Kenyans have real grievances to hit the streets, let leaders listen

Demonstrators engage police in Kitengela town, Kajiado County, during Azimio la Umoja’s anti-governmental protest. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

We should all be outraged by the senseless loss of lives, destruction of property and injuries many innocent Kenyans have endured.

There is absolutely no justification for it. I believe street protests and demonstrations should be the last resort and used only if the government is intransigent and does not listen to its citizens.

It may be true majority of Kenyans feel their elected representatives and their government have stopped listening to them and addressing their issues and concerns.

And there are many social media posts and video clips that show Kenyans expressing hopelessness, frustration and despair. In fact, many of them say they have nothing left to lose and are ready to die.

A social media video clip doing rounds is a good example, where the speaker asks the meaning and purpose of public participation in any legislation if over 90 per cent of the public opposed the Finance Bill but their views and concerns were not taken into consideration.

He said; “our views must count… it cannot be that we were intelligent when voting but not intelligent enough to think about what is good for us… saying, “the same brains we used to vote for you are the same brains we used to oppose the clauses we don’t want in the Finance Bill and we are telling our elected members, we have refused those clauses and the government should tax those who don’t pay and not overburden those already paying taxes.

The protests that have rocked our beloved country in the last few months are part of civil disobedience sanctioned by the Constitution as a basic human right. Civil disobedience entails non-violent disobedience of unjust and unfair laws and government decisions and actions but protesters must respect the rule of law and the rights of others.

Destruction of property, deaths, violence, thefts, and commission of crimes are not and should never be part of peaceful protests.

Neither is use of excessive force including live bullets by police allowed by any law.

We have all witnessed through television police officers shooting at protesters with live bullets with their casings being left on the ground. In fact, the police have been aiming teargas canisters at people’s dwelling places and businesses.

It was heartbreaking to see teachers and parents of Kihumbuine primary school condemning the tear-gassing of school children. What has happened to us and our police?

One cannot help but wonder where police are getting this boldness from and how do they engage in lawlessness and get away with it. This is how culture of impunity is nurtured and it will come back to haunt us. It is true innocent Kenyans have lost their lives and many more injured and hurt including scores of police officers and this must be punished decisively.

They must be investigated and each culpable individual held personally responsible for their actions and the police must provide hard evidence against suspects to facilitate prosecution. The police must not be attached and demonstrators and protesters should be non-violent and should not destroy property. However, the police must be more vigilant and try not to be too provocative and distinguish criminal perpetrators from peaceful protesters.

Instead of teargassing peaceful groups, they should provide them with security while they protest, picket or demonstrate peacefully. According to the law, the police bear the biggest responsibility due to their positions and constitutional and legal obligations.

The police cannot be aggressors, and get away with it. Police brutality and use of excessive force are illegal and those culpable should be held to account. The police must also investigate and adduce hard evidence against each person suspected of committing crimes during demonstrations.

Furthermore, selective application of the law, threats, intimidation, and innuendos will not help the country. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Finally, in a past video clip, the President said, the police must never use live bullets or excessive force, to arrest peaceful protesters and if they do, they must adduce hard evidence against each individual personally accused of committing crimes during protests and demonstrations; I agree with his every word.