CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Kenya

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Last updated on 02.06.2021 at 11:26

The Civic Space Developments

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Deterioration of freedom of assembly for pro-human rights activists

Deterioration of freedom of assembly for pro-human rights activists

On 1 May 2021, Kenyans took to the streets to protest police brutality during the lockdown. Protestors raised concerns about the misuse of lockdown regulations as a justification to repress citizens. During the protest, police used teargas on protestors and reporters, detained protestors, and forced a man into the police truck, after failing to take his protest sign. Several protests were held in Kenya in solidarity with Palestinians. On 13 May 2021, approximately 200 people, mostly Muslims demonstrated against the bombing of Palestine by Israel after Eid prayers in Nairobi. The police arrested several protestors and dispersed the peaceful protest with teargas.

Peaceful Assembly

Increased pro-human rights protection protestors detained

On 1 May 2021, Kenyans took to the streets to protest police brutality during the lockdown. Protestors raised concerns about the misuse of lockdown regulations as a justification to repress citizens. During the protest, police used teargas on protestors and reporters, detained protestors, and forced a man into the police truck, after failing to take his protest sign. Several protests were held in Kenya in solidarity with Palestinians. On 13 May 2021, approximately 200 people, mostly Muslims demonstrated against the bombing of Palestine by Israel after Eid prayers in Nairobi. The police arrested several protestors and dispersed the peaceful protest with teargas.

On 25 May 2021, students from Maasai Mara university blocked busy Narok roads to protest reckless driving by motorcycles also known as (boda bodas). The anti-riot police dispersed the protest using teargas and arrested five students. On 24 May 2021, a first-year student was allegedly killed because of the irresponsible driving of a boda boda.

Expression

Blogger, activist and media face clampdown

On 18 May 2021, Qatari officials arrested a Kenyan national, Malcolm Bidali without charges and held him in an undisclosed location. Bidali works as a security guard and blogs under the pseudonym Noah. He covers stories detailing labor rights violations, poor living conditions, wages, and migrant worker’s conditions in Qatar. The arrest took place a few days after he spoke about his experience in Qatar to trade unions and civil service organisations. Police officers arrested an activist, Edwin Kiama for posting an infographic on Twitter joining the #IMFStopLoaningKenya discussion on 6 April 2021. Kiama was charged for violating Section 22 of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act of 2018, which stipulates that any person who intentionally publishes false, misleading or fictitious data shall be liable to a fine not exceeding five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both. The courts barred Kiama from posting on social media and ordered for his accounts to be blocked. He was released on a cash bail of 500,000 Kenyan shillings. On 20 April 2021, the activist was unconditionally released as the prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence.

On 20 April 2021, the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), George Kinoti threatened to summon a Citizen TV journalist and a few of the senior management members for questioning. Citizen TV published an investigative report exposing a network of brokers and police officers who allegedly rent police equipment including guns, uniforms, and handcuffs to criminals on 18 April 2021. The journalists obtained a pistol during the investigation and handed it over to the police once it was aired. Kinoti accused the media outlet of breaching ethical codes and violating Section 89 of Kenya’s penal code which states that any person who, without reasonable excuse, carries or has in his possession or under his control any firearm or other offensive weapon is liable for a 15-year prison sentence.

Kenyan officials fired teargas canisters at Mariel Müller, Deutsche Welle East Africa journalist on 1 May 2021. One canister wounded her leg and the other grazed her. Müller was reporting on the demonstration against police brutality during the lockdown. On 24 May 2021, police officers arrested nine journalists for covering a story on evictions in Makima. Reportedly, the police confiscated the journalist’s equipment and manhandled them. They were released without charges on 25 May 2021.

Association

Kenya’s constitution guarantees the right to freedom of association. In practice, the right is only partially respected. Unregistered societies are not legally permissible and the government has wide discretion in placing conditions upon NGO’s activities.

Kenya’s constitution guarantees the right to freedom of association. In practice, the right is only partially respected. Unregistered societies are not legally permissible and the government has wide discretion in placing conditions upon NGO’s activities. Human rights groups- including- especially those working on issues relating to police accountability- are routinely harassed and intimidated by state officials. In April 2015, two highly respected human rights NGOs, Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and Haki Africa were publicly alleged to have links to terrorist groups. They had their assets frozen and their offices raided, and were only able to resume full operations after more than six months in response to a court order.

Peaceful Assembly

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed under Kenya’s 2010 constitution. In practice, this right is routinely undermined by the state, and its security forces.

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed under Kenya’s 2010 constitution. In practice, this right is routinely undermined by the state, and its security forces. The law specifies no time limit for state authorities to respond to organisers' notification requests, and counter-demonstrations are prohibited. There is a consistent and long-term pattern of Kenyan security forces using unlawful, excessive, and occasionally lethal force in the management of public assemblies. In June 2016, police used excessive force against protestors calling for reform to Kenya’s electoral management body, the IEBC in which four people we killed.

Expression

Freedom of expression is guaranteed under the Kenyan constitution, and the country has a diverse and vocal media environment. However, a number of laws have been recently passed, which pose a threat to freedom of information, and the public’s right to access information.

Freedom of expression is guaranteed under the Kenyan constitution, and the country has a diverse and vocal media environment. However, a number of laws have been recently passed, which pose a threat to freedom of information, and the public’s right to access information. The Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill, passed in October 2015, potentially criminalises investigative reporting on matters of public importance including bribery and corruption scandals. Journalists engaged in reporting on ‘sensitive’ topics, including security and counter-terrorism issues, have been arrested, questioned, and detained, including for sharing information via social media platforms. Human rights defenders have also been arrested and charged, on politically motivated grounds. Human rights lawyer Willie Kimani was murdered in July 2016, along with his client and taxi driver, after filing a criminal corruption complaint against a police officer. Four police officers were subsequently arrested and charged with three counts of murder.