Luo lives matter

  • The kind of violence meted out by the police to silence protests seems premeditated
  • There is evidence of police breaking into people’s homes and flushing people out and beating and disabling some
  • It disheartening that some Kenyans who support Jubilee supported the manner in which the police dealt with the protesters

In the days leading to elections, we read in the newspapers that body bags had been ferried to Kisumu and given to the Nyanza Regional Coordinator Wilson Njenga and AP Commander Joseph Keitany.

“While the authority does not dispute police should be prepared for any eventuality, the perception should not be created that they plan to take lives,” said Macharia Njeru, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) chairman. It rang hollow.

Indeed, Kisumu and certain slums in Nairobi had been identified as potential hotspots of violence in days leading to election. It was ethnic profiling by the government in the worst possible way.

Armoured vehicles were deployed in Kisumu, you would think Kisumu was going to war, not into an election as a friend joked. Granted, the police should use their intelligence in anticipation of violence and forestall the same.

But the kind of violence meted on the people of Kisumu by the police belied a certain premeditated desire to silence the protesters in the quickest way possible.

Somehow, President Kenyatta’s victory had to be announced at night, and any overnight protests would be dealt with ruthlessly under the cover of darkness.

Lenser Achieng, mother of the late baby Pendo. The six month old child died from head injuries sustained during police operation in Kisumu

Indeed, the last few nights, we have had to deal with horror messages, some true, some overstated propaganda, but all pointing to the same thing; the state was waging war against the Luo community living in slums.

The government can deny its involvement or claim that they are only targeting criminal elements who are looting, but the very failure to protect the more than 20 lives that were allegedly lost reeks of complicity of the worst order.

The script is always the same. In our brief history as a country, state-sponsored terror has been visited on various groups: Somalis, Kikuyu youth, Luos etc.

The state has been complicit in the displacement of communities in the Rift Valley in various electoral cycles since 1992, save for 2002 and 2013.

It was perhaps disheartening that some Kenyans who support Jubilee supported the manner in which the police dealt with the protesters. To such, property is more valuable than human life.

Despite arming the police with the best weapons of disarming the public, use of live bullets is evident as the one that fetched the life of a young girl in Mathare.

Still, there is evidence of police breaking into people’s homes and flushing people out and beating and disabling some.

The police reaction is to deny everything. But subduing the protesters using bullets does not erase the fact that we are a deeply divided country, teetering precariously on the edge of a disaster from which we will never recover.

Those in charge prefer burying their heads in the sand, wishing the problem will go away. But the fact is, since 1992, the country has largely been incapable of holding peaceful elections that do not involve displacement of the people, or extra-judicial killings to cover for police incompetence.

This year, it is the Luos who have been on the receiving end. And Luos have suffered and borne the worst brunt of marginalisation, and exclusion and now state violence.

Great Luos have been assassinated at a time they were dutifully giving their best to the country; Tom Mboya, Argwings Kodhek, Robert Ouko, Prof Odhiambo Mbai and Chris Musando.

There were shootings of protesters in 1969 when Jomo Kenyatta visited Kisumu and the condemnation of the entire community in the 1980s following the coup.

The marginalisation has deprived the community, that it is only through an election they hope to be included in successive governments. Indeed, their fortunes did change the few times in recent times that Raila Odinga was in government, and his quest for the new Constitution did bring devolution that has helped other counties such as Wajir or Mandera that had no chance to be included in the centrist government that only favoured a few.

As a country, we must speak against state-sponsored terror when it targets any group of people in the country.

When we keep quiet, because the people don’t belong to our tribe, or are not of our political persuasion. It means when the state visits terror on your people, the rest of the country will keep quiet, or say that the murders are justified, and those killed are criminals.

This kind of thinking rubbishes why we have institutions such as the Judiciary and the police, and why we spend so much on them.

We should stand with the Luo community, because they are human, and their passion and zeal for this country is yet to be full appreciated.


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