Adding salt to injury? Repressive Response by Police to Kenyans facing economic hardships

Six months since the formation of the Kenya Kwanza regime, Kenyans from all walks of life continue to grapple with high cost of living, heavy taxation, unemployment, and a litany of unconstitutional decisions that are a serious threat to livelihoods, health, food sovereignty and acceptable quality housing, clean and safe water, social security and education as provided for under Article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya.

Despite the promises by the Kenya Kwanza political alliance during the campaigns, inauguration and during the last six months in office, the foundations laid so far do not guarantee the realization of the sugarcoated promises. This is attributed to the failure of the new Government to respect the sovereignty of the people and the Constitutional provision in Article 19 that the Bill of Rights is an integral part of Kenya’s democratic state and is the framework for social, economic and cultural policies.

Given this context of non-compliance, Kenyans remain with a sole obligation to defend the Constitution and demand for these rights through among other public actions. It is on this basis, the Constitution guarantees under Article 37 the right to peaceably assemble, picket and demonstrate against any actor whose conduct is inimical to these obligations.

Today, the Constitution has been put to test when Kenyans across the Country led by the political opposition were denied the opportunity to stand against the aforementioned concerns. The President, the Cabinet Secretary- Ministry of Interior and National Administration and the County Commander in unison deemed the protest illegal and contrary to public order and security. This interpretation is misguided and faulty--for in the Constitution, there is no limitation on this basis and the Public Order Act does not grant the police power to approve or disapprove any public gatherings.

The conduct of the police that was characterized by unlawful arrests, excessive and violent use of force, injuries, killings and restriction of movements was uncalled for and a stark reminder of the dark dictatorial tactics of the KANU- Kenyatta and Moi regimes. This unfortune development contradicts the expected transition in the Constitution from: a police force to a service and regime to democratic police. The Constitution under Article 244 (c) provides that the National Police Service SHALL comply with fundamental standards of human rights and freedoms.

We strongly condemn this barbaric conduct by the state and the police which have refused to transform since the colonial times.  For over a century now, the police have and continues to be used as a tool of political repression and weaponization by the ruling elite to settle political scores.  We demand for the unconditional release of all those unlawfully arrested, action for the perpetrators and a guarantee for non-repetition. We also demand that the Government address the high cost of living as a matter of priority because Kenyans are suffering.