COVID-19: Police fire teargas, clobber citizens at Likoni ferry

A section of residents who were forced to lie on the ground after being clobbered during the ensuing chaos at the Likoni ferry last month.Police have been blamed for causing 11 deaths since the curfew began PHOTO COURTESY

Police in Mombasa on Friday fired teargas canisters and clobbered citizens who tried to force their way towards the ferry at the Likoni channel, following a new queuing system introduced to reduce congestion and curb spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

Impatient commuters who found the queues too long and slow attempted to form crowds and surge towards the ferry, prompting police to use force.

Photos and video clips taken from the scene depicted running battles between security personnel and citizens, sounds of gunfire and police beating up some citizens using clubs and pipes.

Men and women sat and sprawled on the ground, some wailing while others coughed and vomited from choking teargas smoke.

“This queuing system is too slow, yet we need to be home before 7 pm when the curfew starts, what do they want us to do?” Zamzam Rashid, 39, said, sitting on the muddy ground following earlier rainfall that had hit Mombasa.

Zamzam, a janitor at a Mombasa clearing and forwarding company, lives in Likoni and uses the ferry daily to work.

She had been allowed to leave work early by her boss to enable her beat the queues at the ferry, and the dusk to dawn curfew declared by the government earlier this week.

Commuters on the ferry were made to maintain one-meter distance between each other, which resulted in the ferries carrying only a limited number of people per trip, and resulted in a huge human pile-up on both sides of the channel.

Queues formed to as long as two kilometers to either side, while public service vehicles especially matatus, were prohibited from carrying passengers at their usual stage near the ferry crossing, forcing commuters to walk long distances after crossing.

The latest developments are an indication of tougher times ahead for locals as the government takes more drastic measures in preventing the spread of the Coronavirus.