The Amnesty International Kenya, a global lobby group has raised concern over what it terms arbitrary arrests of protestors by police, instead urging security agencies to protect protestors and private property.
Describing the July 7, 2023 protests as a reminder of the historical Saba Saba movement which significantly expanded human rights and democracy during the second liberation in the 1990s, Amnesty said it is monitoring protests taking place in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Kakamega, Turkana and other parts of the country.
“We have received reports of arbitrary arrests of protestors in Nairobi and Western Kenya and selective excessive force against those exercising their right to peacefully assemble, express themselves and register their dissent with recent taxation measures and the cost of living.” Irungu Houghton, Executive Director Amnesty International Kenya, said in a signed statement.
The planned Saba Saba public protest against the controversial Finance Act 2023 and the high cost of living was successfully organised by Azimio brigade across the country after the police gave them a nod.
after area police command gave a nod.
A spot check by The Informer Media Group showed some businesses remain closed in the city centre due to fear of chaos as multitudes of opposition supporters marched from Kamukunji to the Central Business District.
Consequently, hell broke loose as anti-riot police officer engaged demonstrtors in running battles.
The repeat scenario is expected to play out during Tuesday’s planned demos.
Nairobi police boss Adamson Bungei had confirmed that they had granted Azimio the right to hold the event but only at Kamukunji Grounds, confirming that enough officers had been assigned to ensure security in the city and at the event.
“Their meeting at Kamukunji Grounds is allowed and they can proceed. They are not allowed to hold street protests.” Bungei said.
Police erected roadblocks on roads leading to State House Nairobi.
Others are deployed laying spikes at various points on major roads including State House Road, State House Avenue, Processional Way and Dennis Pritt, occasionally flagging down and questioning motorists.
The officers said they were under instructions not to allow the motorcyclists through as they could be used to ferry crowds to State House.
Irungu took police to task saying measures taken to ensure the Azimio La Umoja Kamukunji rally proceeds peacefully should have been consistently deployed across all the other demonstrations that police officers have forcefully disrupted.
Citing Kenya Constitution of Kenya 2010 and National Police Service Act, Irungu underscored the need for police protection during lawful and peaceful protests.
“Article 21 of the Constitution binds the police to fulfil, promote and protect human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly. The 2nd Schedule of the National Police Service Act mandates that police use force only as a last resort and in an accountable manner. It is only appropriate to use force in specific circumstances, such as to protect life.”
Quoting a report, they released on the March 2023 policing of public protests empirically documenting the misuse of live bullets and teargas, resulting in deaths, injuries, and destruction, Amnesty says 12 people died as a result of police action, among them were two babies who choked from teargas that filled their homes in Nairobi’s informal settlements.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International Kenya urges the police to release those lawfully exercising their right to protest and refrain from using excessive and unlawful force that may result in injuries and deaths.
Commanding Officers must also ensure those arrested are granted their rights, including information regarding why they are being arrested, freedom from torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, and assistance from friends, family and legal counsel, demands Amnesty.