‘The virus didn’t kill him’: Police brutality during Kenya’s curfew

By Patricia Martinez

Nairobi, May 13 (efe-epa).- Vitallis Ochilo Owino was allegedly the latest victim of police violence in Kenya.

The country has been under a nightly curfew since 27 March in a bid to help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

With just over 700 confirmed Covid-19 cases, the main concern for many Kenyans during the pandemic is not the virus itself.

At least 16 people have died during police incidents since the restrictions were imposed, according to human rights groups.

Activist Wilfred Olal told Efe: “These are only the cases that we have verified, but we know that there are many more.

“We have lost count. The arrests occur daily, as well as the beatings at night.

“There are still people in hospitals or recovering at home from their injuries.”

The biggest issues for Kenyans are police brutality, lack of medical services and poverty, according to a 2018 study by Amnesty International.

Most people in Africa would run out of money in 12 days and have no food after 10 days if a complete lockdown was imposed, according to a report from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Owino, a 39-year-old welder and father of four, was on his way to his home in Nairobi’s Mathare slum half an hour after curfew on 3 May when he was apprehended by two police officers.

His wife Esther Achieng said he gave her some money before leaving their home for the final time so that she could start a business selling mandazis, a kind of fried bun, after she lost her job as a domestic worker due to the pandemic.

“He was the one who put the bread on the table. He always took care of his family and his four children,” she said.

“He always brought something (to eat).

“Now we don’t even know how we are going to be able to bury him.”

Community leader Jakton O. Adupa told Efe: “They beat him to death. They met him on the other side of the street and Owino ended up on the ground. No one stopped the beating.”

Owino’s body was left on the ground all night.

The next morning hundreds of people took to the streets in protest, shouting: “The coronavirus didn’t kill him.”

One of the protesters, who did not want to be identified, said: “We want to know (what happened). We want justice. Or does Mathare not deserve justice?

“This person had a family, a wife and children. Those children are going to be orphans from today. We want justice to be served.”

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