Kenya police are told not to report deaths during protests. A watchdog says they killed 6 this week - Associated Press

Police in Kenya say they have been ordered not to report deaths during a crackdown on protests over tax increases amid the rising cost of living, but an independent watchdog said Thursday that police shot dead at least six people this week and 27 in previous weeks.

It wasn’t clear who issued the unusual order. A police official told The Associated Press it came this week as the political opposition called for three days of demonstrations through Friday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Police in last week’s demonstration confirmed officers killed at least six.

While police in Kenya have long been accused by rights groups of using excessive force, there is growing concern about tactics used under the government of President William Ruto, elected last year. One police officer was seen posing as a journalist in the latest protest on Wednesday, which the Media Council of Kenya called dangerous.

Ruto faces rising frustration from even some of the Kenyans who voted him into office after he vowed to reduce the cost of living in one of Africa’s largest economies. Now his government is having to defend itself to donors including the United States, whose Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs spent more than $5 million in fiscal year 2021 on Kenya’s police oversight body while “promoting police accountability and professionalism.”

[Executive director of the local Independent Medico-Legal Unit watchdog Peter Kiama] said it is illegal for police officers to fail to report deaths or injuries from police action within 24 hours to the government-created Independent Policing Oversight Authority. A commissioner with the IPOA, John Waiganjo, confirmed to local broadcaster NTV that the organization had “not received notifications as we should, and I think it’s important to point that out.”

Reporting on killings and torture by police can be sensitive in Kenya, where watchdogs have long warned about a culture of impunity. In the 1990s, police were accused of suppressing critics of repressive President Daniel arap Moi.

The new tax increases that sparked the current round of demonstrations have prompted Kenya’s religious leaders to urge the president to repeal the package, warning that Kenyans face a level of hopelessness that “can easily inspire insurrection.”

The International Monetary Fund this week called the law’s approval a “crucial” step toward reducing Kenya’s debt vulnerabilities.

As part of efforts to reassure partners about Kenya’s economic opportunities, Ruto on Wednesday met with visiting U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai even as the new round of protests emptied Nairobi’s streets.

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Associated Press

Locations: Nairobi, Kenya Kenya United States of America 

Organizations: Associated Press Media Council of Kenya United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) Kenyan Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) International Monetary Fund (IMF) 

People: William Ruto Peter Kiama John Waiganjo Daniel arap Moi Katherine Tai 

Tags: Protest Poverty Taxation Political Violence Mass Death 

Type: Headlines