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MP pushes for law to jail Kenyans in protests without permits

 Mbeere North MP Geoffrey Ruku addresses the media on January 31, 2024. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenyans who participate in demonstrations that have not been permitted by the State face up to one year in prison or a Sh100,000 fine or both. 

This is according to the proposed Assembly and Demonstration Bill, 2024, that seeks to have the State regulate public demonstrations and protests.  

“A person intending to convene an assembly or demonstration shall notify the regulating officer of such intent at least three days but not more than 14 days before the proposed date of the assembly or demonstration,” reads the proposed law in part. 

The notice, which should be provided to a regulating officer or the police, should specify the full names and physical addresses of the protest organisers, the proposed date, place and time of the demonstration which will be limited to between 6 am and 6 pm. 

If approved, the Bill will have far-reaching consequences on organisations and individual members of the public who organise public protests and gatherings. 

According to the provision of the Bill, the regulating officer or police will give several conditions without which the planned protest cannot be permitted. 

Protest leaders will be required to contract marshals to help coordinate the protest and in the event of damage to public or private property, individuals or organisations conducting the protest will be held liable. 

Participants in the protest will also be barred from wearing a disguise, mask or any clothing that hides their face or prevents identification. 

 The Bill comes at a time of heightened instances of protests and demonstrations, the most recent revolving around the proposed Finance Bill, 2024 that critics term as retrogressive and indifferent to the suffering of Kenyans. 

A public protest dubbed Occupy Parliament was held Tuesday as the Finance Bill was tabled in Parliament.

In recent weeks members of the public have expressed criticism over the Finance Bill with many taking to social media to vent their frustrations.

Some of the proposed levies that have drawn public ire include a motor vehicle levy that will be charged at a minimum of Sh5,000 per year depending on the value of the vehicle. The tax has since been shelved.

Treasury had also proposed an Eco levy on goods manufactured or imported into the country. The levy covered a wide array of classes of goods ranging from computing, broadcasting, digital and telecommunication equipment to rubber tires, batteries and diapers. The levy was also dropped.

Significant Economic Presence tax that was to be levied on foreign firms operating a digital business in Kenya without a physical establishment was also withdrawn.

The Bill has been proposed by Mbeere North MP Geoffrey Kiringa Ruku and seeks to repeal sections 5 and 6 of the Public Order Act Cap 56. 

The proposed law will further give police officers authority to prevent  demonstrators from going to a different locations or from deviating from the route specified in their notice of demonstration.

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