An Examination Of Kenya’s Failure to Honor The Right to Demonstrate

By Steve Biko Wafula / Published March 31, 2023 | 9:33 am




KEY POINTS

Police bosses have failed to hold police officers accountable for human rights violations committed during demonstrations, which has contributed to the recurrence of such violations.


Demonstrations

KEY TAKEAWAYS


The failure of police leadership to address these violations has further perpetuated the culture of impunity within the police force


The Kenyan Constitution provides for the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration under Article 37. This right is further expounded upon in the Public Order Act, which lays out the legal framework for regulating public gatherings in Kenya. Despite this clear legal framework, the Kenyan police have frequently been accused of using excessive force against peaceful demonstrators.

One of the reasons for this is the lack of training provided to police officers on how to manage public gatherings. This has led to situations where police officers respond to peaceful protests with violence, such as the use of tear gas, water cannons, and batons, which often result in injury or death to demonstrators.

In addition, the police have also been accused of selectively applying the law to restrict the right to demonstrate. For example, they may allow peaceful demonstrations by government supporters to proceed while using force to disperse opposition demonstrations. This selective application of the law undermines the right to freedom of assembly and expression, as enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution.

Another issue is the lack of accountability for police officers who commit human rights violations during demonstrations. This lack of accountability is due to a range of factors, including corruption and a lack of political will to hold police officers to account. This impunity has allowed police officers to continue using excessive force against demonstrators without fear of repercussions.

Furthermore, there have been instances where police officers have infiltrated peaceful demonstrations and incited violence. This has been documented in cases such as the 2017 protests against the electoral commission, where police officers were seen throwing stones and engaging in acts of violence. Such actions are not only illegal but also undermine the right to peaceful assembly and expression.

The police have also been accused of targeting journalists and media houses covering demonstrations. This is a violation of the right to freedom of expression and the press, as guaranteed under Article 34 of the Kenyan Constitution. By preventing journalists from covering demonstrations, the police can conceal human rights violations committed during the protests.

Another issue is the use of live ammunition against demonstrators, resulting in unnecessary deaths and injuries. The use of live ammunition is only justified in situations where there is an imminent threat to life, which is not the case during peaceful demonstrations. The Kenyan police have also been accused of using firearms in situations where non-lethal force would have sufficed, such as rubber bullets or tear gas.

The police have also been accused of disrupting peaceful demonstrations by arresting organizers and participants. This is often done without a warrant and is a violation of the right to liberty and security of the person, as guaranteed under Article 29 of the Kenyan Constitution. This often results in prolonged detention and denial of bail, which further undermines the right to peaceful assembly and expression.

Furthermore, the police have also been accused of violating the right to privacy by using surveillance technology to monitor and track demonstrators. This is a violation of Article 31 of the Kenyan Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy and can also have a chilling effect on the right to peaceful assembly and expression.

Finally, the failure of police leadership to address these violations has further perpetuated the culture of impunity within the police force. Police bosses have failed to hold police officers accountable for human rights violations committed during demonstrations, which has contributed to the recurrence of such violations.

In conclusion, the Kenyan police have failed to honor the constitutional right to peaceful assembly and demonstration by using excessive force, selectively applying the law, targeting journalists, using live ammunition, disrupting peaceful demonstrations through arrests, and violating the right to privacy. Police bosses must be held accountable for their failure to address these violations and for creating violence against innocent Kenyans demonstrating to agitate for better living standards.

Related Content: Potential Impact of Riots And Demonstrations On Kenya’s Economy: Sector By Sector Analysis




About Steve Biko Wafula

Steve Biko is the CEO OF Soko Directory and the founder of Hidalgo Group of Companies. Steve is currently developing his career in law, finance, entrepreneurship and digital consultancy; and has been implementing consultancy assignments for client organizations comprising of trainings besides capacity building in entrepreneurial matters.He can be reached on: +254 20 510 1124 or Email: info@sokodirectory.com

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