Punitive fines for anyone caught flouting Covid rules
Zadock Angira and Benard Gitau
The government has introduced instant fines of Sh20,000 for people caught flouting Covid-19 regulations.
The move is aimed at decongesting police cells to stop exposing suspects to coronavirus.
Inspector General (IG) of Police Hillary Mutyambai, while announcing the tough measures also said the Service will work closely with the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to cancel licences of motorists flouting the curfew hours.
Mutyambai said police will work closely with the National Government Administration officers and the county governments enforcement teams, to ensure total compliance with the Ministry of Health coronavirus guidelines and protocols.
“All police officers across the country have been instructed to enforce the Covid-19 protocols and regulations in strict compliance with the rule of law,” Mutyambai said.
He said police will support county governments in closing down bars and restaurants, which will not adhere to the set regulations.
However, Mutyambai’s announcement elicited instant protests and reactions from a cross-section of Kenyans, most of who claimed that the instant fines order would increase corruption.
“Most Kenyans cannot afford even a face mask. Where will they get the Sh20,000 for the instant fine? At the end of the day, the cells will still be congested,” one Kenyan said.
George Kiprop on twitter said the new directive is not valid, as it has been passed by parliament.
“Its not a law . Only Parliament that enacts laws in Kenya. Unless you think you live in Mars. No one lives by your Mercy,” he said.
Another concerned Kenyans calling himself James Onyang on twitter said:
“Assuming they arrest 20 people, each paying Sh 20,000 who will carry the money and how sure are we, that it will be banked or it will be paid via a pay bill number.”
Samson Kairu on the other said the Sh 20,000 will just enrich a few police officers and thus opposed the new fines.
“ I have always held the IG with highest esteem as a very intelligent officer and realistic but this one of fines, I think its quickest way to make police rich,” he said.
Local Non Governmental Organisation Haki Africa called for the disbandment of the Special Enforcement Unit, claiming the security officers will infringe on human rights.
Haki Africa programme officer Salima Macharia said the arrangement excluded other actors, especially the civil society and human rights organisations.
“This is likely to entrench harassment of Kenyans as it has been in the past. The arrangement comprises regular police, national government officers, administrators and inspectorate from counties excluding other actors,” she said.
Among the early victims of the Covid-19 enforcement rules was a 13-year-old boy, Yassin Moyo, who was killed during the enforcement of curfew in Huruma, Nairobi.
“Leaving health processes to law enforcers in Kenya entrenches impunity. It is the general feeling of Kenyans. Covid-19 is not a security issue but a social economic and political issue, hence all actors must be involved,” she said.
Mutyambai’s move follows Wednesday’s directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to the Ministry of Interior to constitute a Special Enforcement Unit made up of the police, administration officials and county government inspectorate units to jointly enforce Covid-19 compliance.
The President, however, warned that the government cannot “police the morality” of its citizens. “We will double our enforcement efforts, but the public must also play its role,” he said.
Uhuru ordered that the nationwide curfew be extended till January 3 next year, and that it be enforced between 10pm and 4am daily.
Yesterday, Nairobi Regional Commissioner James Kianda called on the security personnel to present a good image of the Ministry of Interior, while serving the public, noting that some errant behaviour by a few officers was tainting the image of the National Police Service.
Kianda warned that the government will not condone officers who demand bribes and engage in corruption, cautioning them to shun the behaviour.
“You need to change from that dented image from outside and reform from inside since the government has been addressing your welfare, including salary,” Kianda said.
To enhance civic responsibility, the national and county governments have also resolved that services will not be rendered to anyone who does not abide by the protocols in a campaign dubbed “No mask, No service”.
Immediately the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in Kenya, Chief Justice David Maraga directed that petty offenders should not be held by police for more than 24 hours and also directed police to avoid arbitrary arrests and unnecessary detention of suspects.
Maraga further directed that petty offenders should be released on bond or cash bail and that station commanders were under strict instructions to implement these directives.
“For the sake of transparency, all police stations will have centralised records showing the number arrested and the terms of their release.
The office of the Director of Public prosecutions will monitor the exercise periodically,” the CJ said.
In the IG guidelines, arrests of suspects are to be made when investigations are complete unless circumstances dictate that a suspect be arrested to facilitate investigations.