By Susan Kendi
Countries across the world have closed their borders, halted international travels and issued orders on curfew as measures to curb the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection as the numbers hit the roof by day.
Security forces in different countries have brutally punished curfew violators with each employing different inhumane methods including beating and shooting at them, locking them in coffins and dog cages, cutting their hair, detention, stripping them naked and forcing them to walk home, doing push-ups and forcing curfew violators to sit under the sun.
Kenya, Uganda, Philippines and India are some of the countries that security officers on patrol have used excessive force on those non-complying to the curfew.
In Kenya, police officers have been witnessed and caught on camera assaulting members of the public by firing tear gas and beating men and women on their way home as they rush to meet the anti-corona spread curfew.
The 34-year old Zacharia Lubale, deaf and dumb, is one of the Kenyans who have encountered police brutality as they enforce the 7pm curfew. According to a news report by Citizen television, Zacharia who is admitted at St Mary’s hospital in Mumias after he was caught up in an evening run with police officers in Kakamega who left him unconscious after heavy handedly hitting him. He was rushed to the hospital by good Samaritans who found him lying on the road.
The media has been documenting the excesses by police forces which began on March 27, two days after the authorities announced the 7pm curfew. At least three people have died after allegedly being assaulted by police officers and several people sustained serious injuries.
A 13 year old boy is one of the three causalities. On Monday evening, March 30, 2020 he was on the balcony watching police officers chase people into their homes after curfew in Kiamaiko area in Nairobi. One of the officers fired a live bullet that hit him leading to his death.
A bodaboda cyclist, Calvince Omondi also died on March 29, 2020, days after Kosele police station officers in Homabay used excessive force on him as they enforced the 7pm curfew.
In Mombasa two hours before curfew, the police were seen teargassing and beating civilians who were queuing at Likoni ferry crossing as they awaited to board the ferry. Two days later, a 49-year old man succumbed to injuries and there are other alleged cases of injuries from the event.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has apologised for the police brutality on the civilians but cases of death and injuries allegedly caused by police officers are on the rise. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) announced that they are investigating into the death and injury cases with an aim of prosecution, making recommendations and taking disciplinary actions to those involved.
Kenya has 179 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 7 recoveries and 6 deaths including that of a 6-year-old.
The neighbouring landlocked country, Uganda, has also been reading from a similar script. With 52 confirmed cases and no death, the police, the army and an armed community-policing paramilitary group organised by the Ugandan army known as the Local Defence Unit (LDU) have been enforcing the presidential curfew directive.
Security forces have been beating, shooting and detaining civilians across Uganda, brutality that has been highlighted by the media and human rights organisations.
According to a report on Uganda by the Human Rights Watch, on March 26, 2020 the police shot two construction workers Alex Oryem and Kassim Ssebudde who were riding a motorcycle taxi in Mukono near Kampala following a ban from being more than one on a motorbike.
Two days later, six police officers enforced the ban on public gatherings by shooting at a group of people in Bududa injuring one person. On the same day, members of the Local Defence Unit thrashed civilians in Kampala using wires and sticks for failing to close a market. The soldiers also beat locals in Mityana district for disrespecting the order to close bars.
A journalist, Alfred Ssembajjwe disclosed to the Human Rights Watch on March 31, 2020 that officers were asking for a bribe of 250,000 Uganda shillings to free him and the bodaboda go after the LDU attacked him and the driver of a bodaboda in Kampala.
Schools, places of worship, non-food markets, shopping malls and entertainment joints including bars have been shut down and bans from using public transport, privately owned cars and being more than one on a motorbike have been issued.
In Philippines the consequences for non-compliance of curfew are more severe. A 63-year old man was shot dead on Saturday, April 4, 2020 in a report filed by Al-Jazeera , after threatening a village health worker and the police with a scythe.
According to the Human Rights Watch, five young people in Santa Cruz town were locked in a dog cage on March 20, 2020 for failing to comply with the curfew directive. This came a day after security forces cut the hair of seven children for failing to meet the curfew and ordered one to walk home naked for resisting the haircut.
On March 26, 2020, two children were locked in a coffin in Cavite province for violation of the curfew. Two days before this, a mother was arrested in Tacloban city for breaking the COVID-19 order by allowing her children to play outdoors.
In an article by Rappler, over 17,000 curfew violators have been arrested in Philippines as of Monday, March 30, 2020.Philippines has 3,870 coronavirus cases, 96 recoveries and 182 deaths including 21 doctors according to the worldometer.
The second most populated country, India is on a 21- day nationwide lockdown after an announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As Indians comply with the lockdown, some of those living in slums have been going without food, water and toilet. Many migrant workers who are now jobless and have been forced to move back to their villages on foot following the public transport shutdown. However, this has not stopped the Indian police from disciplining those violating the lockdown laws in the country.
The police have put roadside checks, beaten civilians with batons and forced some to do push-ups to restrict movements. According to worldometer as of Wednesday, April 8, 2020 India’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 164, 5,480 confirmed cases and 468 recoveries.
There are over 83,506 COVID-19 deaths, 1,450,398 million cases confirmed cases and 309,358 recoveries across the world.