Nairobi, Kenya, Jun 8 – More than 300 protesters marched in Nairobi’s informal settlements Monday, to protest the killing of 15 people they said were shot dead by police officers implementing a nationwide curfew during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The protesters comprised family and friends of the deceased, who were killed in Mathare, Huruma and other parts of the city and across the country.
The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) last week released a detailed report showing that 15 were killed during the curfew.
“After preliminary investigations, 15 deaths and 31 incidents where victims sustained injuries have directly been linked to actions of police officers during the curfew enforcement,” IPOA Chairperson Anne Makori said, in a statement.
And on Monday, organisations fighting for social justice joined forces for a march, choosing to visit some of the scenes in the informal settlements where victims were shot by police.
Joined by relatives, including mothers or siblings of the deceased, the protesters chanted slogans of “Stop Police Brutality” and waved placards urging police to stop the killings.
“Down down police killings….down,” went the chant from the largely youthful crowd, that called for justice.
In one of the incidents, a 13-year-old boy named Yasin Moyo, said to have been playing on a balcony was shot dead by police implementing the curfew in Huruma.
“Life is priceless, stop police killings, we want justice now,” the protesters said.
The protests were largely attended by residents of Mathare, Kiamaiko, Huruma, and Kambi Moto informal settlements, while Kenyans of all walks including from Kilimani and Kileleshwa joined in, to show their solidarity.
“I am very proud of being here to support my brothers and sisters,” Osman Siddiqi, a Pakistani living in Nairobi told Capital FM News.
“What is disturbing is how certain practices manifest against certain communities a little bit more,” he said.
He had been joined by his friend Eugene Battochi who said, “we have seen police killing even a homeless man. We are here to exercise our constitutional right to gather and petition the state to stop the killings and return the dignity of the people of this country.”
Lewis Maganga, another protester, called for accountability, saying “we just want justice for Kenyans.”
Among the victims is a homeless man identified as Baite who was also shot dead in Huruma two weeks ago, at the height of the dusk to dawn curfew.
Baite had been spending nights out in the streets for a while and during the day, he would go to Nairobi’s Marikiti market for menial jobs.
“Baite and Yassin did not deserve to die,” Mary Wanjiku, a Mathare resident said.
Among the organizers of the protest was Benedict Buluma a coordinator of Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network, who said “we want justice.”
She said her son was killed in 2018 by police officers who were patrolling the area.
“They accuse our sons of being thieves. If they have committed any wrong, why can they just arrest them?” a teary Buluma posed.
Other cases include a tomato seller who died in western Kakamega after being hit by a teargas canister, and four men who were beaten to death in different parts of the country.
On Thursday, IPOA said six police officers would be arrested and prosecuted — one for Moyo’s death; another for shooting dead a secondary school teacher while responding to a burglary at a market in Siaya; and four others for seriously assaulting a man during an arrest.
In a recent interview with Capital FM News, Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) Executive Director Peter Kiama claimed that police brutality seems to have been institutionalized.
But Police Spokesman Charles Owino denies the allegations, vowing, “any death is always investigation and action taken. You cannot accuse the entire organisation. There is no police on extrajudicial killings.”
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi on Friday criticised police excesses, but “took exception to painting the entire service with the same brush”, his office said in a statement.
In recent days, cities around the world have seen massive protests against racism and police violence prompted by last month’s police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man in the US state of Minnesota.
Though Floyd’s killing has not led to major protests in Kenya, activists on social media have seized the moment to highlight the country’s own scourge of police brutality, which typically goes unpunished.
In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the police of imposing the coronavirus curfew in a “chaotic and violent manner from the start”, sometimes whipping, kicking and teargassing people to force them off the streets.