Who holds the state accountable when they illegally repress the citizens’ right to picket and demonstrate?

Elections are a thorny issue. The credibility of this election is a matter of great controversy and those protesting the results of the election have chosen to take the streets and express themselves because it is their constitutional right.

In Eric Wainaina’s song, ‘Revolution time’, he asks, “How can you play when the ground is uneven? When the rules are made behind your back? When the judge, the jury and the referee are the only beneficiaries. It’s the law of the jungle in the city, when the cries of the poor meet no pity.” From the events of this election, it’s clear who the state values and the lives of the people in Siaya, Kisumu, Mathare, Kibera, Mathare, Kawangare, LuckySummer and Baba Dogo are disposable. Major TV stations made it clear when they chose to broadcast people celebrating the news  of the president elect and ignored the maiming of Kenyans by the police in some areas for hours on end.

Who holds the police accountable? Is it the toothless IPOA or an already compromised judiciary? Is it a minister for defence who is paid to protect certain lives and not others? The police and the armed forces are on record for being brutal. This according to the TJRC report vol 1. Their violations of human rights are almost always covered up by the government. It is the reason Matiang’i feigned ignorance of police using live bullets on demonstaters when a total of 24 lives had been lost between 8th – 12 the August. This is according to information from the Kenya National Human Rights Commission.

As at 12th August, the breakdown was as follows

  • Nairobi City -17
  • Homabay – 2
  • Kisumu – 1
  • Migori – 1
  • Siaya – 1

The stories pouring in from some parts of the country are heartbreaking. The police arbitrarily breaking into people’s homes and indiscriminately shooting at crowds. Looting of property is unlawful but the police do not have the right to kill.

The problem of police brutality is not something that manifests itself only during a general election. It’s a running theme especially in low income areas. In an article on theelephant, shooting of young, poor men in the slums who are suspected of being thieves seems to quite legal in Kenya. The government, and by extension the police, often justify the shoot-to-kill policy by declaring it as an effective approach to curb crime in Mathare and other urban settlements, even if there is no evidence to substantiate such claims.

To quote Matiangi, it’s not peaceful demonstraters or picketers but criminal gangs on the street and they will be dealt with how criminals should be dealt with. So how then can you play when the ground is uneven? Even if the youth in Kibera, Mathare, Nyalenda and Kondele took to the streets holding fruit cake as a way of demonstration, they would’ve still been shot. The rules had already been made behind their backs.