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Police violence in the time of pandemic

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10.04.2020

April 10 marked two weeks since Kenya's COVID-19 curfew began, and so far the police have already killed more people than the illness.

The youngest victim, a 13-year-old boy, was shot dead while watching the police enforce the curfew from the balcony of his own family home in the Mathare informal settlement of Nairobi.

On the first night of curfew, social media in Kenya was full of videos of police officers using tear gas on ferry passengers, beating traders at market places, harassing drivers, and generally menacing the public in the name of public order. When challenged, the Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe equivocated on condemning the police action, and instead urged civilians to "make it difficult if not impossible for the police to come into contact with you".

Regardless of the nature of the threat and its significance, it seems that Kenya's government has already resorted to the most unsophisticated tool in its arsenal - police violence.

Policing and public order are going to be significant secondary risks to the public created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenya is one example, but across the developing world - in India, Uganda, South Africa, Egypt and many other countries - states have collapsed to arbitrary violence against civilians under the guise of enforcing curfews and stay-at-home orders.

Yet, consent is........

© Al Jazeera