CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Kenya

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Last updated on 15.01.2019 at 07:34

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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LGBT Protesters Attacked in Refugee Camp

LGBT Protesters Attacked in Refugee Camp

Peaceful Assembly

On 5th November 2018, students from Maseno University staged a demonstration to protest the harassment of students by the police. The demonstration was triggered by the detention of several students after they went to report an attack by thugs. According to the University’s communications Director, the students disagreed with the police officers at the station after which they were detained. During the protest which followed the detention, the students barricaded roads and lit bonfires. Later that day, a video and pictures circulated on social media showing protesters who were beaten up and mistreated by security officers.

On 3rd December 2018, at least 20 students from the Technical University of Mombasa were arrested after they staged a demonstration to protest the introduction of new rules by the University’s administration. During the protest, the students damaged vehicles along the Nyali bridge, barricaded roads and threw stones at the police officers who had been deployed to control the situation. The police in turn fired in the air to disperse the protesting students.

In a separate incident, on 12th December 2018, LGBT refugees in the sprawling Kakuma camp in Kenya’s Turkana county were beaten with wooden sticks and iron bars while protesting outside the UNHCR office about rising homophobic attacks in recent months. About 20 people were injured during the demonstration after they were attacked by locals and fellow refugees. The UN has since confirmed that at-risk LGBT refugees were being moved to safe houses in Nairobi.

Association

In early December 2018, Defend Defenders launched a report which examines the experiences of marginalised human rights defenders (HRDs) in Kenya. The report highlighted the challenges and vulnerabilities of women HRDs, activists working for the promotion of LGBT rights, and indigenous minority HRDs, specifically those in the northern Turkana region fighting for land rights amid a heavy presence of extractive industries and small arms proliferation.

On 14th December 2018, embattled opposition figure Miguna Miguna won a court case in which he was officially recognised as a Kenyan citizen. As previously reported in the Monitor, Miguna was seized in a dawn raid of his Nairobi home on 2nd February 2018 and subsequently deported to Canada, where he holds dual citizenship. On 26th March 2018, Miguna attempted to regain entry into Kenya but was detained for more than 72 hours at the airport before allegedly being assaulted, drugged, and forcibly put on another flight out of the country. The High Court awarded him Sh7 million (USD 70,000) as compensation for the violation of his rights during his deportation.

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.