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How social media during the anti-government Demonstrations.

By Seliphar Machoni

We run to the police when we experience anything that threatens our security and peace. Society has held the police in high regard because of their responsibility of protecting and defending the citizens .

The last two weeks of demonstration have changed that belief, at least to many Kenyans.  Kenyans might never see the police the same way again. They are now seen as the enemies of the people. The police have become a thorn in the flesh, a nightmare.

During the demonstrations photos and videos of the police using unconstitutional tactics to control the demonstrators were seen circulating on social media platforms and mainstream media. Even after a stern warning from the UN Human Rights office  through this statement: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-briefing-notes/2023/07/comment-un-human-rights-office-spokesperson-jeremy-laurence-kenya The police were persuaded to stop using force, live ammunitions and firearms when dealing with the protesters. Despite the warning and the call by many Human Rights activists, the police still went on with their unlawful acts  inventing other brutal ways to deal with the demonstrators.

When the Azimio la Umojo coalition called for another wave of demonstrations, it caught the attention of the UN Human Rights office which urged the police officers to refrain from using force, live bullets, and other harmful weapons to dispatch protesters.

The statement said “The policing of protests must seek to facilitate peaceful assemblies, and any use of force must be guided by the principles of loyalty, necessity, proportion, and non-discrimination. Firearms should never be used to disperse demonstrators.”   

The security arms argued with the Azimio Coalition saying that there was no official communication for the demonstration citing it to be unlawful. But the coalition maintained its stand of going on with the demonstrations as planned, calling upon all Kenyans to come out in large numbers to demonstrate, hence issuing a stern warning to police officers who will interfere with the demonstrations to face the law.

“We have instructed our lawyers to prepare and institute legal proceedings against police officers who have gone and who will go against their constitutional duty of protecting lives and properties of Kenyans during protests.” Said Martha Karua during a press conference.   

In the previous demonstrations, many were left injured, killed and others arrested. 7th July demos which were named saba saba protests left more than six people dead from the police gunshots. 12th July demos left more than twenty people dead because of police gunshots.

When three days of demos kicked off on Wednesday 19th July the running battles between the police and the protesters started.

On Wednesday which was the first day of the three days demonstrations, In Migori County, Migori town before 1pm two people were reported shot and injured by the police officers. At the same time news of the alleged arrest of Maurice Ogeta, the opposition leader’s bodyguard surfaced. Creating tension among the protesters and the opposition.

The news prompted the Azimo leaders to use their social media platforms to demand for the release of Ogeta and other Azimo la Umoja leaders who were arrested during the protests in Mtwapa like Kilifi County Speaker Teddy Mwambire and Kilifi South Member of Parliament Ken Chonga.

The opposition and the public kept on sharing and tweeting updates from the protests as they were streamed by the mainstream media and social media users showing how the police were handling the demonstrators.

Raila Odinga, while sharing a video of a boy with a bullet in his leg tweeted, “This illegitimate regime is targeting innocent children, using live bullets. Totally unwarranted, unjustifiable, and uncalled for. This happened in Mashimoni Kibra today.”

As reported, the police raided, destroyed, ransacked the house of Raila Odinga’s spokesperson Dennis Onyango and later drove him to an unknown place. The Azimio la Umoja through their Azimo Tv Twitter account shared a video of the scene displaying details of the registration number plates of the vehicle that drove away with the said spokesperson.

In Nakuru County the run between the police and the demonstrators continued which left four people with wounds from gunshots. The Coalition co-principal Martha Karua went on her twitter account to condemn the act terming it as unacceptable, she went on to tag the National Police Service, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, and the Kenya National Commissions on Human Rights.

During the demonstrations images of a police officer dressed as a civilian holding a pistol circulated and beside him there lay a protester with a gunshot wound. The circulated images both on twitter and Instagram linked the police officer with the shooting of the protester.

The Azimio Coalition posted on their social media accounts appealing to the public for the information about the said police and a group of officers whose member was seen in the video which was circulating on social media shooting a civilian by the roadside.

“Azimio Alert: We ask Kenyans online for any and all details about this unit,” The opposition wrote on Twitter providing the video of the officers who are seen standing next to four Subaru Forester cars.

Still on police brutality in Mathare, outskirts of  Nairobi, African Uncensored shared a video which showed a middle aged man confronting officers in uniform  from a distance telling them that he has been in the house, he only came out when his child fainted after a teargas was thrown in his house.

“Who did that? Do you have a heart? Do you want to kill my child? My child has now fainted. I am just from the house; I’m even wearing sandals. I don’t not have any weapon; I am just telling the truth; you are hurting our children. That one police officer threw teargas at kids.”  He is heard telling the police.

Before he was done speaking one of the officers who had posed as journalists with a phone camera recording in civilian emerged from behind and grabbed him before his colleagues in uniform joined in restraining him while leading him towards a waiting police truck.

This caught the attention of the Media Council of Kenya who condemned the act calling it as “grave and unprofessional conduct” hence saying that the act is putting the lives of journalists at risk.

“Impersonation of journalists by the police is a grave unprofessional misconduct on the part of the police and endangers the lives of journalists in the line of duty.” From the MCK press statement.

In Kisumu County more than 21 people are admitted at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital with multiple bullets in their bodies and a good number of them are students.

One of the patients is Fidel Castro Ochieng, a 17 year old form four student at Olembo Boys Secondary School. He was sent home from school earlier last week and will have to stay at home longer after falling victim to police brutality during the ongoing demonstrations in Kisumu County.

According to the interview done by one of the mainstream media, Ochieng said that a group of police raided their compound in Nyamasaria Estate and found him together with his two friends playing cards.

“We were playing cards outside our house when a group of fully armed police came and were referred to as protesters who had come to hide. We tried to tell them that we are not the ones but one of them started beating us with a stick. We decided to run for our lives and they started firing gunshots on us. They shot me eight times in the back. I thank God the direction I was going there was someone with a motorbike who carried me to the hospital. In the process of rushing to the hospital, one police officer who was following us shot me in my hand. I have a total of nine bullets, eight on the back and one on my hand.” Castro said.

“Though I am in pain but I thank God I survived and breathing. But one of my friends succumbed to the bullets wounds while being treated”, Castro added.

Apart from Fidel, three other patients are recovering from eight gunshot wounds in the same hospital after successful operation procedures. As reported by Nurse Ms Teresa Okiri who was in charge.

“Already we have completed the operation on three patients who had also the same number of bullets which were logged on their chest and some on the back.” Said Okiri

Tony Owigo a second year student at Great Lakes University in Kisumu was shot on the knee at Nyalenda slums.

“One policeman who was following demonstrators just looked at me and shot me on the knee and he disappeared.” Said Tony

Others who are nursing gunshot wounds are Collins Ochieng 20 years, Joseph Othiambo 22 years and Calary Ochieng 19 years.

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