How to stay safe if you get caught up in protests

A group of women walk past anti-riot police officers during anti-government protests in Mathare slums, Nairobi, on July 20, 2023. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Kenya, like many nations worldwide, has been rocked by a wave of protests these past few months, and things don’t seem to be easing up anytime following calls for demonstrations by opposition leaders.

And while demonstrations are meant to be peaceful, there have been cases when unscrupulous people hijack peaceful protests and endanger the lives of both protesters and passersby.

We compiled tips from a safety expert to ensure safety when protests turn rogue:

Remain calm

Riots and protests can rouse volatile emotions making it hard for people to think and act rationally. In such scenarios, it is vital to remain calm and focused to exit from any escalating situation safely.

“Some people rouse emotions for the sake of it, but getting caught up will increase stress and the likelihood of conflict, which can be harmful in crowded places. The best way is to avoid confrontation with anyone during a protest,” says Khadija Ali, a safety expert at the Kenya Red Cross. 

Plan your movement

Ali says that planning your next move and having an exit/emergency plan in case things escalate can make the difference between life and death during a protest.

“Have a plan to find quick medical assistance as the need arises,” she adds. "Ensure to move with a group of people who seem sober, and emphasise the need to remain calm in your group so that subsequent actions are better thought out."

Act quickly in case of teargas

If teargas is used in the vicinity, quickly wet a handkerchief using water and cover your nose. Wash your face with cold water, breathe as slowly as possible and remember it is a temporary weapon. Lower your head, and wear a helmet for extra protection if possible.


Some protests end in a day, but some can continue for days, as with this week’s protests. As you go out for your daily activities, pack essentials like pepper spray, water, a handkerchief and a small first-aid kit to help in hostile situations.

Carry special supplies and medications if you live with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes. Times may be tough but ensure to eat and hydrate before leaving the house and pack an assortment of energy snacks like nuts.