Government agencies are still trading blame over who was responsible for last week’s disappearance of 32 out of 66 passengers who had been placed under quarantine after managing to beat President Uhuru Kenyatta’s containment order and travelling from Nairobi to Mandera.
While the driver of the Makkah Bus Company vehicle has since been charged with violating the containment order, police officers at the roadblocks on the entire stretch from Nairobi to Mandera where the bus may have passed through are still free.
Meanwhile, Mandera County has two confirmed cases and is struggling to trace anyone who made contact with the passengers of the bus that took the virus to the far-flung county.
And, with the gazetting of Public Order Act (State Curfew) Order, 2020, some police officers have been accused of not only whipping those who violate check-in hours but also demanding bribes to set them free. Members of the public, who had complained bitterly last month about police brutality when the 7pm curfew was announced, are now being extorted for being found outside at night or asked to part with money if they want to break the containment order.
The National Police Service Commission (NPSC) is currently handling a number of cases of police officers who have been caught red handed soliciting for bribes from people thought to have violated the curfew orders.
“The commission will not hesitate to act on all officers who conduct themselves unprofessionally,” NPSC chair Eliud Kinuthia said.
Officers currently under investigation include Corporal Eric Luseno, Constable Gabriel Kaindi and Constable Lihanda Lari.
The three were arrested a week ago by their fellow officers from Huruma Police Station who responded to distress calls in Kariobangi slum in Nairobi about some men who were extorting them at 7:30pm on Wednesday.
“The three stopped two innocent people who were heading home. They were arrested and upon interrogation found to be administration police officers,” says a police record of the arrest. Also facing disciplinary charges for demanding bribes from those found violating the curfew is Constable Charles Mbugua Njoroge, a GSU officer attached to the unit’s headquarters in Ruaraka.
Police records at Ruiru Police Station indicate that Corporal Bernard Langat, who is attached to Kahawa West Police Post, was driving from hospital last Tuesday when he was stopped at Gwakairo area by two men in civilian clothes claiming to be police officers.
The two confiscated his car keys before demanding money from him. The officer suspected that they were impostors and raised the alarm to which members of public responded and helped him to subdue the suspects.
After interrogation, it was established that one of them was Constable Njoroge and the other was a Mr Michael Njenga Chege, a civilian. Both have since been charged with violating the curfew and extortion. Constable Njoroge has since been interdicted.
In some cases, those who don’t part with bribes are bundled in police vehicles and driven to the station with threats of being put on quarantine. While social distancing is one of the guidelines set up by the government as a way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, police vehicles still carry the suspects without adhering to the rule.
At the police stations, the bailing process has turned into a painful procedure without proper guidelines on how much someone is supposed to pay.
Although the National Police Service Bail and Bond Charter says that “the police officer in charge of a police station will promptly grant you reasonable bail terms regardless of the time of day or night in accordance with the constitution and bail and bond guidelines”, this is rarely followed.
With the digital payment of bail still in the backburner, bail is still demanded in cash, thus fuelling sleaze at the police stations.
While police are arresting hundreds of people every night for violating the curfew hours, only a few are ending up in court with those who refuse to play ball finding themselves in quarantine.
Musicians Adam Muduma alias Coco and Ecko Dida recently found themselves in deep trouble when they attempted to challenge the police. Mr Muduma, who was last week charged with resisting arrest, claims he was arrested on his way home before 7pm.
For Mr Dida, who has since been taken for a mandatory 14-day quarantine at the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC), his tribulations began after his wife insisted on being given a receipt for the bail she had paid for her husband.
According to the musician’s wife Sylvia Ayugi, Mr Dida was arrested last Saturday along Ngong Road on his way home for violating the curfew. The police asked for a bail of Sh5,000 and another Sh5,000 as car towing charges which she paid but demanded for a receipt.
In a long post on Facebook, Ms Ayugi alleged that after being released police officers tricked Mr Dida back to the station to record a statement about some incident that happened while he was in the cell only to arrest him.
“The OCS came and ordered his officers to take Eko to ‘that place’. I didn’t know where ‘that place’ was but, later in the day, Eko called and informed me that he had been taken to the quarantine centre at KMTC,” she said.
By Tuesday Mr Dida and other Kenyans at KMTC were yet to be tested for coronavirus. Kibra Sub-county Police Commander Lucas Oigara refused to comment about the matter saying it is under investigation.