UN Human Rights Office condemns police violence during protests

Police arrest one of the protesters who engaged them in running battles in Mathare 4A on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, during the Azimio protests on Wednesday, July 12. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The UN Human Rights Office has condemned the violence and use of force by police during Wednesday's Azimio protests.

In a statement on Friday, Spokesperson Jeremy Laurence called on relevant agencies to commence thorough, independent, and transparent investigations into the deaths and injuries.

"The UN Human Rights Office is very concerned by the widespread violence, and allegations of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force, including the use of firearms, by police during protests in Kenya," Laurence said.

"Those responsible must be held to account. Effective measures to prevent further deaths and injuries must be adopted."

Laurence expressed concern about the widespread violence and allegations of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force by police during protests.

He called on the authorities to ensure the right to peaceful assembly as guaranteed by the Kenyan Constitution and international human rights law.

"The policing of protests must seek to facilitate peaceful assemblies, and any use of force must be guided by the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and non-discrimination. Firearms should never be used to disperse protests," he added.

"We appeal for calm and encourage open dialogue to address social, economic, and political grievances, with the aim of identifying lasting solutions in the interests of all Kenyans."

The UN's statement comes even as three MPs have threatened to sue Interior CS Kithure Kindiki at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over police brutality against demonstrators during Wednesday's protests against the high cost of living.

The MPs from Homa Bay County, Kasipul's Ong'ondo Were, Lilian Gogo of Rangwe, and area Woman Representative Joyce Osogo accused Prof Kindiki of ordering the police to use excessive force against protesters as the demos gripped many parts of the country, crippling business.

At least nine people were shot and killed during the demos, six of them in Machakos and Kitengela. Scores of others were injured. Property of unknown value was also looted. The demonstrators also vandalised the Nairobi Expressway, among other installations, leaving a trail of destruction.

The MPs, who spoke as they led demonstrations, said it was wrong for the government to attempt to stifle the protests yet they are provided for in the constitution.

Azimio leaders are pushing for the suspension of the Finance Act 2023 which has introduced additional and punitive taxes. They also want the William Ruto administration to bring down the cost of living even as the prices of basic commodities continue to skyrocket.

Both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio have also differed over the process of appointing the new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and even launched bipartisan talks which have not made any headway as representatives from both sides continue to clash.