County police boss planned ferry violence, must resign

Mombasa County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo premeditated and planned police violence against locals at Likoni channel, which occurred March 27, 2020, Okoa Mombasa has said.

The coalition is demanding Kitiyo’s resignation, an immediate probe by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) into the commissioner’s conduct, and prosecution.

“On Monday 23, 2020, Kitiyo said: ‘Watu ambao hawataskia, polisi watawachapa,’ loosely translates to: ‘Police will assault those defying orders’,” the coalition said at a press conference at MUHURI’s legal-aid clinic, Mombasa, on March 29, 2020.

Kitiyo, the coalition said, revealed police plans while addressing the government’s options to stop Covid-19 spread, and the attention was at the Likoni channel, where at least 350,000 people pass daily.

Kitiyo remarked at a meeting by Mombasa County Emergency Response Committee on coronavirus, which took place at Governor Hassan Joho’s office, the coalition said.

MUHURI Rapid Response Officer Francis Auma, also an Okoa Mombasa member, attended the meeting and heard Kitiyo issuing these threats, attempted to restrain him without success.

“I told him you cannot beat people; it is wrong. Instead, I called for a diplomatic approach,” Auma said.

Kitiyo had laid bare police’s ulterior plans before a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew, which President Uhuru Kenyatta, uninformedly, said will stop the spread of coronavirus.

“Kitiyo’s threat would later turn to be a well-coordinated attack by police against thousands of innocent civilians,” Abubabakar Zein, a member of the coalition and MUHURI Executive Director, said.

Police fired tear gas at a crowd of ferry commuters in Likoni channel. MUHURI Officers witnessed police using guns, wooden batons, boots, fists, and whips to assault commuters, who were in thousands.

Police replicated this violence across the country as the government imposed the curfew amid efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which has resulted in at least 28,000 deaths globally, and one in Kenya.

Police justified the brutality they meted out on ferry users.

Spokesperson Charles Owino said police have the right to use their batons if they are provoked — there are no signs locals provoked cops at the channel.

Zein said ferry violence appeared to have one center of command, as all cops went on the rampage.

“It was difficult to single out rouge cop – all were out of control and enjoyed assault,” he said.

The coalition member, Khelef Khalifa, said Kitiyo’s premeditated attack resulted in hundreds of injuries, many serious. He said the majority are nursing in their homes.

“The County Commissioner and the entire security organ in Mombasa must pack and go,” Khalifa said.

There were suspected cases of spinal injuries, fractures, and cuts. Some dislocated their ankles after police hit them using batons. Many had police-inflicted bruises.

Khalifa said President Uhuru allowed the violence to thrive and should take responsibility, as well.

“If Uhuru wanted to put a stop to these atrocities, he would have done so. But he doesn’t care about the human rights violations,” Khalifa said.

The coalition also said the National Government must apologize for the human rights violations that police committed against peaceful and law-abiding citizens.

“The Inspector-General of the police should publish the applicable standing orders guiding police actions during the curfew period,” Zein said.

Zein said the government must disavow illegal actions by rogue police officers and reaffirm its role during this pandemic, as driven and informed by the need to save lives, promoting the wellbeing of citizens and the nation, and enforcing law and order, under the law.

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