Nairobi — The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has condemned cases of police brutality witnessed on Friday night, on the first day of state curfew ordered to stop the spread of coronavirus.
In a statement, the state-sponsored body said police must respect the rule of law, saying the Bill of Rights has not been suspended because of the pandemic that has claimed one life in the country and infected 30 people.
KNCHR Chief Executive Officer Dr. Bernard Mogesa called on Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to fast-track the issuance of guidelines on how to enforce the dusk to dawn curfew, without infringing on people's rights.
"It is pitiable and 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 unharmed Kenyans," he said.
He further called for immediate investigations and prosecution of officers who blatantly violated human rights on Friday night, but has also urged employers to ensure their staff has ample time to leave work so that they can adhere to the curfew time.
Hundreds of pedestrians and motorists were whipped by police officers for violating the curfew that starts at 7pm to 5am.
Mogesa pointed out that; "the respect for human rights, Rule of Law and Access to Justice are critical and essential in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. All actors both State and non- State actors are hence bound by the tenets of our Constitution and the various regional and international human rights instruments which Kenya is a signatory."
They have challenged Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to issue clear guidelines on how the curfew should be enforced.
"These guidelines should call on all law enforcement officers to abide by the law and the Service Standing Orders in the arrests and handling of arrested persons. Further, the Inspector General to direct all officers to desist and avoid situations of compromise, unwarranted deprivation of the right to security and liberty of the person, harassment and extortion of Kenyans," reads the KNCHR statement.
Their sentiments were echoed by Amnesty International-Kenya and politicians, who asked police to treat a populating already facing a myriad of challenges with dignity.
"Kenyans are already economically distressed & now terrified of COVID-19. They need help & guidance. Enforcement of the curfew does not mean terror & brutality to the mwanainchi. Treat the citizenry with civility," Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi said in a tweet.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho condemned the incident, terming it "uncalled for and inappropriate".
"Those using the Likoni crossing channel are our fellow human beings. Why subject them to such atrocities?", he wondered.
Mvita Member of Parliament Abduswamad Nassir too condemned the brutality.
"I have spoken to the IG and DPP and we want action taken. This must stop," he said, adding that at least 50 people were injured, some of them seriously.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang said, "Police brutality witnessed this (Friday) evening across the country is unacceptable. Police must not appear to confuse Wanainchi for Coronavirus. Even as we urge Kenyans to adhere to the directives and guidelines issued by the government, rule of law and common sense must prevail at all times."
Journalists, food vendors, and security guards were not spared the wrath of police officers, despite some of the having been categorised as working in the essential services sector.
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.
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.
A Mombasa based NTV journalist was assaulted by a police officer while covering chaotic scenes at the Likoni Ferry channel.
"Journalists must be allowed to serve the public," Editors Guild president Churchill Otieno said in a statement, while calling on the IG of police to ensure action is taken against officers who infringed on the law.
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.