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No way to justify police assault on student

Saturday November 16 2019

Jkuat police brutality

Screengrabs from a viral video show police officers brutalising a student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology during protests on November 11, 2019. There is no way for the officers to justify that level of force. PHOTOS | COURTESY 

GLADYS BURINI
By GLADYS BURINI
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This past week, an unarmed student from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Allan Omondi, was brutally beaten by four police officers while attending a university student protest march.

At one point, one of the officers stomped on Allan’s head after he had been subdued.

I asked myself if the officers had sought nonviolent means before brutalising the young man. Looking closely, the police officers did not seem to want to restrain him; they seemed to be on a quest to cause serious injury.

The force used was not proportionate to the ‘crime’. Four-to-one cannot be described as ‘proportionate’. Neither can we see the offence in Allan’s right to assemble and demonstrate with his fellow students.

There is no way for the officers to justify that level of force. Nothing about this incident exuded professionalism from those police officers, whose core duty is to protect Kenyans from injury.

RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE

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If anything, they showed blatant disregard for our constitutional right to life by putting Allan’s life in danger with no constitutional mandate to do so.

Our police force has proven one too many times that they do not consider us to be human beings during protests.

To them, we are punching bags to be subjected to physical violence. However, at no point should our protest be treated as a request to be treated in such a degrading manner.

We have the right to assemble peacefully, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.

It could be argued that the JKUAT students were not presenting a petition to the public authorities, but to the university.

Neither did the students go about it entirely peaceably and unarmed. Allan, though, was not being violent towards any of those police officers yet he was subjected to violence.

I am glad it did not take Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i long to respond to this incident or for the police officers to be placed under disciplinary action by Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai.

END BRUTALITY

Long have we waited for this prompt response by government officials. But we are not satisfied.

We do not want to be subjected to excessive use of force or police brutality, period. Responding after the fact does not resolve the issue.

We will still end up with civilians nursing brutal injuries or lives being lost as we have had in the past.

Disciplining or suspending a few of many rogue officers still leaves a number out there not prescribing to their Standing Orders.

To end police brutality, police officers must be reminded to adhere to the law under the Constitution, the National Police Service Act 2011 and their Standing Orders.

They must also be reminded that they too can fall afoul of the very law they seek to uphold.

More importantly, police officers must ask themselves who they are protecting and serving, because it is a human being, just like them. Would they be happy to be subjected to the same treatment?

The writer is a legal officer for an international airline; [email protected]

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