Friday, October 23, 2020

Nine weeks of bloodshed: how brutal policing of Kenya's Covid curfew left 15 dead

Police officers force passengers to lie face down after firing tear gas when crowds trying to beat the curfew gathered at the Likoni ferry terminal in Mombasa, Kenya, 27 March, 2020. Photograph: AP

John-Allan Namu, Tess Riley
The Guardian

A nervous energy filled downtown Mombasa on the afternoon of 27 March. It was the first day of Kenya’s dusk-to-dawn curfew to curb the spread of Covid-19, and baton-wielding police were patrolling the streets of the coastal city as people rushed to get home. Confrontation was expected. Kenya’s police have a reputation for being heavy-handed even without the excuse of enforcing a nationwide curfew. But no one anticipated the brutality that was about to take place.

The centre of the violence was the Likoni ferry terminal. Huge crowds had built up as commuters tried to get on ferries which were running at lower capacity due to new social distancing rules. Suddenly, hordes of police officers in riot gear appeared. They threw teargas into the crowds, lashing out at innocent men, women and children and forcing them to the ground. Dozens were made to lie on top of one another while others sat choking, vomiting and rubbing their burning eyes.

In the following months, police unleashed a torrent of violence on Kenya. At least 15 people were killed by officers during the first nine weeks of curfew alone, according to Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA). At least six additional deaths are also being investigated by the IPOA, as well as allegations of shootings, robbery, harassment and sexual assault by police officers.

Amnesty International Kenya said that the Covid-19 pandemic provided “the perfect storm for indiscriminate mass violence” by the police.  Read more >>