Now is a crucial time to truly reflect, react and reform. As the Black Lives Matter movement sparked social media and action across America, Kenyans in the country took note. The first period of reflection reverberated in Nairobi, people noting that police brutality has been plaguing the country in overt and subtle manifestations that preserve the privileges of the upper class. Second came the reactions; protests took place all over Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, as allies and activists of the BLM movement gathered in solidarity against police brutality in Kenya. Lastly, and the hardest is reform. In Kenya, bringing attention to bureaucrats through social media is much more limited than it is in America, largely due to constraints of life quality, creating a perception that social reform is too far fetched…
Dating back to the British colonial era in Kenya, the police have been institutionalized and accustomed to harassing, exploiting and even abusing the public they are supposed to protect. The Public Order Act, enforced by the British, empowers law enforcement- such as the police- to arrest people for ‘loitering, vagrancy, and other vague offences,’ that essentially criminalize poverty. As the COVID-19 cases started to rise in Kenya, the Public Order Act was invoked to ensure a cessation of movement between counties, as well as a curfew from 7PM to 4AM. Once this started, police forces roughly attacked people out past curfew, and even killed people for not wearing a mask; including a 13- year- old boy named Yassin Moyo who was standing on his home balcony when a police officer shot him. In the backdrop of the BLM protests in America, a police watchdog authority in Kenya received close to 100 complaints.
As people worldwide are taking note of the power that social media has on influencing and changing policy decisions, Kenyan people have hopped on the bandwagon. A specific page on Instagram that documents all incidences of police brutality in Kenya, and is becoming incredibly popular for people to find posts, repost and share. Follow the page on: https://www.instagram.com/policebrutalityke/
Invoking the Public Order Act as the public health crisis began to take shape in Kenya led to a huge increase in police brutality without consequence, and additionally increased the stigma of coronavirus. This decision serves as evidence that the Kenyan government has put security services at the forefront of the fight against the spread of coronavirus, and health institutions will suffer greatly. Not only will the health institutions face the brunt of the pandemic as hospitals quickly exceed capacity, but also the lower- class families and communities are even more vulnerable with police in power. The impoverished populations are the ones being detained and arrested after curfew, while people who belong to the upper class have even been able to buy passes to stay out past curfew. The disparity is shocking, further alluding to the point that the entire system needs reform beyond just police budget cuts.
This moment of global scrutiny provides a moment for reflection, reaction and reform. It is high time for governing systems worldwide to reevaluate laws and policies that originate on a system of colonial oppression. Racist and classist policing in postcolonial settings, like in Kenya, stem from an incomplete detachment from colonisation that is overdue.
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