Pain and brutality as police enforce Nairobi city curfew
Nyaboga Kiage @NyabogaKiage
Thousands of Nairobians endured hours in traffic on Saturday with some spending the night in the cold after police ruthlessly enforced curfew orders.
And the pain is likely to continue after the government maintained Kenyans do not have option but to ensure they observe the Ministry of Health protocols and that police officers will be deployed to block the roads in an operation that is not ending anytime soon.
In what started on Saturday night, thousands of motorists in the city were caught unawares when police officers concurrently barricaded major roads a few minutes past 8pm.
The surprise moves that left thousands stuck in traffic for up to five hours has never happened since President Uhuru Kenyatta introduced 8pm to 10am curfew hours in the counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Nakuru, Kiambu and Machakos, due to a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths.
Officers drawn from the General Service Unit and Kenya Police put up roadblocks at Kayole Junction, Wilson Airport, KWS to Galleria, Mwiki, Kasarani, Junction Mall, Shujaa Mall and at Coptic Hospital.
Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Nairobi Regional Police Commander James Kianda, in separate statements yesterday, said civilians did not have an option but to ensure they are at home by 8pm.
“I urge Kenyans to adhere to the Ministry of Health protocols. Police will strictly enforce night curfew hours,” said Mutyambai.
This was echoed by Oguna, who said observing the law was the only way the country will deal with effects of Covid-19.
“It is important that, as a people, we continue to observe the Covid-19 infection control and containment measures if we are to quickly flatten the infection curve and have our lives get back to normal.
Observing these measures include strictly respecting the curfew time, which starts at 8pm for the one zone and at 10pm for the rest of the country. Let this be a collective responsibility,” Oguna said.
What put Nairobi dwellers on the spot is a recent review and assessment conducted by the police on how many people are observing Government guidelines.
In a statement, Kianda, the Nairobi police boss, said that less than 50 per cent of Kenyans were complying with the curfew guidelines within the city.
“We also note with concern that there is willful violation of these protocols in estates, especially prohibition of large in-person gatherings and compliance with curfew restrictions and other health protocols,” he said.
Kianda asked Kenyans to work with the Government in ensuring they break the Covid-19 chain of transmission.
He further said inasmuch as the rules may appear stringent, they were aimed at ensuring no more lives are lost.
According to him, the Saturday night traffic snarl-up on Thika Road was occasioned by officers, who were out on orders to strictly enforce curfew restrictions. He said the police service acknowledges the inconvenience the traffic might have caused to road users.
“Going forward, our traffic management will be reviewed and enhanced to facilitate smooth transition into curfew hours.
We are also fully alive to the fact that there are construction works on major roads within the metropolis, and we urge wananchi to plan their movements accordingly with a view to beating the curfew hours,” he said.
Kenyans did not like how the officers caught them by surprise after they barricaded the roads- and in the midst of the confusion that caused a public uproar were patients in ambulances and private cars, essential service providers who include; health workers, licensed media houses employees, top State officials, security personnel, Kenya Revenue Authority officials, Kenya Civil Aviation officials, officials from the Kenya Airport Authority, among others.
Motorists who tried to negotiate their way out of the traffic snarl-up were told by the officers manning the roadblocks to wait until 4am before they could proceed to their destinations.
Police officers and commanders of the various roadblocks when cornered could tell the motorists that they were working “under orders from above and there is nothing they could do to make the situation better.”
Such an incident is when Jane Mugo, a city-based private crime investigator, confronted officers on Thika road as an ambulance wailed from a distance.
In an amateur video, which she took, Mugo confronted the officers, as she demanded to know who was the commander of a roadblock that had been mounted on Thika Super Highway.
She claimed that a heavily pregnant woman was among those who were held up in the traffic and was in a bad state of health.
A couple that was rushing a sick toddler to hospital was also caught up in the traffic-snarl-up, an incident that continues to attract a public outcry.
According to the father of the baby, they were headed to Getrude’s Hospital with his wife, as the baby was unwell but ended up staying in the traffic for more than two hours.