Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday it had confirmed that at least six people died from police violence during the first 10 days of Kenya’s dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on March 27, 2020, to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“It is shocking that people are losing their lives and livelihoods while supposedly being protected from infection,” said Otsieno Namwaya, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Police brutality isn’t just unlawful; it is also counterproductive in fighting the spread of the virus.”
The Human rights organization said the police did not have any justification when it began beating, teargassing and shooting civilians beginning March 27, two days after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew starting that day.
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President Kenyatta apologized on March 30 following widespread criticisms about police brutality in Mombasa. But the excessive use of force continued for at least another week.
For instance, on March 31, at around midnight in the Kiamaiko neighborhood, in Nairobi’s Eastlands area, the police shot live ammunition at Yassin Hussein Moyo, 13, hitting him in the stomach and killing him, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.
His father, Hussein Moyo, told the Kenyan media that his son was standing on the third-floor balcony at midnight alongside his siblings when the bullet struck him.
The excessive use of force by the police was used elsewhere, including in Busia and Kakamega counties, in western Kenya, where the police beat, shot at and killed people. And in Kakamega county, at around midday on April 1, police enforcing a ban on the open-air market arrived in trucks at the market in Mumias and began beating, kicking, and shooting at traders. Three traders at the market told Human Rights Watch that Idris Mukolwe, a 45-year-old tomato vendor, died from being hit with a teargas canister police threw at him.
Human Rights Watch said between March 29 and April 14, it conducted phone interviews with 26 witnesses, relatives, and victims of abuses related to the curfew in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale, Busia, Kakamega, Mandera, and Homa Bay counties. They all revealed severe police abuses in these communities.
“Kenyan authorities should ensure that the police do not use excessive force and that the curfew is carried out legally to benefit Kenyans,” Namwaya said. “The Kenyan authorities should follow through on promises to investigate the killings and abuses and hold those responsible to account.”