NGUGI: Police beatings, to say you were caught unawares by curfew is a joke

By Muiru Ngugi On Sun, 29 Mar, 2020 14:12 | 2 mins read
Nakuru town
A deserted Nakuru town during curfew. PHOTO | KIGOTHO MWANGI

Coronavirus started in China in December 2019.

Towards the end of December, China notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the emergence of novel coronavirus which causes the COVID-19 disease.

WHO flagged the disease as highly contagious and later upgraded it to a pandemic.

China placed Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province on total lockdown on January 21, 2020.

On January 15, 2020, the first case was confirmed in the United States. Around the same time, cases were discovered in South Korea, Singapore, Japan and many other places.

These countries rushed to impose severe restrictions and have managed to flatten the curve of infections.

The US did not. Now it has the highest number of infected people and is being regarded as the epicenter of the disease.

On January 31, the first cases were confirmed in Italy.

European countries such as Italy, France, UK and Spain, because they love freedom and know more about human rights than anybody else decided not to go on lockdown.

The first case of coronavirus was reported in Kenya on March 13, 2020.

From that date, the Ministry of Health has been giving daily briefings on the coronavirus situation every day without fail.

On March 15, schools in Kenya were closed. The national government directed that all public and private sector workers work from home, if possible.

Everyone was asked to keep distance and to use hand sanitisers or otherwise wash their hands with soap.

On March 20, the government introduced regulations for all public transport vehicles.

On March 22, all international flights were suspended effective at midnight on March 25, 2020. The government also closed all bars and prohibited religious gatherings.

Weddings were banned and burials were restricted to 15 people and thousands of Kenyans left towns and went to their rural homes.

Both ruling and opposition politicians joined hands to warn Kenyans against the disease. Regional commissioners and governors told people to stay home. Markets were closed.

On March 25, the president announced a nationwide curfew on unauthorized movement from 7 pm to 5am beginning on Friday, March 27.

That was a notice of three days to enable Kenyans to prepare for the curfew.

Meanwhile, the corona story has dominated the media scene since the end of December 2019, a whole three months.

Even more significantly, a curfew is not a new thing in Kenya. It was there during Mau Mau, after August 1, 1982, attempted coup, after the post-election violence of 2008, in Mt Elgon and has been in effect in Lamu, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties for the last 10 years or so.

On the morning of Friday, March 27, 2020, information that the curfew would be imposed was all over the media — radio, TV, newspapers, closed social media like WhatsApp, open social media like Twitter — and was on the lip of every Kenyan.

There were also videos of General Service Unit officers doing press-ups and prison service officers running on the spot.

All these messages were meant to communicate that the government meant what it said, stay home.

Yet some people would have you believe that they were caught unawares by the curfew and that the first time they heard the word curfew was when police beat them up for disobeying the curfew.

Kenyans, I know you have a funny bone but if you must joke, go audition with Churchill Live.

Dr. Muiru Ngugi is a lecturer at the School of Journalism, University of Nairobi.

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