11 Nov Kongamano la Mageuzi Statement on Police Brutality and Extortion During the Enforcement of COVID-19 Health Protocols
Kongamano la Mageuzi (KLM) is a political coalition of diverse Kenyan individuals, organizations, initiatives and movements, generally identifiable as progressive within struggles for civil, political, social, cultural, economic and ecological justice and freedoms.
Last week, the government announced a raft of measures to control the spread of COVID-19. These measures reminded us of our collective pain when the repressive Public Order Act was invoked on 27 April 2020 by President Uhuru Kenyatta to allegedly enforce a dusk to dawn curfew to stem the spread of COVID-19. It reminded us of how a Public Health crisis had been turned into a Security issue that saw security agencies unleash terror on its citizens that were already dealing with a strange pandemic. A curfew that to date has not been backed by scientific findings or explanation as to how the disease relates to darkness, necessitating absurd night time restrictions while activities during the day especially in the political sphere continue with reckless abandon.
KLM is horrified by how the State has continuously loosened the leash of the security agencies and allowed the police to mercilessly terrorize and traumatize Kenyans in the name of enforcing the health guidelines. In the last week Kenyans operating small business like bars have run into indescribable losses and trauma after these thugs in uniform reigned terror and in some instances even looted in their so called night operations. Hundreds more have been arrested with the police taking advantage of the pronouncements by their bosses to extort vulnerable Kenyans. This is unacceptable.
Government officials including the President and his Deputy, consistently violate the public health protocols, without a single reprimand or fine. They hold huge COVID super-spreader rallies and events yet blame the youth for being the violators of heath protocols. They do not wear masks, yet impose fines and use violence against Wananchi in the name of enforcement. Instead of working with Kenyans on the protocols of handling the pandemic, government officials bark out orders and the police wield guns and rungus against a virus. Instead of public health information on the value of wearing masks, what we hear from the government are threats and fines.
The government has failed in its public messaging on COVID-19 as it preaches water and drinks wine. It has failed to provide basic health education. Kenyans associate COVID-19 with police brutality and orders barked at them during press conferences. Which government arbitrarily penalizes its citizens four times the amount of what most of them earn in a month for not wearing a mask? Which government opens doors for extortion of its people? What would it cost to use civilian rather than militaristic approaches to enforce public health measures? This pandemic offered a lifeline for the nation to come together as one under the new normal but this clueless government instead chose to operate by instilling fear and further widening the gap of the haves and the have nots.
It is worth remembering that we are 9 months into the COVID-19 global pandemic, yet the Government of Kenya has not put out a plan for properly dealing with this crisis. Instead of a plan, Kenyans are being promised terror from the illegally constituted Special Enforcement Unit. The country is facing a health pandemic, not a national security threat. We are facing an economic crisis triggered by the theft of public funds and poor economic policies. Kenya does not need a militaristic Special Enforcement Unit to address this.
KLM calls on the government to immediately halt its draconian COVID-19 measures and demand for:
- An end to discriminatory application of COVID-19 control measures;
- The end to police brutality, extra-judicial killings and extortion, especially of poor youth;
- The arrest and prosecution of all officers involved in police brutality, extra-judicial killings, property damage and extortion;
- The immediate scrapping of the Ksh. 20,000 fine imposed on Kenyans and its replacement with issuance of masks and information material on COVID-19;
- The end of police involvement in closing down markets, shops, restaurants and bars found to be operating with disregard to the health protocols and allow county health enforcement officers to do their job;
- An immediate stop to plans to establish the illegal so-called Special Enforcement Unit.
In preparation for its National Kongamano in December and in response to issues of police brutality and extra-judicial killings, KLM-VUMA shall:
- Engage the public and institutions working on rule of law and human rights to commence a public interest litigation process to seek justice for all victims of police brutality and extrajudicial killings nationally;
- Commence public consultations with interest groups, survivors of police brutality, families of victims and experts to develop a comprehensive plan to overhaul the national police service and align it with the vision in the 2010 Constitution under a KLM-VUMA government;
- In the absence of a government comprehensive plan on COVID response measures, KLM will put together a multi-sectoral team to develop a people-centered plan in consultation with WaKenya.
Finally, KLM wishes to encourage all Kenyans to keep observing and prioritizing the public Health guidelines as this is our collective responsibility. We as a country have faced insurmountable odds but with the Kenyan spirit have emerged victorious; this pandemic will not be an exception. We offer our solidarity to the frontline health workers and Scientists working tirelessly to achieve the much needed breakthrough and relief from this disease. May we all in one accord, in common bond united build and protect our nation together. God bless Kenya.