Kenya reacts to the UN statement over police brutality

Police tear gas Azimio supporters during their Saba Saba Rally at Kamukunji in Nairobi on July 7, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Permanent Mission of Kenya has reacted to the United Nations Office and other International Organisations in Geneva over a statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on anti-government protests held in the country.

In a July 16, statement the government dismissed the peaceful protest by the opposition claiming that it was marred by “riots, vandalism, and large-scale destruction” that prompted police to act.

The government said that the protest was wrongly portrayed and misinformed as some areas experienced peaceful protests.

“Moreover, the Permanent Mission wishes to contest the portrayal of these violent acts as being widespread. The unfortunate incidents of violence were, in reality, confined to a few areas, not representative of the entire country,” it says.

“The situation was appropriately managed by our law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of the majority of our peaceful citizens and limit the extent of the disruption.”

The OHCHR is accused of relying on third-party information to make a statement that castigated the government over police brutality.

“Such sources often lack first-hand experience and their assertions are often not corroborated by other independent assessments. The use of such information without due diligence raises concerns about the quality and reliability of the data in question,” Kenya says.

Further, it was noted that such actions of the UN body were being used by the opposition to “incite rioting as a tool for political manipulation”.

"This strategic portrayal fuels a cycle of hostility and unrest, gravely undermining the foundations of democratic governance.”

“Such escalation not only poses imminent threats to peace and safety but also erodes trust in democratic institutions, thereby undermining the very bedrock of a just and equitable society.”

The government reiterated its commitment to safeguarding lives and called upon the High Commission for Human Rights to remain vigilant to encounter any undemocratic activities.

Kenya was reacting to a statement made by OHCHR on July 14 condemning the violence and use of force by police during the anti-government protests by the Azimio la Umoja coalition.

"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. Those responsible must be held to account," Jeremy Laurence, OHCHR spokesperson said.

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