NAIROBI – Residents of a small town in western Kenya set fire to a police station and damaged several vehicles after a police officer allegedly killed a man over a dispute about hand sanitizer, according to an official report.
It is the second time in two weeks that Kenyans have violently protested alleged police killings.
According to a police report seen by The Associated Press, residents of Rioma in Kisii County stormed the local police station Sunday evening after an officer reportedly shot and killed a trader he accused of selling fake hand sanitizers.
Enraged members of the public pelted the station with stones, injuring five officers, and lit fires that extensively damaged the offices and several police cars, the report says.
The officer who allegedly killed the trader has been arrested, said the report.
In late June, two people were killed and the house of the local police chief burned in a small town in Kenya’s Rift Valley. The confrontation between police and residents started after police reportedly shot and killed a motorcyle taxi rider for not wearing a face mask.
Human rights activists for weeks have protested alleged killings by Kenyan police officers while enforcing virus-related restrictions. They also accuse officers of using the measures to extort bribes.
Kenya’s police force for two decades has been ranked as the country’s most corrupt institution. It’s also Kenya’s most deadly, according to human rights groups.
In the last three months 22 people, including a 13-year-old boy, have been killed by police enforcing the new restrictions, allege human rights activists.
Activists say there has been no groundswell of widespread public support for change in Kenya, one of Africa’s biggest economies, even as protests have erupted in many parts of the world over police abuse.
Kenya has so far recorded 164 deaths from 8,067 COVID-19 cases. Thousands have lost their livelihoods and many others are constrained financially due to restrictions on movement to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Separately, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday bowed to pressure and lifted restrictions barring travel into and out of the capital city Nairobi, the second-largest city, Mombasa, and Mandera County.
These travel bans were meant to prevent the spread of the disease from the areas with high numbers of cases to rural areas until hospitals are upgraded to deal with COVID-19.
Kenyatta however did not lift the country's night curfew. He urged Kenyans to exercise “cautious optimism and avoid reckless abandon,” and warned if the situation deteriorates and pose a challenge to the country's health infrastructure “we will have to resort to a lock-down.”