New police unit shouldn't terrorise Kenyans, says civil society
Twenty-two civil society groups have said that a special police unit to enforce Covid-19 measures should not be used to terrorise Kenyans.
Citing past violations by security agents enforcing the curfew, the Constitution and Reform Education consortium (Creco), an umbrella association of 22 civil societies that champion democracy, governance, legal and human rights, urged vigilance to prevent the new unit from going rogue.
“Government officials have used the measures disingenuously to violate human rights and silence critical voices,” said Joshua Changwony, the acting executive secretary of Creco.
On Wednesday, President Kenyatta announced formation of a Special Enforcement Unit to ensure compliance with health protocols imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus, including wearing face masks, a ban on political gatherings, social distancing in public places among others.
The unit, which will patrol the counties will be constituted by the ministry of Interior constitutes and will draw membership from the national police service, national government administration officers and county government inspectorate units.
Mr Changwony said while the measures announced by the president were proportionate and justified to protect lives, authorities should not exploit them to undermine human rights.
He disclosed since May, Creco has been monitoring human rights violations in 10 Covid-19 hotspot counties.
This was done with a view of aiding both county and national policy responses to Covid-19 emergency while adapting human rights-based approaches.
Creco urged the government to improve on enforcement of the instituted measures.
“On police response to civilians, there is a need for police to be trained on a human rights based approach to policing so that they are able to enforce the law with an appreciation that citizens have rights and those rights are protected by the law.”
Mr Changwony said police activities should be monitored continuously to discourage human rights violations.
The groups said Council of Governors chairperson Wycliffe Oparanya’s admission that increased infections have strained county health facilities is painful to the taxpayers.
“It indicates that a number of counties are running on full capacity in their isolation centres, Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and High Dependency Units (HDUs); and that county government health facilities can no longer admit new patients, “said Mr Changwony.
He added that President Uhuru Kenyatta should give a full account of the social and economic impact of Covid-19 in the country and authorities to provide access to information on measures to combat the pandemic.
“We strongly believe that if citizens are well armed with information and knowledge; they will own the implementation and practice of the protocols and measures instituted by the government.”
He said the pandemic has ruined people’s livelihoods and some Kenyans cannot afford masks, soap, water and food which is a violation of their right to basic needs.
“The President forgot completely about these people in our society- meaning the vicious cycle of resurgence of the pandemic.”
He criticised President Kenyatta for not updating Kenyans on anti-corruption measures to protect public resources.