LSK threatens legal action against Nairobi police boss for banning Finance Bill protests

Protesters

Police officers arrest protestors outside I&M Building along Koinange Street on June 18, 2024.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • On Tuesday, Mr Bungei outlawed any plan to organise protests in Nairobi.
  • Mr Bungei said that no one had applied for a gathering or picketing permit.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has called out Nairobi Regional Police Commander Adamson Bungei for banning protests against Finance Bill, 2024 despite prior notice.

LSK in a statement on Tuesday threatened legal action against and demanded that Bungei directs officers to stand down from making any arbitrary arrests or meting out violence on protesters.

“It has been brought to the attention of the Law Society of Kenya that the Nairobi Region Police Commander has instructed officers under his command to interfere with the peaceful protests organised by Kenyans outside Parliament Buildings today over the Finance Bill,” LSK president Faith Odhiambo said.

The society also condemned the outright contempt of the police for the Constitution and the people of Kenya.

“The running battles and use of teargas on protestors that we have seen images of this morning are a despicable affront to the rule of law,” she said.

They said that they are particularly shocked that Mr Bungei, on a frolic of his own, has elected to ignore a notification of the protest from the organisers under the guise of lack of form.

“We wish to sound our unequivocal warning to Mr Bungei and all officers acting under his command from taking any act of aggression against the protestors in the name of giving effect to this unlawful, unreasonable, and irrational directive,” she added.

On Tuesday, Mr Bungei outlawed any plan to organise protests in Nairobi saying it was illegal even as the organisers said they had informed the police of their plans as required and are ready for the march.

Mr Bungei said that no one had applied for a gathering or picketing permit as required, terming it illegal.

According to the police boss, they only received a 'faulty' document dated June last year, which he said doesn't meet the protest permission threshold.

“The notification they left at Central is dated June 17, 2023. It is faulty. We can't allow them. No demonstration. Kenyans should be allowed to do their business and those with grievances should direct them where they know well,” he said.

He added they have mobilised officers to ensure that any gathering is dispersed instantly.

According to Ms Odhiambo, the Constitution guarantees the right to demonstrate without any approval from the police boss under Article 37 of the Constitution of Kenya.

“We would like to clarify that Article 37 of the Constitution of Kenya provides for the right to assembly and demonstrate and it has no provision for notice to be given to you nor can you limit anyone’s right outside what is provided for under Article 24 of the Constitution,” she said.

The protests dubbed 'Occupy Parliament', are aimed at pressuring lawmakers not to pass the bill, which will be debated in parliament on Tuesday and has been organized by Kenyans who have been mobilizing on various social media platforms under the hashtag ‘Reject Finance Bill’ to rally up numbers to pressure MPs to shoot down contentious provisions in the Bill.

Dozens of protesters were also arrested with a source at Central Police Station revealing that they had run out of space in their cells and had opted to detain them behind the police stations.

“There is no more space here we have been forced to keep them outside at the moment as we are expecting more to be brought in,” he said.