Ex-CJ Mutunga speaks hours after confrontation with police in Nairobi

Willy Mutunga among rights activists teargassed at Central Police Station

Police officers Saturday tear-gassed rights activists who had gone to Central Police Station to demand the release of protesters who had been arrested during the Friday Saba Saba demos in Nairobi.

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and human rights activist Boniface Mwangi were among those tear-gassed at the police station in the S morning confrontation.

While terming the act as “cowardice”, Dr Mutunga said the police intended to impose a cash bail of Sh5, 000 each to release the protesters. He, however, together with other activists, pledged to continue to press for their unconditional release.

“Let us stay in solidarity. We want to continue putting in the pressure until all of them are released. We don’t want what the OCS is telling us that 36 [detainees] are human rights defenders and the rest are Azimio protesters. We do not want that kind of division to be introduced. We want all of them released, unconditionally,” Dr Mutunga said.

“…The constitution is very clear in Articles 48 and 49. So we do not understand why the Ruto regime is trying to curtail the rights of the people of Kenya to assemble and petition the government on the very high cost of living that the Finance Act has caused,” he added.

The activists said more than 75 people had been arrested and detained at Central Police Station. Out of which, they said, 26 had been processed. The rest were to be processed in the course of the day.

The Dr Mutunga-led group of activists has been trying to the detainees released unconditionally but their attempts have been futile. According to Kenya Human Rights Commission managing director Davis Malombe, some of the detained protesters are injured.

“We’re extremely disappointed by this action of the police which is coming 60 years after independence. Which is coming 30 years after multipartism. Which is coming 13 years after the adoption of the new Constitution,” Mr Malombe said.

The activists claimed the police intend to charge the protesters with unlawful assembly, assault, and distraction of property.

The protesters were arrested on Friday during the Saba Saba demos called by Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga to protest the skyrocketing cost of living among other issues.

Buoyed by the Finance Bill 2023 which they term as punitive, the opposition held a rally at Kamkunji Grounds where Mr Odinga kicked off an aggressive 10 million signature collection bid aimed at pushing out the Kenya Kwanza government.

After addressing the rally, the former premier and his supporters left for Central Park in the City Centre. But the entourage was met with brutal force from the police. The confrontation with police saw some protesters arrested even as vehicles in the convoy, including Mr Odinga’s, were damaged.