By Khalifa Hemed
Published May 31, 2023

Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, says Kenya should urgently and thoroughly investigate police abuse during recent protests, including the failure to protect demonstrators from attacks by others.Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Kenya have called on Kenya of failing to hold police officers to account for killing and attacking people during political protest by Opposition leader Raila Odinga across Kenya.

“Kenyan authorities should stop glossing over the abuse of protesters by the police and other acts of violence,” said Mausi Segun, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “They should urgently and thoroughly investigate police abuse during recent protests, including the failure to protect demonstrators from attacks by others.”

RELATED: End Police Brutality and Ban on Public Rallies and Live Media Broadcasts in Kenya

On March 9, 2023 Raila Odinga of Azimio coalition called on President William Ruto’s government to address the high cost of living and alleged fraud in the August 2022 elections. The first protests began on March 20, 2023, with Odinga announcing further bi-weekly demonstrations.

Between April 7 and 17, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Kenya interviewed 115 witnesses and victims of police violence during protests in Nairobi and the towns of Kisumu, Migori, and Homa Bay. The organizations reported that the authorities deployed riot police who repeatedly attacked people or otherwise used excessive and unnecessary force, including lethal force, to suppress the protest on March 20, 27, and 30.

RELATED: Your Art, Unless it Can Save the World from Self-Destruction, is Useless!

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Kenya corroborated 12 killings in interviews with family members and witnesses. While some of the victims were involved in the protest, most of the 12, according to the witnesses interviewed, were bystanders, passersby, or people in their homes and business premises. In a few instances in Kisumu and Nairobi, multiple sources said that police fired live bullets in residential areas and inside classrooms in schools and colleges.

In one case, relatives of Elijah Okumu, 26, said the police shot him during the protests on March 27 as he was closing his shop in Dandora neighborhood, Nairobi. Relatives rushed Okumu to Mama Lucy Hospital in eastern Nairobi and later transferred him to Kenyatta National Hospital, where he died from his injuries.

A relative said the family reported the killing to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority but that as far they have been able to determine, there has been no investigation of the killing.

RELATED: Protesters’ Use of Pigs, Vultures and Death Put Police in a Dilemma

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty Kenya also documented about 30 cases of gunshot injuries in Kisumu and Nairobi.

In one case, the police arrested, beat, and shot a secondary school student, Brian Carlos Oduor, in Korumba in the Riat neighborhood of Kisumu on March 30, on suspicion that he was a protester. Oduor and witnesses who spoke to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Kenya said that at the time of his arrest he was carrying a gas cylinder, which he told police officers he was going to refill.

The officers threw him out of their Land Cruiser vehicle and had begun kicking him when a gunshot went off, and Oduor realized he had been shot in his lower left arm. The police officers then fled, leaving Oduor injured and alone. He received first aid from passersby, who rushed him to a hospital for treatment.

RELATED: First Terrestrial Data Superhighway Between Kenya and South Africa Launched

Researchers also documented a brutal police crackdown on journalists from various media outlets who were covering the March 30 protests on Outering Road near the Pipeline estate in Nairobi. The journalists said the police tried to prevent them from live streaming the protest and used water cannons to destroy cameras, harassed some journalists, and forced others to delete footage. The journalists said they felt targeted, frightened, and unable to help people who were injured.

Police also fired tear gas into residential neighborhoods including people’s homes and schools, which affected people’s health and led to the death of at least two children, witnesses said. Joyce Kemunto, 39, said she lost her 4-month-old daughter after police shot tear gas in Kibera, Nairobi on March 30.

“When the tear gas was thrown, some of the canisters landed on the roof and the smoke came inside where my 4-month-old baby, Precious, was,” she said. “My baby started crying. I took a cloth and water and began wiping her face alongside my other children … There was nowhere to go outside because tear gas was being thrown everywhere. So, we stayed inside, and the baby cried until she stopped breastfeeding.” She said that the baby’s condition worsened, and she started bleeding from her nose, and died on the way to a hospital.

Similarly, 31-year-old Jackline Moraa from Kibera, Nairobi lost her youngest son on April 4, following exposure to tear gas after police threw tear gas into their neighborhood on March 30. She said doctors at Mbagathi Hospital suspected that the tear gas had affected his chest, leading to breathing difficulties.

RELATED: Why Popular Novel is No Pop Literature

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Kenya found that some individuals committed grave acts of violence during the protests, including theft, looting, and attempted rapes and caused grievous bodily harm. While the media have reported some arrests, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Kenya found that police failed to intervene to stop the violence or to investigate in some cases.

Ali Said, 17, said he was attacked by a group of protesters with crude weapons in Kaloleni, Kisumu on March 27. Said said the protesters beat him severely and cut his stomach with a knife. He was later rescued by a [motorcycle] rider, who rushed him to the hospital. He reported the attack to the police, but said he was not aware of any police actions or investigations into his case.