CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Kenya

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Last updated on 29.10.2018 at 10:21

Kenya-Overview

Kenya has a large and diverse civil society, and the rights to freedom of association, expression, and peaceful assembly are guaranteed under Kenya’s 2010 Constitution. However, these rights are only partially respected in practice.

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Questions grow over police killings, attacks and arrested journalists

Questions grow over police killings, attacks and arrested journalists

CSOs release report on police killings. Separate cases of attacks and arbitrary arrests of journalists by police reported. Rights groups challenge the re-introduction of suspended provisions of the cyber crime Bill into the Finance Act by Parliament. Protesters demonstrate against looting in south Sudan by South Sudanese officials living in Kenya despite UN sanctions, Positive court ruling as LGBTIQ movie ban is lifted temporarily. Protest by teachers disrupted.

Peaceful Assembly

On 23rd October 2018, teachers in Kericho County took to the streets to protest against the delayed investigations into the cold blooded murder of their colleague, Mr Sang and his wife on 21st July 2018 in Chesingoro, Kericho County.

Led by the acting Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers National Chairman Julius Korir and Kericho branch Secretary Julius Mibei, the teachers marched to the home of the slain couple and to Litein town, where they held demonstrations. However, Anti-riot police officers who arrived at the protest fired live rounds of ammunition into the air and used teargas to forcefully dispersed the teachers. 

In a separate development, on 11th October 2018, hundreds of Kenyans and South Sudanese nationals living in Kenya staged a peaceful march in Nairobi to pressure the Kenyan government to take action against South Sudan officials. The South Sudanese officials are still living in Nairobi despite sanctions by the United Nations for their alleged roles in the South Sudan conflict.

The protest followed the public airing of a three part documentary series called ‘The Profiteers’ by Africa Uncensored, an investigative journalist channel. The documentary depicts key individuals and institutions in South Sudan and neighbouring Kenya and Uganda who have benefitted from the conflict in South Sudan. All the while South Sudanese citizens continue to bear the brunt of the war.

According to protest organiser Boniface Mwangi, there is evidence by watchdog groups showing that these individuals are also laundering money through Kenyan banks.

Separately, in early October 2018, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) announced that it was probing 243 cases of police killings in the preceding 12 months. Out of these, 58 happened between January and June 2018. The IPOA was also investigating another 86 cases where state security forces were accused of causing serious bodily harm to victims. It is unclear how many of these incidents are related to presidential election violence and the massive police crackdown on free assembly that gripped the country in 2017.

Expression

On 2nd October 2018, Standard Media Group’s journalist James Omoro was allegedly assaulted by police officers while covering chaos which erupted at the Homa Bay County Assembly. The police officers also broke and confiscated his camera. The incident took place in the County Assembly premises as police confronted a rowdy youth who had stormed the premises. The youth had been allegedly hired by one of the political parties due to an ongoing leadership row in the Majority leader’s office.

The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) issued a statement condemning the police actions as an affront to press freedom and safety of journalists. Calling for investigations into the journalist’s attack, MCK CEO David Omwoyo said:

“… We call upon the Inspector General of Police and the Independent Police (Oversight) Authority and the Police Spokesperson to carry out investigations into what led to the attack on the journalist and further confiscation of equipment…The media has a role to inform the public on what is happening in Homa Bay County and the police have a duty to protect them as they perform their duties. The media should not be intimidated by any internal or external forces in the line of duty”.

On 10th September 2018, it was reported that Nation Media group journalist Irene Mugo and Standard Media group journalist Lydia Nyawira were detained for conducting an interview in Nyeri County. The journalists were arrested after they finished the interview with family members of Albert Nderitu who had been arrested for wearing a T-shirt carrying a message perceived to be against Deputy President William Ruto. Narrating the events that led to their arrest, the reporters said that the police officers had approached them demanding that they either delete footage of their interview or risk arrest. They were then detained after they refused to delete their footage and had their notebooks and mobile phones confiscated. Ms Mugo and Ms Nyawira were however freed without charge after the Regional Commissioner, County Commissioner and County Police Commanders intervened.

Nderitu, had been arrested on claims that he intended to heckle the deputy president after he wore a T-shirt printed #Kieleweke (#let it be understood), which was presumed to be against Mr Ruto. He had been asked to pay a Sh 50,000 (500 USD) cash bail but was later released on free bond and directed to report back to the station on 13th September 2018.

On 25th September 2018, it was reported that The Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) had raised concerns that the government was reintroducing sections of Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act, 2018 which had been suspended by the High Court. As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, the Cyber crime law is being contested by civil society organisations who claim that it contains vague provisions that are unconstitutional and unduly gag media professionals. On 29th May 2018, The High Court in Nairobi temporarily suspended 26 sections of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill, which was signed into law by the President on 16th May 2018, after an appeal by the Bloggers Association of Kenya, among others.

According to BAKE, there are similarities between some provisions of the Cyber crime law which were suspended by the High Court, and some provisions in the Finance Act that was signed by the President in September 2018. The contentious provisions relate to the ‘unauthorized access or improper use of computerized tax system.’ Following these new developments, BAKE indicated that they would amend their ongoing court case to include the new provisions in the Finance Act which takes effect on 31st October 2018.

The Association stated:

“It is worrying that government is already running ahead to duplicate certain sections while the courts’ decision is pending. BAKE will not sit back and allow the government to take back hard-earned freedoms.” 

On 21st September 2018, a High Court in Nairobi temporarily lifted the ban on Rafiki, a Kenyan film that explores a love story between two young women in Nairobi. As previously reported in the Monitor, Rafiki was banned in Kenya on 26th April 2018 ahead of its debut at the Cannes Film Festival after the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) claimed the film sought "to legitimise lesbian romance," while homosexual sex is against the law in Kenya.

In September 2018, the film’s director, Wanuri Kahiu sued the KCFB leading to a temporary lifting of the ban, which allowed the film to be screened for a week and thus qualify for Academy Award nominations. To qualify as Kenya's entry under the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2019 Academy Awards, Rafiki had to be publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days at a commercial motion picture venue. In her ruling, Justice Wilfirda Okwany stated that Kenyan society is not so weak that its “moral foundation will be shaken by seeing such a film.”

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.