Kenya police are on the spot over brutality and excessive force unleashed on Jomo Kenyatta University students on Monday.
Officers from Juja and Makongeni Police stations descended on the learners, who, ironically, were protesting over rising insecurity around the main campus, with blows, kicks and clubs.
Instead of protection, assurances and outlining the steps they would take to ensure the Jkuat student fraternity is safe, the officers chose to give stabbers and muggers a run for their money— rubbing salt in the victims’ festering wounds.
The officers in full combat gear mutated into a rogue force as they battled to restore law and order after the protesting student blocked sections of the busy Thika Road and brought business around Jkuat to a standstill.
In one of the ugly scenes captured on camera, five male police officers are seen brutally assaulting a defenceless male student.
In the video that has since gone viral online, the officers take turns in raining kicks on Allan Omondi lying on the ground.
Omondi is a fourth year-student pursuing a degree in Food Science Technology at the Juja-based campus.
As the student in a red t-shirt and blue jeans attempts to regain consciousness and scrambles to his, one of the officers kicks his head with a heavy boot.
The powerful kick sends him sprawling back to the dusty ground as the other officers descend on him with clubs.
One of the police men is seen attempting to trample Omondi’s head, as if to finish him.
While the condition of the student, who was later arrested and locked up, was not immediately known, he most likely sustained serious injuries.
Omondi, who is asthmatic, was remanded at Juja Police Station for more than five hours, did not have an inhaler and no sweater.
According to Ian Duncan, Omondi’s friend, he was released from the cell on Monday night and handed over to his mother.
The officers also broke the gate of one of the hostels and lobbed teargas, subjecting the students to inhuman treatment.
It is this violence that drew the outrage of Kenyans, with many questioning effectiveness of the ongoing police reforms as others demanded action on the rogue officers.
“Just watched a very disturbing video of police brutally beating an individual alleged to be a Jkuat student,” tweeted Mwalimu Dida, a former presidential candidate.
“I don't know why all those officers would choose to beat up unarmed person who is already on the ground and is not resisting arrest. Can the IG clarify this incident?”
Lucy Kamunya said there was no difference between the police officers and criminals who were giving Jkuat students sleepless nights.
“The police ganging up with the same people who rob students to beat up students says a lot about the security of comrades in Juja,” she tweeted.
The violence caught the attention of Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Inspector-General Hillary Mutyambai who have ordered investigations.
“I have observed the events at Jkuat today with profound concern. The use of force by police is clearly outlined in the National Police Standing Orders,” he tweeted early Tuesday.
“I have spoken to the IG and we both agree that firm and decisive action shall be taken against any officer who used excessive force, within the next 24 hours.”
Mr Mutyambai ordered the Internal Affairs Unit to investigate the matter and make recommendations for action within 24 hrs.
“It is important to note that all police officers have gone through a rigorous and professional training on management of riots and unlawful assemblies,” he said in a statement.
“Officers have also been trained on the need to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and that, use of force must be legal and of necessity to the needs of justice; it must be applied to the extent that it remains proportionate to the gravity of the offence and with full accountability.”
He vowed action against officers who will be found to have broken the law.
“Officers are further reminded that police action should never be punitive; it should focus on maintenance of law and order, and processing offenders for court,” he said.
According to the Constitution, police officers are only allowed to use excessive force when their lives are in danger.
But even as Dr Matiang’i and Mr Mutyambai vowed action, Juja police boss Dorothy Migarusha defended her officers, saying they exercised restraint during the operation.
“Despite finding it tough to handle the situation of about 30,000 demonstrators, police officers didn’t fire even a single live bullet,” said Ms Migarusha.
Investigations into the operation, she said, were ongoing.
“Any officer who shall have been found to contravene the law will be punished,” she said.
But she dismissed the video on the assault, saying it she could not verify its authenticity.
Kiambu County Police Commander Ali Nuno said they were racing against time to identify the rogue police officers.
“The officers are from Kiambu, they are not from outside and we will have identified them by close of business today,” he told the Nation on phone.
“I can assure you if any officer broke the law then they will be individually held responsible.”