25 April, 2022
PRESS STATEMENT: SHRINKING CIVIC SPACE IN KENYA AND THE RIGHT TO PROTEST
Source: Defenders Coalition website
STATEMENT OVER THE VIOLENT UNLAWFUL ARRESTS OF JULIUS KAMAU, MINOO KYA, CLINTON OJIAMBO NAHASHON MACHARIA AND ANTHONY KANYIRI: FREEDOM TO DEMONSTRATE, PICKET, AND PRESENT PETITIONS.
11 Apri 2022
We, the undersigned organizations, are concerned that State Organs continue criminalizing Kenyans who exercise their right to protest (peacefully and unarmed), subjecting them to harassment, use of force, intimidation, and preferring unlawful charges against them. We are deeply concerned over the circumstances and manner of the arrest of Julius Kamau, Minoo Kya, Clinton Ojiambo, Nahashon Macharia, and Anthony Kanyiri, which only confirms the continued trend of suppression of the right to protest by the State, mainly where the protestors criticize the government and/or public officials. We also note the increase in threats to these fundamental rights and freedoms in the run-up to elections and the continued propagation of such repression through the National Police Service.
On 7th April 2022, Julius Kamau, a Kenyan activist, was violently manhandled by three plain-clothes police officers, thrown into a police lorry before being transferred into a police van, and subsequently held at the Central Police Station in Nairobi for allegedly creating a disturbance. Julius was protesting over the continued increase in the cost of living and calling for the lowering of food prices in the country ahead of the budget reading by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary on 7th April 2022.
The protest had begun online under the #NjaaRevolution, where rights holders were protesting against the increased cost of living and calling for lowering of food prices, among other issues. Two days after Julius was arrested, on 9th April 2022, four other protestors, Minoo Kya, Clinton Ojiambo, Nahashon Macharia, and Anthony Kanyiri, were arrested and detained at Mwiki police station in Nairobi County while participating in further protests under the #NjaaRevolution.
The right to protest is guaranteed under Article 37 of the Kenyan Constitution. 12 years after the promulgation of a very progressive Bill of Rights within the Kenyan Constitution, it is disappointing that rights are still treated as privileges. The right is also guaranteed under regional and international human rights instruments ratified by Kenya, including, Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Banjul Charter) and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Further, spontaneous protests are not illegal, as stipulated by the African Commission Guidelines on the Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa. The Guidelines operationalize the implementation of Articles 11 of the Banjul Charter by State parties and all relevant stakeholders.
For the avoidance of doubt, one does not require the permission of the police to protest. Under the Public Order Act and other International Human Rights instruments, the rationale for notification is for the police to provide security for the protestors and must not be misconstrued as an obligation on those who wish to protest to seek ‘permission’ from the police. In itself, a lack of notification is not sufficient reason to characterize a protest as unlawful. We strongly condemn the inhuman actions of the police officers, whose conduct not only contravenes numerous constitutional and legal provisions but is a clear demonstration of the repressive nature of Kenya’s National Police Service.
We, therefore, call on the National Police Service and the concerned State Organs:
- To desist from arresting protestors under the guise of an unlawful assembly;
- To respect the right of everyone to peacefully and unarmed- assemble, demonstrate, picket, and petition as guaranteed by Article 37;
- To respect the Constitution of Kenya, Regional and International Human Rights Standards on the exercise of fundamental human rights. Human rights are guaranteed to be exercised and are not mere declarations;
- To respect the tenets of human rights and Article 24 of the Kenyan Constitution, which are clear on the rationale for limitation of rights and fundamental freedoms, that is, in accordance with the law and only to the extent that a limitation is reasonable and justifiable.
- To investigate and initiate disciplinary action against the police officers who unlawfully arrested the protestors in an inhuman manner.
Article 19, Eastern Africa
Civic Freedoms Forum (CFF)
Crime Si Poa
Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI)
Red Vests Movement