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Alas! Renaming the Police was akin to putting lipstick on a pig

Friday April 3 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 

GABRIEL OGUDA
By GABRIEL OGUDA
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After a week of us wondering whether the television at State House works, President Uhuru Kenyatta finally came out to assure Kenyans that he had watched the bad things the police have been doing to hard working Kenyans since the first curfew night, and that he hasn’t been happy with what he has been seeing.

In a rare show of remorse towards a people still asking what they did to deserve physical violence, the president apologised to victims of the heavy hands of police and assured them that they had done nothing wrong to be clobbered like rats.

For a long time, Kenyans have been wondering whether President Kenyatta gets moved by the painful things the police do to helpless Kenyans every now and then, and his pin-drop silence on the matter has emboldened those who give the whole service a bad name.

We now know that the president had been looking for the right words. It is not the first time the police have resorted to violence in keeping public order.

Whenever images of police clobbering members of the public appear on our screens, Kenyans are reminded of the ugly side of a unit that is supposed to be disciplined but chooses not to.

POLICE REFORMS

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Two Kenyans have already died from the excesses of those who are supposed to enforce law and order during these corona times.

One of them was a boda-boda rider who succumbed to his injuries in Kwale, and the other a young, innocent boy who was minding his business in Mathare.

The Government has been warning Kenyans against spreading fake news about mystery cures for coronavirus, but it hasn’t spoken about the police using the whip like a wonder drug to kick the virus out of Kenya … until the president came out to apologise this week.

We hope the president’s apology turns a new leaf in the manner in which the police interact with those they’re expected to serve, otherwise his words will be emptier than Nairobi streets during curfew hours.

This year marks the 10th year since Kenyans promulgated the 2010 Constitution. The document was hailed as a game changer by human rights activists who had spent many years in the trenches trying to remove dictatorial cobwebs from the eyes of government.

In that document was the recommendation that the Kenya Police Force be renamed the National Police Service.

Kenyans were excited by the proposal to usher in a new era of the police calling to ask what they had for breakfast and speaking to them in low tones before inviting them to the station to assist with filling of questionnaires.

BRUTALITY

Turns out this change of name, and uniform, was only meant to make the police look cooler in front of the mirror.

Animal care experts were right to warn us that you can put a lipstick on a pig, but it will still be a pig.

If you cannot read a simple gazette notice that tells you not to beat up journalists and food delivery truck drivers during the curfew window, then how sure are we that you can read the Constitution, which most often requires legal interpretation?

The police should know that their duty is to maintain law and order, and beating harmless Kenyans is the textbook definition of breaking the law.

Unless the English dictionary was revised last night, chasing after passengers disembarking from the ferry and fumigating them with tear gas is the direct opposite of “maintaining order”.

We are not aware of this scientific discovery, but if the medics at the Kenya Police laboratory have discovered that whips can cure coronavirus, then they should begin by subjecting themselves to the beatings first so that we can follow their lead.

After all, leading by example is the leadership style the president promised his government will adopt.

The police should help the president run the country, not make his life difficult.

LAW AND ORDER

He already has his hands full with the Covid-19 battle, infrastructure loans to beg for, and global donors to please, and you’re here killing those he is working hard to fundraise for?

Where do you want him to take the money after clobbering to death those he intends to help?

Kenyans do not have the time to play hide-and-seek with police officers. We have rent to pay, hand sanitisers to buy, face masks to borrow, and matatus to catch.

If the police want to compete with Covid-19 in killing Kenyans, they should make it public so that we add them to the list of pandemics.

Kenyans want the police to spare them the brutality, because the economy already beat us to submission.

The author comments on topical issues; [email protected]

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