Opposition figure detained at airport and forcibly deported again


After months of violence following the hotly-contested August 2017 elections and the controversial October 2017 rerun, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival Raila Odinga publicly shook hands and pledged reconciliation in early April 2018. However, it remains unclear whether this rapprochement between the ruling party and opposition will lead to justice for protesters killed in post-election violence or a reversal of the flagrant crackdown on the freedoms of expression and association that has taken place in recent months.

Miguna Miguna deported

As previously reported on the Monitor, following the mock inauguration of Raila Odinga as the ‘people’s president’, opposition figure and self-declared National Resistance Movement leader, Miguna 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 at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after the authorities attempted then failed to force him onto a plane headed for Dubai. He was held for more than 72 hours at the airport before allegedly being assaulted, drugged, and forcibly put on another flight out of the country. His forced deportation violates a court order to release him from detention at the airport.

Eviction of Sengwer community

The government continued its efforts to evict, often violently, the Sengwer community from their ancestral lands in the Embobut Forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County, north Rift Valley. In 2009, the government determined that all residents of the Forest should be removed from the area and resettled to protect the water catchment of which Embobut is a part. On 25th December 2017, more than 100 armed guards entered the forest firing gunshots, killing livestock and burning at least 15 homes in an effort to forcibly evict residents. On 9th January 2018, a member of the Sengwer community was killed by Forest Service guards who later burnt and destroyed his property. The community claims that their rights to free, prior and informed consent were violated.

Freedom of Expression

Journalists threatened and beaten

Journalists from several media houses were threatened and beaten on 26th March 2018 at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while attempting to cover the return of Miguna Miguna (see details above). Shortly before midnight, officers verbally and physically attacked journalists, and ordered them to leave the international arrivals terminal. Two journalists, Stephen Letoo, a political affairs reporter with the privately-owned Citizen TV network, and Robert Gichira, a cameraman with the privately-owned Nation TV channel, allege that they were beaten by police. A journalist working with the privately-owned Standard Group Network, Sophia Wanuna, was also reportedly assaulted.

Film featuring lesbians banned

Rafiki, a Kenyan film that explores a love story between two young women, was banned on 26th April in Kenya and ahead of its debut at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in May. The Kenya Film Classification Board justified the ban, asserting that the film "seeks to legitimize lesbian romance" when homosexual sex is against the law in Kenya.

Speaking to CNN on 20th April 2018, President Kenyatta spoke out against the LGBTI community, declaring that gay rights in Kenya were not a human rights issue, but a cultural taboo and unacceptable in Kenyan society. 

Peaceful Assembly

Environmental activists arrested

Police arrested two environmental activists on 25th May 2018 during a protest against plans to set up a coal-fired power plant at Kwasasi in Lamu County.

The two activists, Walid Ahmed Ali and Ishaq Abubakar Khatib, were picked up by police on the streets of Lamu Old Town. Both are part of Save Lamu, an environmental activism group. The group had sought permission to demonstrate but their request was rejected by police who deemed the protest "unlawful".

The over 1,000-megawatt coal plant in Lamu is part of an ambitious project aimed at generating electricity to help boost the region’s socio-economic landscape. The Sh200 billion (1.98 billion USD) power plant, built through a joint Kenyan-Chinese venture, will initially rely on combustible imports from South Africa—a move environmentalists say will damage natural and marine resources, and destroy fishermen and farmers’ livelihoods.

Locals and other activists in Lamu have reportedly condemned the arrests. Lamu Marine Forum chairperson Mohamed Athman, who is also a member of Save Lamu, said:

"We don’t need coal project in Lamu. The government can’t force such a project down our throats…they are now using police to instill fear and intimidation. We shall not tire in our quest to stop the coal plant from being set up here”.
No justice in killing of student protester

More than three months after the killing of Meru University of Science and Technology student leader, Evans Njoroge, no has been held accountable. Njoroge was shot dead by police on 27th February 2018 in Meru after participating in a demonstration with other students over high tuition fees and poor conditions on the university campus.

According to news sources, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority concluded its investigations into the killing and has handed over the report to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

A postmortem conducted on Njoroge’s body indicated he was shot with a pistol at close range. The family pathologist Moses Njue said the student leader was shot through the back of the head and the bullet exited through the ear causing instant death.

Following the killing, Meru University Vice-Chancellor Japhet Magambo was put on terminal leave by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed.