BLM and its relevance in Kenya

*Marvel Lio*

There’s an ongoing black lives matter movement in the US that has been aroused by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. This movement is highly relevant in Kenya where our own police seem to be unbelievably unaware that, within Kenya, black lives matter.

Kenyan police using the only language they know – brutality

The BLM movement is relevant to Samuel Maina, a man who was brutally beaten by Kenyan police for being 13 minutes late past curfew. The movement is relevant to Yassin Moyo, a 13 year old child who was killed by a “stray” bullet on the balcony of his own home. It is relevant to Baby Samantha Pendo, a 6 month old baby who was beaten to death by police while being held by her mother.

The corona virus crisis has shone a light on the many systemic injustices that have been festering in this country for years. One of those injustices is the police brutality that has been an unending part of this country’s narrative.

It is time for change. Change that is, unfortunately, much too late for those who have already died. It is common for politicians to issue public apologies for the violence metered out by the police. What exactly does an apology accomplish?

Has it stopped the police harming Kenyans? Has it paid the medical bills of those who ended up in hospital? Has it paid for the funerals of those who died? Or provided compensation or comfort to the families of those affected?

In 2019, there were over 3,200 cases of police abuse recorded. Since 2013, over 10,000 cases of police brutality were reported to Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA). Only 8 cases are currently listed on the IPOA website as having led to a conviction.

The covid pandemic has brought with it a new wave of violence from this institution. Even essential workers are not being spared. Medical personnel have not been spared the bullet or police beatings. These are individuals who have to be on the front line, working late hours and delivering necessities to Kenyan cities. Yet they are not being given a chance to explain why they are outside after hours.

If the job of the police is to ensure no one is outside after curfew, then how do beatings and shootings achieve that goal? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to escort people home? Or to ensure citizens are maintaining adequate distance as they travel home? Beatings actually do the opposite of the stated goals. They encourage people to huddle together and force them to seek people to give them medical attention.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we begin protesting during a pandemic. Even now the US is seeing a spike of covid cases as a result of their protests. But the people of Kenya deserve dignity and to feel secure in their own country.
The simple truth is that those in power are not directly affected by this. They can let it happen because it is not their children who suffer. It is up to the people of Kenya to stand up for themselves and fight for systemic change.

And we need to do it now, before it is too late for someone else.

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