Dialogue must not ignore victims of police brutality

Cartridge retrieved by protestors in Pipeline Estate during Azimio's anti-government demos, July 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

I don’t understand why none of the communiques on the upcoming dialogue is mentioning police brutality.

If the Azimio team agreed to proceed with talks with Kenya Kwanza without that issue, it would have completely let itself down. We must get over sweeping matters under the carpet for short-term political settlements.

We saw this during the handshake between former President Uhuru Kenyatta and his then-political adversary Raila Odinga. Take the example of Baby Samantha Pendo. While the family of Baby Pendo got a little prominence, even appearing at state functions, the matter of the state waging war against its own citizens has never been concluded.

Yes, a number of officers and their commanders were charged but the case has dragged on for more than five years. It is the same with Stephanie Moraa, 9. She was taken down by a police bullet from the balcony of her home in Mathare. Should Kenya have gone into another election without knowing the truth about the death of Chris Msando? How could such a high ranking electoral officer perish in such a brutal manner, at such a critical time and life moves on as if nothing happened?

All key agencies have concluded that the state used excessive force against unarmed demonstrators. In the report by the Law Society of Kenya, Amnesty International and the Kenya Medical Association, at least 10 people died following the three-day demonstrations in July in Kisii and Kisumu alone. 

More incidences were reported in Nairobi, Makueni, Homa Bay and Migori. The number goes up if earlier demonstrations are factored. The same report also confirms that most victims were nowhere in the demonstrations. The video from Nyamasaria confirms this.

The names of William Amulele and Brian Oniang’o must not stop ringing in the ears of the 10-member dialogue team. The two were beaten in their homes in Nyalenda, far away from the heat of the demos and succumbed to their injuries. It would not even matter if there were demonstrations. It is their right.

The only reason why political dialogue is finding space in the discourse is because the Constitution has been mutilated and its institutions rendered useless. The National Police Service that is apolitical does not seem so. Parliament which is supposed to be the House of debate and reason has been emasculated by state power. This fuels the demonstrations, which are a precursor to dialogue.

If parliamentarians voiced their people’s concerns successfully so, Kenyans would not need to voice them again in the streets. Now that dialogue is here, truth must precede justice and justice must precede peace. The dialogue should be a platform to account for deaths, injuries and all property destroyed.

-The writer is anchor at Radio Maisha