Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Lockdown and Police Violence

Police brutality in African countries that imposed lockdowns are on the rise. 

Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Kenya are some of the countries that security agencies have used brutal means to keep people off the streets. The brutality contradicts some of the measures put in place that allow people to go out only for essential purposes, such as buying food and medication.

In Nigeria, the police were put in the spotlight for brutalizing communities they are meant to protect. Arbitrary arrests and killings are not uncommon in Africa's most populous nation – and already the country's human rights commission has sounded the alarm bells urging restraint. According to Nigeria's Human Rights Commission, security operatives have killed at least eighteen civilians while trying to enforce the state-imposed lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. The rights group added that those killed by security forces so far outnumber patients who have died from the coronavirus in the country.

"The commission monitored about 105 human rights violations, there were 18 cases of extrajudicial killings, these were referred to appropriate agencies, and we are going to follow up on this," Tony Ojukwu, the head of the commission, told DW. Ojukwu further says that "it shows there is a disproportionate use of force and the abuse of power, corruption, and non-adherence to international and national human rights laws and based practices by the security agents."
According to Auwal Musa Rafsanjani from the Abuja Civil Society Legislative Advocacy, "There are so many reported cases of human rights abuses, including outright murder and killing of Nigerians in the name of keeping them at home. We think this is a shame and outrageous that coronavirus didn't kill Nigerians, but security agents are killing Nigerians." Rafsanjani said that such unwarranted and indiscriminate killings could lead people to fight back.

In South Africa, videos of police brutality against violators of the lockdown that was imposed on March 26 went viral on social media platforms. Several reports of torture and murder of citizens accused of breaching the lockdown regulations are now under investigation. Some of the videos show soldiers kicking people and forcing them to roll on the ground. Others were forced to frog-march until they reach their homes.
But perhaps the death of Collins Koza, a resident of Alexandra Township, angered many South Africans. DW correspondent in Johannesburg Thuso Khumalo reports that soldiers entered his house and beat him for drinking beer and having some bottles in his fridge. He died three hours later after the beating.  So far, eight people have been killed as a result, and at least 200 cases of police brutality recorded.

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