Kenyans from all walks of life on Tuesday held protests in various parts of Nairobi to demand an end to police brutality in the country. They also marched in solidarity with protestors worldwide, who have championed for #BlackLivesMatter.
Outside Kenyan Parliament, marchers donned face masks emblazoned with the names of some of the victims of police brutality in the country’s low-income areas and demanded an end to police killings.
Similar protests were also held in various informal settlements of Nairobi, as well as outside the US Embassy.
Tears of pain, outside the Kenyan Parliament, mothers, widows and relatives of victims of police brutality demand justice for their kin.
Esther Wambui says six ago, her 20-year old son and his wife disappeared at the hands of the police in one of Nairobi’s informal settlements. It’s been six years of despair and unanswered questions on their whereabouts.
Esther Wambui says “I am here to protest because the police killed my son and I have never seen his body. I am in a lot of pain because police continue to kill young people not just my son, many young people in poor neighbourhoods.”
These stories of death at the hands of the police or enforced disappearances of young men in the country’s poor neighbourhoods are not new and neither is their demand for justice against the officers, who have carried out the killings.
Steven Mwangi from Mathare Social Justice Centre says, “The police kill the young men with impunity, they threaten that they are going to shoot us, shoot us and post our bodies online nothing is done about it. We are here to petition to look into this matter. If they do not, we will take the matter into our own hands.”
— Sarah Kimani (@sarahkimani) June 9, 2020
Donning face masks with the names of some of the victims of police killings — they carried two caskets shoulder-high — symbolic of the lives they say have been lost at the hands of police — waving placards — they chanted slogans demanding an end to extrajudicial killings which they say are common once darkness sets in.
They petitioned parliament for action against those who have carried out the killings.
MP Anthony Oluoch says “Down with police brutality, the lives of …we are giving them 24 hours,…takes appropriate action… standing orders.”
A report released by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) – the country’s police watchdog – indicates that police in Kenya have killed at least 15 people and injured 31 others while enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew and other measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Several kilometres from there, another march against police brutality. This time – the marchers stood outside the US embassy in Kenya – protesting against the murder of George Floyd and the unfair targeting of black people by the police. Not lost on them the situation in Kenya – the US government is among the top funders of IPOA.
Organiser Njeri Migwi says, “We want to see a police service, we want to see reformed police, police that care enough for people a change in attitude. that is sanctioned state murder.”
In April, Human Rights Watch accused the Kenyan police of imposing the nationwide curfew in a chaotic and violent manner.
In the same month, President Uhuru Kenyatta apologised for the police violence and just last week interior minister Dr. Fred Matiang’i promised action against what he termed police excesses. It, however, remains to be seen if indeed any officers will be brought to book for these latest killings.