In enforcing the 8pm curfew in the ‘one-zoned’ area, police on Saturday night placed roadblocks on Thika Super Highway leaving hundreds of motorists stranded. Social media was awash with videos of the snarl up and what followed was Kenyans’ anger being directed to the government for what they termed as high-handedness in implementing the curfew that targets Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Nakuru and Machakos counties.
Law enforcement has come under criticism again in their lack of humanity when implementing the Covid-19 preventive protocols as directed by the President and his cabinet. A year ago, there were reports of police brute force that led to the deaths of civilians on the premise of violation of the directives. Despite this, the police are yet to adopt more humane tactics in implementing these directives.
Majority of the Nairobians stranded on Thika Highway on the evening of April 17th 2021 were people who were heading home after their day’s hustle. According to the 2019 Kenya population census, 83.6% of the working population are employed in the informal sector. With the harsh impact of the global Coronavirus pandemic, companies in this sector are maximizing on their productive hours to generate as much revenue as possible to be able to sustain their businesses and pay their staff.
The other issue is that the nature of these informal jobs does not allow for one to work from home. This puts the roughly 15 million Kenyans said to be employed in the informal sector in a tight position where they have to choose between complying with the Covid-19 protocols or going out to make enough to fend for their households at the risk of being on the wrong side of law. This particular section of the population relies heavily on public transport to commute to and from work hence the long queues in the Nairobi CBD on most evenings and the heavy traffic on most roads. It is also worth noting that there is ongoing construction on major roads that has cost Nairobians hours and hours in traffic.
With these realities in mind, authorities should have extended grace in enforcing the 8pm curfew to civilians. Punishing Kenyans on account of something that is beyond their control, poor public transport system, is not only unfair but also uncalled for. The long queues witnessed at bus stops prior to the Saturday incident should have informed authorities of the challenges the public transport system presents to the millions of Kenyans living within and outside Nairobi.
The Saturday incident does in fact confirm the view that the 8pm curfew in the ‘one-zoned’ region is elitist. It is very unlikely for a middle-class Kenyan working in the comfort of their home and having the luxury of personal transport means to experience the same challenges as the common mwananchi who relies on public transport.
The government should reflect on these directives while leaving room for changes to comfortably accommodate the needs of Kenyans. English journalist William Godwin once said, “Law is made for man and not man for the law. Wherever we can be sure that the most valuable interests of a nation require that we should decide one way, that way we ought to decide.” If the directives keep putting the citizenry and the authorities at loggerheads, it may be time to reflect and revise accordingly.