Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome Nchebere is in the eye of storm after last Monday’s demonstrations, where one person was killed in Kisumu, two protesters shot in Migori and property destroyed.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is leading the weekly Monday and Thursday mass action, said the country is in the hands of men pretending to be leaders and statesmen.
He claimed that IG Koome was serving the regime of the day and that they should arrest him instead of threatening other Kenyans.
Observers such as Amnesty International have accused the police of provoking protestors, urging the government to respect the opposition's right to picket, even as they condemned riots by violent protestors.
"Very regrettably, the failure to create a conducive environment for the March 20 Azimio la Umoja rally created the conditions for the violence, death and destruction of property. This and the several acts of misinformation and disinformation by several actors, including the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, have added to the confusion," Amnesty International said in a statement.
"We are concerned by yesterday’s statement by Police Inspector General Japheth Koome that seeks to threaten protesters, criminalise and illegally ban all protests. We remind the IG he publicly swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and is obligated to respect, protect and fulfil all human rights, including the right to protest," the rights group added.
ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said the IG was working in a vacuum to please President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua. Sifuna said Koome was courting trouble, warning:" There is every indication they will throw him under the bus. They will give him illegal institutions, then pull back and let him take the hit on account of the independence of the police command."
On Sunday, Koome said the protests were illegal and that "those found in breach of the law" would face consequences regardless of their societal status. He failed to quote the section of the Constitution that gives him the power to ban rallies.
"The demonstrations remain illegal. The police will deal with anyone found with weapons to cause chaos tomorrow. Political issues should be handled through the appropriate political channels. The majority of these politicians have lived their full lives and are out to destroy the future of the youth," Koome said.
The opposition, civil society groups, and professionals maintain that Koome should be held responsible for failing to protect Kenyans.
In fact, speaking in Germany, President William Ruto placed the ball in Koome's court, stating the IG had independence to handle the demos and protect people's property.
"Today the Inspector General of Police is solely responsible for the operations and the financial requirements of the police operations. The police should make independent decisions on what they want to do to secure the country," Ruto said.
Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) Director Peter Kiama said the IG office should remain independent by not taking any instructions from anyone to serve Kenyans and uphold the constitution.
Kiama added they have been monitoring protests and the police have started violence several times against peaceful protestors.
"Article 37 of the Constitution does not give him powers to grant permits, licenses, or anything for demonstrations," Kiama said.
Human rights activist Boniface Mwangi said that the politics of revenge is a dangerous game to play.
"If Ruto wants to deal with Uhuru, use the law, not mob justice," Mwangi said.
Mwangi said that the police locked down the slums so that the people who live there could turn on each other.
"That happened today when the police left. Elders in the community are working to ensure there is peace. The state is to blame for what’s happening in Kibera," Mwangi said after fighting and fire broke out in Kibera.
There have been allegations of double standards employed by the police. Last week, the DCI published fake photos of demonstrators it said it was pursuing. The DCI is yet to publish photos of suspects who were caught on camera raiding the Kenyatta and Raila's properties.