Kenya: Night of Terror As Police Whip Kenyans On Day 1 of State Curfew

Some of the ferry passengers who were cornered by police on day one of the curfew over the new coronavirus.

Nairobi — It all started with cries of women and children choking from teargas lobbed on them by police officers a few meters from Likoni ferry where they were queuing to cross over to the mainland.

That was 5 pm, 2 hours to the dusk to dawn curfew that was declared by President Uhuru Kenyatta, and gazetted by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi.

Worried that they may be locked on the island, hundreds tried to force their way past the queue to board the ferry, only to be met by an overzealous contingent of police officers who whipped them.

They also lobbed teargas before ordering them to lie on the ground, where many of them were whipped.

Journalists were not spared either. In a video that went viral on social media, a police officer is seen kicking an NTV cameraman and other helpless women.

While social distancing is one of the Government's directive as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), what was meted on the citizens in most parts of the country on Friday night is the total opposite of it.

"It is despicable to watch the video clips of uniformed law enforcement officers, who are deemed to be custodians of law and order, incessantly bludgeoning innocent and unarmed Kenyans, especially in Mombasa, at the entrance of the Kenya Ferry Services and other parts of the country. Indeed, the enforcement of the Covid-19 pandemic curfew directives should not be a ticket to unleash terror," Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Chief Executive Officer Bernard Mogesa said in a statement.

So chaotic was the situation in Mombasa that Coast Police chief Rashid Yaqub had to extend the curfew to 8.30 pm due to the slow services at the Likoni Ferry channel.

A video has also emerged of a truck driver who was whipped as he tried to explain to police officers that he was driving to the nearest fuel station to park and sleep in the vehicle.

In the capital Nairobi, it turned out to be a black Friday for stranded pedestrians who were found at bus terminus or walking home.

Panic gripped city residents who started leaving their workplaces by 5 pm. There was heavy traffic on city exits, with some motorists opting to use the wrong side of the road just to get home early.

This followed a warning by Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai that people should be home by 7pm, apart of those categorised on essential sectors like security, health among others.

It was all chaotic.

There were long queues at the bus terminus, with only few matatus available. But there was another challenge, matatus can only carry few passengers due to social distancing directive and by 7 pm, many more were still waiting for matatus, before they opted to walk home only to meet the wrath of police officers.

On Tom Mboya Street, teargas was lobbed on passengers waiting for vehicles.

"The gusto, attitude, and zeal in which the law enforcement officers were seen harassing and beating innocent members of the public; that included vulnerable persons like women, defeated the solemnity in which they need to handle the mitigating measures of spreading COVID 19. Equally critical actors such as journalists and other essential service providers like drivers of food supplies were not spared in this sheer brutality," the KNHCR statement said in condemning the incidents.

Motorists were not spared either, as some were whipped as they tried to explain why they were late to get home.

On Jogoo Road, Mombasa Road, Waiyaki Way, Thika Road and in the informal settlements, the situation was the same-of people whipped whenever they were found outside.

But there was the brighter side of it. In Kapsabet, a police officer was seen calming residents who had arrived late. As opposed to what was witnessed in Nairobi and Mombasa, a senior police officer was seen explaining to passengers why they should obey the curfew before they were allowed to go home. The officer even offered them sanitiser to clean their hands.

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