Kenya: Police who fired at protesters must be arrested and held to account

Kenya: Police who fired at protesters must be arrested and held to account - Civic Space

Photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters

ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned that police fired shots against protesters in the Masimba area of Kajiado County on 2 June, resulting in the death of four people. Seven others were injured. We express our sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and call on the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) to hasten investigations and ensure the police officers found culpable are held accountable. 

The protest was a response to rising numbers of attacks by elephants on members of the public, and in particular a recent attack that resulted in the death of a female teacher. 

According to media reports, people from the affected community staged a demonstration in Masimba,Kajiado County, intending to march along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway to the offices of the Kenya Wildlife Services to present their grievances to the authority, who they claim had failed to protected people in the area from several similar attacks. 

Officers from the General Service Unit (GSU), who were travelling on the road on their way to Mombasa, then fired on the protesters. Although some of the protesters had barricaded the highway and hurled stones at motorists, the  GSU officers responded with excessive, disproportionate force and harsh violence. Three of the protesters died on the spot, while a fourth died on the way to the hospital. Seven other demonstrators were badly injured.

“We note that the Independent Policing and Oversight Authority (IPOA) has already started investigating the matter, with a view to holding the officers accountable. We urge the IPOA to hasten the investigations and issue their findings and recommendations without undue delay,” said Mugambi Kiai, Regional Director for ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa. 

ARTICLE 19 reminds the police and other authorities that the right to protest is guaranteed under Article 37 of the Kenyan Constitution. Every Kenyan has the right to assemble peacefully and present petitions to public officials. The police have an obligation to facilitate the exercise of this right and to not curtail it.

“Police officers are supposed to exercise restraint and use alternative means proportionate to the risk at hand, and to deescalate the situation. The use of firearms is a measure of last resort,” noted Mugambi.

The use of force by authorities is governed by the United Nations Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. Paragraph 4 of the UN Principles demands that non-violent means be used before resorting to the use of force and firearms. The use of force is only allowed if other means are ineffective. The provisions of Paragraph 4 of the UN Principles on the Use of Force are also reflected in Paragraphs 20.1 and 21.2.2 of the Guidelines for the Policing of Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa. Paragraph 5 of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force further provides that the use of force shall be proportionate and should be aimed at minimising damage and that due regard for the preservation of human life should be exercised at all times. 

ARTICLE 19 observes that, as well as disregarding principles of international law, the GSU officers also acted contrary to the conditions pertaining to the use of force as set out in the National Police Service Act and Service Standing Orders. These conditions demand that a police officer shall always attempt to use non-violent means first, use proportionate force, provide medical assistance and report to a senior official after employing the use of force.

We continue to urge all security agencies and personnel to: 

  1. Desist from using excessive force against protesters. 
  2. Respect the right of everyone to, peacefully and unarmed, assemble, demonstrate, picket, and petition as guaranteed by Article 37 of the Constitution.

For more information please Contact Mugambi Kiai at [email protected], Regional Director for ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.