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How unique tactics helped curb police brutality during Gen Z protests

Anti-Finance Bill protestors demonstrating outside ACK Church of Christ the King Pro-Cathedral in Nyahururu, Nyandarua County during the consecration and enthronement of Rev. Major Samson Mburu Gachath on June23,2024. President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua among other leaders attended. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Long before the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) identify the killer police officer who ended Rex Kanyike Masai’s life, Kenyans on social media will have.

That is if they have not, already. On X, techies have established leads, revealing the possible identity of the officer captured firing directly at unarmed anti-Finance Bill protesters.

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, they were able to track the officer allegedly involved, identifying his family and residence. More officers captured on camera brutalising peaceful protesters have been paraded on social media.

Their families and homes have been identified, a method the young generation has used to hold security agencies to account.

The protesters, drawn mostly from Kenya’s Generation Y (Millennials) and Z, make a point of documenting their every step on social media. They attend the protests with their phones and go live on their Tiktok and Instagram pages on location.

Such strategies have worked to deter the police from their usual heavy-handedness. A police officer who had brutalised a now deceased protester, hurting him in his genitals, retreated when cameras descended on him.

Another, captured flogging a protester, concealed his face when he realised the spotlight was on him. An officer who had confronted a woman, was silenced by phones pointed in his direction. Similarly, one of the officers was subdued when a young woman shoved him during Thursday’s protests. 

In many ways, documenting atrocities should make it easier to bring overbearing officers to book and highlight the infringements to their rights to protest. It also works to force investigative agencies, known to drag their feet, into action.

Ipoa is banking on this documentation to nab Rex’s killer, calling on witnesses to come forth and help solve the killing.

Previously, the traditional media played the role of deterring brutality, but their limited reach pales in comparison to that achieved through social media this past week. For that reason, journalists have often been soft targets of rogue officers, who have gone on to unleash cruelty on the masses after dimming the media’s glare.

This strategy has not worked against the young men and women who took to the streets to oppose the Finance Bill, owing to the sheer number of persons documenting whatever atrocities that may occur.

On a day-long X space attended by more than 50,000 Kenyans, the young Kenyans vowed to keep documenting their steps. They vowed to keep tweeting, saying it kept their arrested colleagues alive.

That was the message Saturday, as many speakers, through the hashtag Free Billy, urged their counterparts to push for the release of content creator Billy Simani, more famous as Crazy Nairobian, who was arrested on Friday and held incommunicado.

“Your tweets are keeping him alive. Let us tweet until he is released,” one participant said.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) condemned Billy’s arrest.

“Incommunicado detention can lead to enforced disappearances, where individuals are secretly abducted and held by the State. These individuals are often denied basic legal protections, and their whereabouts remain unknown, increasing the likelihood of mistreatment, torture, and even murder,” said the ICJ.

They have unlimited supply of experts across different sectors in an ecosystem that leaves no loose ends. With their IT prowess, they are able to monitor police movements. Medics on standby ensure that the injured get the all-important first aid.

Lawyers are on hand to bail out those arrested. The Law Society of Kenya has provided a hotline for those arrested.

Big Brother, their phones, is a constant in all the steps, which they use to push hashtags and mobilise.

“You have exposed, through your peacefulness, who the true violent people are,” journalist John Allan Namu said.

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