Kenya: Police brutally assault University students

ARTICLE 19 condemns the brutal assault by police against University of Nairobi Students on 28 September 2017, after students engaged in a protest against the re-arrest of MP Paul Ongili (known as Babu Owino), a former student leader and MP for Embakasi East constituency. He was arrested and charged for insulting the President during a political rally on 24 September 2017.

The Police had claimed that the students had turned violent during the protest. However, pictures and videos of the incident shared online showed students being removed from their classes and dormitories after the protest had ended, then being frog marched and beaten by police officers. In a similar incident in April 2016, police assaulted University of Nairobi students following contested student union elections. The Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) has stated it has opened an investigation into the incident.

“We strongly condemn all brutality against Kenyan citizens, especially by police officers whose duty is to protect. We call upon the authorities to ensure the incident is investigated swiftly and effectively, and to hold those responsible for this brutal assault against students to account,” said Henry Mania, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa

Article 37 of the Constitution enshrines every Kenyan’s right to protest. Moreover, Articles 21 and 24 require the state to respect, protect, and promote all rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights, including freedom of assembly.[1] The right to protest is also enshrined in international laws which Kenya is bound by.

This incident, coupled up with similar instances where police violently engage with protestors, including the recent post elections protests that began when the Presidential results were announced in August 2017, point to an alarming trend where excessive force is used by authorities to prevent anti-government protests. The state should not restrict or ban free expression, including protests, simply because it disagrees with the views of protesters.

The 6th Schedule of the National Police Service Act, the Independent Police Oversight Authority Act and the Public Order Management Act prescribe when and how force should be used and also require the Police to facilitate assemblies through dialogue. When force is used, it must be legal, necessary and as a last resort. This was clearly not the case in this most recent incident, where police officers were shown to beat a number of students, many of whom have since been detained.

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the National Police Service, the National Police Service Commission, the Independent Police Oversight Authority and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure that this incident is thoroughly investigated and that those responsible are held to account.


For more information please contact: Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa by email on [email protected] or call +254 727 862230

[1] These obligations are also set out ARTICLE 19’s December 2016 Principles on the protection of human rights in protest  which elaborate a set of minimum standards for the respect, protection and fulfilment of the right to protest, while promoting a clear recognition of the limited scope of permissible restrictions.