The police officers who on Monday used teargas to disperse Lang’ata Road Primary School pupils protesting against the grabbing of their playground in Nairobi have left a huge blot on Kenya.
The officers’ actions were inappropriate and their conduct unacceptable.
The government and the police service must understand that this kind of excessive use of force against children will not be tolerated. It is a throwback to the era when Kenya was a police state. Assault on civil liberties has no place in modern Kenya.
Although the police spokesman later said the officer in charge of the Lang’ata operation had been suspended, that is not enough.
The Constitution stipulates that citizens have a right to assemble and to protest. Without any excuse, the police acted unconstitutionally and the piecemeal and half-hearted attempts to address this gross misconduct should not be allowed to stand unchallenged.
Children have a right to play. This is a truth that needs no repeating. When police disperse children violently using teargas for protesting against a private individual who has taken over their playground, such high-handedness can only mean that the police and the State are fighting on the side of the land-grabber.
If they were not, they would have protected the right of the children to protest and, indeed, ensured that the children got their playground back.
A police service that upholds the rule of law would by now have arrested the man or woman who built the wall in contention and taken him/her to court to stand trial for theft of public property.
That this has not happened is another indictment against the police for their unwillingness to protect the vulnerable and reluctance to arrest the culpable.