Kenya: Police must be held accountable for brutality against protesters

Kenya: Police must be held accountable for brutality against protesters - Civic Space

ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa condemns the police brutality against peaceful protesters responding to Kenya’s new Finance Bill, which began in Nairobi County on 18 June. During the protests, police used water canons, batons and teargas to disperse protesters and arrested 335 human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and civilians. By 19 and 20  June, the protests had spread to other counties across the country, including Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Garissa, Nyeri, Kakamega, Laikipia, and Eldoret. To ensure the accountability of the security sector, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa calls on the Independent Policing Authority (IPOA) to take action against police officers who used excessive force. 


In June each year, the Kenyan government prepares and presents to parliament a proposed Finance Bill, which is then subjected to public debate. The 2024 Finance Bill was read on 13 June, though it had been published weeks earlier. Many Kenyans have expressed dissatisfaction with the bill, calling for it to be amended or entirely re-drafted, mainly in response to proposals for increased taxation. People took part in protests to urge Members of Parliament not to pass the bill in its entirety. The peaceful protests, linked to the #FreeToProtest, #RejectFinanceBill2024 and #OccupyParliament protests online, were a way for ordinary people to have their voices heard and express their opinions, especially at a time when they feel marginalised, disenfranchised, and when their rights have been infringed. The protests have also garnered the support of the younger generation, known as Generation Z.

‘The government must facilitate people’s right to protest, an important way for citizens to express themselves and participate in governance processes,’ said Mugambi Kiai, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Regional Director. 

ARTICLE 19’s #FreeToProtest campaign is active across the country, working with partners to protect Article 37 of the Constitution of Kenya (CoK), which expressly provides for the Right to Peacefully Assembly and Petition. This is in line with international and regional human rights frameworks that Kenya is a party to, including Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Freedom of expression through protests is the freedom for us all to express ourselves: it is the right to speak, to be heard, and to participate in political, artistic, and social life. 

‘ARTICLE 19 will continue to advocate for a human rights-based approach to public order management and policing of protests,’ added Mugambi. 

ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa calls on the police to stop criminalisation of the right to protest. Specifically, they must cease all heavy-handed tactics and stop targeting peaceful protesters and government critics.  Action must be taken against all law enforcement personnel involved in the brutality and torture of protesters, advocates and journalists who took part in the protests in June 2024.

For more information please Contact Mugambi Kiai  at [email protected] or Catherine Mbui, [email protected]