Wave of Violence as Kenyan Police Enforces Dusk-to-Dawn Curfew

Street in Mombasa, Kenya
Mombasa, Kenya. Photo: Mostphotos.

Since the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, the Kenyan government has introduced a series of measures to curb its spread in the country, including banning all public and social gatherings and introducing a dusk-to dawn curfew. The enforcement of the curfew has led to serious human rights violations and the number of deaths related to curfew enforcement exceeded the official coronavirus death toll within just a few days.

The dusk-to-dawn curfew announcement was made only days after Kenya recorded its first COVID-19 related death. The guidelines state that police officers are allowed to use “proportionate force when non-violent means are inadequate to achieve the objectives of the curfew”.  

Deadly Violence and Widespread Impunity 

Beginning on the first day of curfew, people trying to return to their homes were already beaten and assaulted, according to reports by our Kenyan partner organisation Defenders Coalition. Since then, police beatings have continued to emerge and the vast majority of the violations are met with impunity.  

 “Officers who commit such offences are protected by the state through transfers to remote areas as ‘punishment’ or elimination of witnesses and victims of such cases. Human rights defenders who denounce such excesses are always a target by police officers,” said Defenders Coalition in a recent situation update.  

On 30 March, a 13-year-old boy was shot dead by the police while standing on his balcony as police forced people into their homes. In Mombasa, police officers were caught on film as they beat and assaulted people waiting in line for a passenger ferry. Even though two hours remained until curfew, tear gas was fired into the crowd.   

The restrictions on movement have been particularly hard on pregnant women in need of maternal healthcare. Due to fear of police brutality, many do not dare to seek necessary medical attention during curfew hours. One man was beaten to death by police officers as he attempted to accompany a woman to a healthcare centre for delivery.  

The Media – A “Critical Player” 

According to the Defenders Coalition, the media has been a critical player in covering human rights abuses amid the coronavirus spread in Kenya. Journalists are continuously providing information to hold the perpetrators accountable. But a number of journalists have been assaulted in the line of duty. 

Among the victims of the passenger ferry attack were journalists trying to report on the situation. On the same day, a journalist from one of Kenya’s leading media houses was assaulted by police officers while doing his job. Additionally, two bloggers have been arrested and charged on grounds of sharing “alarming” posts on social media.  

Kenyan human rights defenders, journalists, and others working to promote and protect fundamental rights have long been a target for reprisals, threats, and intimidation. But with the police violence becoming more acceptable to many, the situation has severely worsened while few are held accountable.  

We Are Watching 

Civil Rights Defenders reminds the Kenyan government that the fight against the coronavirus spread is not an excuse to commit grave human rights violations. The government should immediately take actions to ensure that its police force refrain from using excessive force. The government should furthermore ensure the safety and security of journalists reporting on the situation and remember that journalists and media houses have been declared essential by the Kenyan Ministry of Interior. 

Together with our Kenyan partner organisations, we will continue to monitor the situation and call out human rights violations as they occur. 

Download the situation update compiled by the Defenders Coalition here

We Are Watching.

Authoritarian governments must not use the corona pandemic as an excuse to repress human rights or silence critical voices. We are watching you. We will call out human rights violations and hold you accountable. Keep track of the world with us here.

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