order to further reduce chances of people being caught outside their homes after 7pm which would lower chances of police brutality, the government has ordered all employers to release their employees by 4pm.

“To facilitate compliance with the order, all employers shall ensure that their staff who are not designated as critical or essential service providers leave their workplace no later than 4 o’clock in the afternoon,” Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i ordered in a gazette notice.