LSK, rights groups sue State over 'oppressive' colonial law

Azimio la Umoja supporters bath in the streets during anti-government protests on high cost of living in KIsumu on July 19, 2023. [Michael Mute, Standard] 

A fresh battle over Azimio protests has landed in court, with the government being sued for a colonial law it used against those alleged to be the organisers.

The case seen by The Standard challenges Section 77 of the Penal Code, which makes it a crime to either plan or be involved in disobeying authority.

Some of the Azimio leaders who were charged with subversion include Embakasi East MP Babu Owino and his Mathare counterpart Anthony Oluoch.

The controversial law being used by the Kenya Kwanza government to tame Azimio is a colonial relic borrowed by successive governments from Britain. It was introduced in 1960 in Kenya to deal with those who were opposed to the colonial government. It was also used during the Mwakenya trials in the 1980s.

The colonial law provides that anyone found guilty of subversion should be jailed for a period not exceeding seven years.

The Law Society of Kenya, Katiba Institute, Kenya Union of Journalists, International Commission of Jurists, Bloggers Association of Kenya and Africa Center for Open Governance have filed the case challenging the retrogressive law.

Others are Article 19, Kenya Human Rights Commission and Tribeless Youth. Lawyer Joshua Otieno Ayika has been enlisted as an interested party. He was charged before Makadara Law Court over his tweets.

He was accused of uttering words that are prejudicial to Kenya’s public order and security. Mr Ayika was further accused of posting subversive words which were allegedly calculated to cause panic and chaos among Kenyans.

In the case, the lobby groups’ lawyers Bosire Bonyi and Ochiel J Dudley argue that Section 77 is incompatible with the 2010 Constitution as it shields those in government from criticism.

Bonyi and Ochiel assert that the section also silences anyone who is interested in public affairs. 

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