NAIROBI – Kenya's police have teargassed protesters holding peaceful demonstrations against alleged corruption including the theft of supplies for the fight against COVID-19
At least 12 demonstrators from a group of 100 protesting in different parts of Nairobi, the capital, were arrested by police, said central business district police chief Mark Wanjala.
Picketing and protesting are rights guaranteed by the Kenyan constitution but police argue that they dispersed Friday's demonstrations because of concerns that large gatherings could lead to the spread of the coronavirus.
However, protest organizer, Wanjeri Nderu, who runs a consumer watchdog site on Twitter called 'Buyer beware," charged that police were being used to silence demonstrators.
“We cannot continue like this. Others are balling (enjoying) from proceeds of theft and we are dying,” she said. “The reason we are being overtaxed is because they (government leaders) want to cover this big hole in the economy caused by theft of public resources.”
Independent rights activist Ndungi Githuku, lamented that activists were being treated like criminals.
“When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime; it's because we are being ruled by criminals," he said.
Kenyans have expressed outrage throughout the week on social media platforms over the announcement that the anti-corruption agency is investigating the theft of millions of dollars of supplies from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority.
Officials are investigating the alleged theft of supplies of personal protective equipment worth millions of dollars donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, according to the announcement. reports.
Kenya is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world with a position of 137 out of 180 countries on the annual survey by the global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.
Kenyan anti-corruption activists say the country loses as much as 30% of its $27 billion annual budget to graft.
Separately Friday, doctors in Nairobi started a strike over working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of health insurance. Nairobi governor Mike Sonko appealed to the doctors to resume work saying that COVID-19 is a challenge to all health workers and urged their union to engage in talks.