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What it means to have a night curfew

By Reuben Mwambingu
Friday, March 27th, 2020
Kenya Defence Forces patrol Boni Forest in Lamu County during a past dusk to dawn curfew. Photo/PD/Photo Courtesy

Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu

While the announcement of dusk-to-dawn curfew by President Uhuru Kenyatta as part of government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic may appear strange to a number of Kenyans, the few who have experienced night time movement restriction have a warning to the rest.

Edward Wanje, a Coast-based movie producer who once found himself in a curfew zone, says the directive will result in “non-stop torture”.

Wanje says he was working on a documentary on a fresh water project by an Irish organisation in Tana River in 2012 when the Tana Delta clashes erupted.

This was quickly followed by a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the then President Kibaki after 112 people were killed within weeks of clashes.

“Curfew is such bad experience. Those tasked to implement a curfew are people who mean business, they don’t joke.

They walk around with pipes and clubs whipping people regardless of their age, social status or even ranks,” says Wanje, adding:  “Not once or twice I have found myself in the midst of sustained whipping by the mean military men.”

He says during the curfew the military and policemen would begin patrols from 7pm to 5am where the entire neighbourhood goes into a chilling pin drop silence.

“During that time there was nothing like critical or essential services and therefore anybody found outside would not escape a thorough beating.

An Administration Police and his Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) counterpart who were found loitering from a drinking spree were also in the mix as they were handed a thorough beating.

During a curfew the officers beat people as if they are not human beings,” Wanje says.

Abidan Mkombola, a retired civil servant recalls they were conducting a household budget survey in Lamu County after Mpeketoni attack in 2014 when a dusk-to-dawn curfew was announced and they encountered a rough time.

“We were sleeping in a guest house but it was not a self contained facility, the lavatories were outside and so whenever you wanted to answer a call of nature or take a shower you had to go outside.

But this would not be possible during the curfew time because it was very risky.

One day I had a stomach upset and had to endure the pain till morning without sleep,” he recalls, “After I saw the military men torturing my boss and District Officer the previous day, I was very afraid of encountering the torture.”

Mkombola recalls how GSU and military officers bullied his boss forcing him to swim in the murk of stagnant water for almost 20 minutes in Mpeketoni.

It is almost a similar experience for Mathew Kingi, who says he was once forced to swallow his medication with stagnant water despite explaining to the officers that he was experiencing a diarrhea and he had gone to get medication from a nearby facility.

“Whenever I recall the nasty experience, I hate the word curfew. Just the mention of it sends jitters in me,” says Kingi.

Jeffa Kahindi, a Kilifi resident, recalls how a curfew condemned his childhood friend into a wheelchair permanently.

According to Kahindi, they were at a place called Msabaha and they were returning home from a local shopping centre where they had gone to watch a World Cup match between Ivory Coast and Japan when they encountered KDF on patrol.

 “We tried to run but that friend of mine was behind and he was kicked on the waist…

We returned the following morning to collect him and rush him to hospital. He was admitted and later returned home on a wheel chair and that has been his way of life until today,” he recalls.

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