Demonstrators took to the streets of Mathare, one of the largest “slum” areas of Nairobi, to voice their concerns against police violence during the COVID19 situation, amid the enforcement of nightly curfews.
“At least 15 people have been killed by police, and 31 people injured since the curfew was imposed, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) said last week”
However, the figure is likely to be much higher as many extra-judicial killings go unreported. Even before COVID19, the Police Oversight Authority had many cases of police killings on its hands with little cooperation from the government in seeking justice. Killings tlike this ake place not only in Nairobi, but also in Mombasa, Kenya’s 2nd largest city, where police often justify their actions by saying they are routing out Al Shabab terrorists. One strategy of police there has been to offer amnesty to young people supposedly affiliated with Al Shabab and then kill them anyway.
In this demonstration, people were showing solidarity with the global protests against police violence after the Floyd killing in the US.
“The poor people of Mathare stand in solidarity with the poor people of America, the black people of America. We want them to know that this struggle is one,” said Juliet Wanjira, 25, the co-founder of Mathare Social Justice Centre. While the global protests have localised contexts, Wanjira sees a common theme. “This is a poor people’s struggle,” she said. “Poor people are [treated as] criminals and not given dignity.”
So far Kenya has had 88 deaths, in a population of 53 million, due to COVID19, so it is possible that nearly as many have died from police violence as the virus. Another tragedy of the collateral damage from the lockdown strategy, that Kenya continues to impose almost three months later.