Saba Saba demos: Kisii Governor Arati condemns use of live bullets by police

Police officers in Kisii wash their faces after their colleagues lobbed teargas to disperse Azimio supporters from the city centre on Friday, July 7, 2023.

Photo credit: Ruth Mbula | Nation Media Group

Kisii Governor Simba Arati has condemned what he termed as police brutality meted on peaceful demonstrators in Kisii County.

This follows the shooting and injuring of several demonstrators by police on Friday.

It is not still clear how many people were injured, but Nation.Africa has established that gunshot victims are admitted to various hospitals in Kisii County.

"Today is a sad day for Kenya, following the regrettable irrational police-action-fueled violence that engulfed the otherwise peaceful Saba Saba demonstrations, in our beloved county," said Mr Arati.

The governor who has been away in China on a working trip added that "In the words of great philosophers and sagacious leaders throughout history, it has been repeatedly emphasised that violence can never truly solve the grievances of a society."

"It is sad to note that the police shot live bullets at the peaceful demonstrators, maiming quite a number," said Mr Arati, adding that as the Governor of Kisii, he expresses his utmost sadness and concern over these regrettable events.

“It is incumbent upon the government to recognise and appreciate the underlying causes of the unrest and address them promptly, utilizing peaceful and constructive means rather than armed police force.”

The day-long protests rocked various parts of Kisii County with Kisii municipality most affected.

Main roads including Kisii-Migori, Kisii-Keroka, Kisii-Kilgoris and Kisii-Kisumu were blocked at various points, paralysing transport. This is as hundreds of other demonstrators engaged police in running battles within Kisii town.

Nation.Africa established that police resorted to firing live bullets after they ran short of teargas. But County Police Commander Charles Kases claimed that the protesters wanted to break into the KCB bank prompting police to use live bullets.

"They wanted to break into the KCB bank. I cannot confirm right now how many have been shot," said Mr Kases.

Also, police arrested dozens of protesters and locked them at Kisii Central Police Station.  Mr Kases, when contacted, added that he could not at the time confirm the number of those arrested.

In addition, most officers from Kisii were deployed in Kisumu as their seniors were not anticipating any serious protests in the region, leaving Kisii undermanned.

Mr Arati called for a thorough and expeditious investigation into the allegations of excessive force and the use of live ammunition by law enforcement agencies, ostensibly in countering the peaceful demonstrations.

"We must ensure that truth and justice prevail, and those responsible for any misconduct are held accountable. I equally petition human rights and police oversight agencies to take initiative so as to help us rein in police brutality," said the Kisii Governor.

He appealed to the national government administration agencies to always engage in meaningful conversations with peaceful protesters, community leaders, and stakeholders, by listening to their concerns and working together towards viable solutions.

By doing so, he noted, we create an environment conducive to sustainable progress and a brighter future for all Kenyans.

He reaffirmed his commitment to tirelessly work towards ensuring that the voices of the people of Kisii, and indeed all Kenyans, are heard and their concerns addressed through lawful and peaceful means.