05.06.2020 Kenya

Kenyan police have killed 15 since start of virus curfew

A mural of George Floyd, whose US police killing has sparked worldwide protests against police brutality, in Nairobi's Kibera slum.  By Gordwin ODHIAMBO (AFP/File)
LISTEN JUN 5, 2020
A mural of George Floyd, whose US police killing has sparked worldwide protests against police brutality, in Nairobi's Kibera slum. By Gordwin ODHIAMBO (AFP/File)

Kenyan police have been involved in the killing of 15 people since the country put a nighttime curfew in place in March to combat the coronavirus, the policing oversight body said in a statement seen by AFP Friday.

The Independent Policing Oversight Body (IPOA) said it had received 87 complaints against police since the dusk to dawn curfew and heightened security measures were imposed on March 27.

"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," it said.

According to the statement, the complaints include deaths, shootings, harassment, assaults, robbery, inhumane treatment and sexual assault.

The IPOA statement was released earlier this week as the United States was gripped by anger over racism and police brutality that has prompted protests in the country and around the world.

The killing of George Floyd has not led to major protests in Kenya, with a solidarity march on Tuesday drawing only around 20 people.

However activists on social media have drawn parallels with Kenya's scourge of police brutality, which often goes unpunished.

Kenya's police force is often accused by rights groups of using excessive force and carrying out unlawful killings, especially in poor neighbourhoods.

In April Human Right Watch 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.

It described the case of 13-year-old 13-year-old Yassin Hussein Moyo who died in the capital Nairobi on March 31 after being shot while standing on his balcony as police forced people into their homes on the street below.

In others, a tomato seller died in western Kakamega after being hit by a teargas canister, while four men were beaten to death in different parts of the country.

In January, HRW said at least eight young men had been shot in three low-income neighbourhoods since Christmas, and a 2019 report detailed the killings of 21 young men and boys by police "apparently with no justification".

"Although many killings by the police have been well documented by both state institutions and rights organisations, the security officers have rarely been held to account, including by the police oversight authority," said HRW.

Interior Minister 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.

"We have challenges in our law enforcement, and we must all rise and start dealing with them collectively instead of creating a stigma around the police," Matiangi said.

According to the statement, the country's chief prosecutor Noordin Haji has formed a specialised unit to speedily handle cases of police violence, and is currently working on 171 cases of such brutality, 81 of which are in court.

On Thursday the IPOA announced six police officers would be arrested and prosecuted, one for the killing of Moyo, another for shooting dead a secondary school teacher while responding to a burglary at a market in western Siaya, and four others for seriously assaulting a man during an arrest.

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