Kenya dispatch: mass protests prompt concerns over police brutality and pending restrictions on demonstrations Dispatches
© Citizen TV Kenya
Kenya dispatch: mass protests prompt concerns over police brutality and pending restrictions on demonstrations

Aynsley Genga is a JURIST Staff Correspondent in Kenya.

Anti-government demonstrations were held across Kenya both Monday and Thursday this week after a call by Azimio opposition party leader Raila Odinga. These have been just about all that everyone has been talking about. The whole week seemed like a movie. We have those who are in support of the protests and those who are against them. Those who are against them have complained about how their businesses are making losses as a result, while others are complaining that their children’s education is being affected since they are unable to attend classes. On the other hand we have those for the demonstrations who have firmly declared that “Enough is Enough”. The supporters of the protests have declared that change must happen and they have refused to continue suffering due to the high cost of living. Many have stated that this time around, Raila should not accept a power-sharing agreement with the Ruto government since they believe that nothing good will come out of it. In fact, many have stated if Raila does agree to a power-sharing agreement, then all of the effort and time that has been put into the protests will be for nothing and hence they will be very disappointed in Raila.

Every time one would think things have calmed down something new would pop up and disrupt the calm. We had running battles between the protestors and the police in areas such as Mathare, Kisumu and Kitale. There were areas such as Outer Ring Road, Nairobi where the police were overwhelmed by the protestors. Moreover, stories of looting and attacks by goons were prevalent this week.


There was also the issue of properties owned both by Raila and former president Uhuru Kenyatta being attacked by goons amidst the protests on Monday. The goons attacked Raila’s Spectre Gas plant located along Mombasa Road and the Kenyatta family’s farm in Northlands City, Ruiru. Raila was lucky that he had private security that was able to get rid of the intruders before too much damage was done but unfortunately that was not the case for the Kenyatta family. The Kenyatta enterprise which is 20,000 acres spread, hosts both Brookside Dairy and the high-cost Peponi School. No one would have ever thought that a day would come when the land would be attacked by goons. A lot of property was destroyed, in fact, the forest surrounding it was set on fire. A lot of cattle were also stolen from the farm. The Northlands being attacked was already strange but the fact that not a single police officer arrived at the scene until Tuesday was even stranger. Many people questioned the strange behavior of the police force. The police claimed that they were short-staffed due to the protests but many argued that there were no demonstrations in that specific area hence the question on everyone’s mind, ” Where were the police despite the goons having free reign of the property for nearly an entire day?” Many people, Azimio leaders included, began speculating about the involvement of various officials in the government especially those from the Mount Kenya region who wished to dethrone the Kenyatta family and become the new kingpin in the region. Leaders such as Deputy President(DP) Rigathi Gachagua came under fire on Monday as well as on Tuesday due to his obsession with dethroning Uhuru Kenyatta. Since getting into power last year, Gachagua has made multiple threats against Uhuru Kenyatta. Other politicians such as National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah have also been suspected of being involved in the attacks, especially the attack on the Northlands, since he had declared on live TV a week before that Uhuru should be careful with who he aligns himself with because even them they can attack Uhuru’s land.

Additionally, the fact that the police have done nothing despite pictures of the attackers as well as their vehicles going viral has further proven to many that there is indeed involvement of some government officials. These attacks have disappointed many, especially those from the Mount Kenya region such as former Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria. Moreover, it sparked fear in many since attacks such as these is what led to the infamous 2007 post-election violence. Many had even come out online stating that people should also attack Weston Hotel due to its affiliation with President Ruto but fortunately no one actually went through with it.

On Monday alone, we also had gang wars happening in Kibera where even some journalists were attacked. Both a church and a mosque was also burned, but fortunately the people were able to come to an agreement the next day with the aid of Raila.

With each passing demonstration, it is becoming more and more evident that chaos always ensues when the police are involved. The police have become more aggressive and many argue that the presence of the police makes it difficult to do anything or go anywhere since many are afraid of being attacked on sight. Many have begun asking why the police are even against the protests and yet the High Court declared the protests constitutional as long as the protestors do not carry weapons. Most of the time, the protestors only pick up stones when the police arrive at the scene and start shooting teargas and spraying the protestors with their water cannons. Some police even carry guns with them and as of this week have begun blatantly attacking not only protestors but also journalists as well. As of this week alone, we have had several journalists who have been attacked by the police while other have been arrested while recording the demonstrations. On Thursday, we had journalists who were attacked by police in their vehicle. The police shot tear gas inside the vehicle and the canister ended up hitting and injuring one of the reporters.

Nation reporter Jackline Macharia, reported that the attitude from police on Monday was a marked shift:

“Even when we identified ourselves as press, they still went ahead and hurled tear gas at us,” she said.

Separately, on Processional Way at around midday on Monday, NTV reporter Hellen Aura although fortunately not harmed, said she witnessed hostility from security agents, adding that a police officer told her: “Hata kama sijawahai tumia fujo kwa wanawake, leo nitatumia na wewe (I’ve never used force on a woman but today I’ll use it against you).”

This is but a glimpse of the police brutality that is currently happening in the country. On Thursday, we even had a Form Three (Grade 11) student in Homa Bay County who was shot by the police in the head but thankfully he was hit by a rubber bullet. The acts of violence have become too much that even mothers who are residents of Mathare were seen pleading with the police on Thursday to stop harming their children. The recent actions of the police have left many wondering if we pay taxes so that the police can buy weapons to harm us and the fact that government has chosen to be silent on the matter has shocked and infuriated many.

The government has begun to set a plan in motion through the Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki that will basically control people’s democratic right to demonstrate. On Saturday last week, Kindiki stated that the government seeks to introduce legislation governing demonstrations, pickets and petitions in the country. Kindiki said that legislation will outline the procedure to be followed in order for people to hold demonstrations as well as contain limitations on the number of assemblers, demonstrators, picketers and petitioners at any particular occasion; the responsibility for clean-up costs; and responsibility for, and payment of, damages to those harmed by activities of assemblers, demonstrators, picketers or petitioners. Many people including myself find this idea to be preposterous – after all, everyone should have the right to have their voice heard. I honestly do not think that it is fair to legislate such a law. Moreover, if such a law does come into effect it will not only affect political parties but it will also affect trade unions, labour unions and other societies as well. People have died so that Kenyans can have this right and to just take away such a right without even consulting the public is simply unconstitutional.

Another issue of concern that is arising amongst the public is President Ruto’s nonchalant behavior when it comes to the protests. Honestly speaking, with the way the president is carrying himself one would think everything is rainbows, butterflies and unicorns in the country. The nation’s economy is declining, people are suffering, others are being attacked by bandits on a daily basis while a vast majority are barely surviving, and yet the president has chosen to remain silent. Just this week, the president was not in the country since he was trying to get investments in Germany and Belgium. On paper that seems like a good thing, but many are wondering why he went when his country is having demonstrations weekly. Many are angered that he has not even tried to appease the masses in regard to the current situation. Additionally, there are angry with him due to the speculations concerning Rigathi Gachagua’s involvement in the Northlands fiasco and are wondering why he cannot keep his government in order. There were even women who came out on Thursday to demonstrate against the chaos that happened in the Northlands.


As it stands, people are waiting to see what will come out of these demonstrations. One question that people have started asking online in regards to Raila’s demands to open the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission(IEBC) server, if the server is opened and if it is indeed found that Raila was the actual winner, what happens next? Will another presidential election be carried out or will Ruto be forced to hand over his seat? It is quite a tricky situation since it has never happened in the history of Kenyan politics and considering there is a lot at stake for both parties I doubt anyone will willingly back down if such a situation occurs which in turn could lead to a civil war. Many doubt such a situation could even happen but if it were indeed to happen… Well, only time will tell.