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Riot police must change tact in dealing with demos


There is something nauseating about the manner in which police sent to disperse demonstrators do their thing. First, they come prepared to break a riot when in most instances, there isn't a riot going on in the first place

The norm usually is that a political gathering or protest is declared unlawful. The officers lob teargas into a marching crowd and then a rearguard charges into the crowd, smashing anything and everything in their way.

This is acceptable if protesters are engaged in an actual riot - destroying property or putting the lives of other people at risk. But it doesn't make sense when the victims are people walking down the street, holding hands and chanting anti-government slogans. It is particularly senseless when the police race down a protester and proceed to clobber him senseless. A man, or woman, in full flight, is no longer a threat to peace so why bludgeon them? Why hit and kick a man who is lying on the street or kneeling in surrender?

One thing we must reexamine is those hoe sticks used by police to break down demonstrations. Those are not batons but crude weapons meant to maim or kill. They must be done away with. In this time and age, the Kenya Police shouldn't be running around with big wooden planks, unless the intention is to kill or permanently disable.

Something else that must be done away with is the nonsense of flashing rioters out of rooms using teargas. If people are hiding in a room, then it means they are no longer participating in the riot, you get?

In any case, history shows that whenever police stay put, and protect protesters, no single stone is thrown. More enterprising and brainy police commanders have been known to break down protests merely by engaging protesters in a discussion. These methods should be emphasized, as opposed to brute strength.

But having said that, it behooves Kenyans, and politicians, to learn to protest in a civil and peaceful manner.

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