Police arrested 238 protestors during anti-govt demos in Kisumu, Nairobi

Police arrest protestor

Police arrest a protestor during anti-government protests in Kisumu on March 20, 2023.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega I Nation Media Group

Police arrested 238 protestors during the anti-government protests in Nairobi and Kisumu counties, the National Police Service has confirmed.

These include four Azimio leaders who were released on Monday evening and are expected in court on Thursday.

“We wish to inform the public that during Monday’s demonstrations, we arrested 25 people, while seven officers were injured in Nyanza; while in Nairobi, 10 police vehicles were damaged, 24 officers injured while persons arrested were 213,” Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome said in a statement.

MAn arrested

A man is arrested by group of officers during demonstrations along Harambe Avenue on MArch 20,2023.

Photo credit: Kennedy Amungo I Nation Media Group 

The IG condemned the chaos witnessed during the protests which he termed as “illegal” and commended his officers for “acting impartially” and restraining themselves while responding to the protestors.

“We therefore condemn in the strongest terms possible, the unwarranted violence that was meted against our officers discharging their official duties,” he said.

According to the IG, the officers used force gradually beginning with the lowest threshold which is show-off force and barely reinforced water cannons and lobbying teargas canisters to prevent the protestors from accessing central business districts of Nairobi and Kisumu as well as protected areas to prevent further damage.

“It is regrettable that even after police restrained themselves and acted within the law and contained the situation, rioters invaded Maseno Police Station hurling stones at the officers and property leading to the loss of a male student,” he said.

Mr Koome reminded the public that no one is above the law.

Speaker arreted

Former Nakuru Speaker Joel Kairo (in khaki suit) arrested by police officers after holding demonstrations along Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru City on March 20, 2023. 

Photo credit: John Njoroge I Nation Media Group

“Instead, there is a slippery slope between freedom of assembly, picketing and petitioning as enshrined in Article 37 of the constitution of Kenya,2010 and the blatant infringement of the rights of others as we saw in yesterday’s unlawful demonstrations,” said the IG.

The Independent Policing and Oversight Authority (IPOA) has kicked off a probe into the student’s death.

“We remain open to external scrutiny by independent constitutional agencies as we strive to promote and practice transparency and accountability within the police,” added the IG.

A section of human rights agencies have however accused the police of brutalizing the protestors and restricting their right to protest by firing tear gas canisters into forming crowds to disperse them and prevent their entry into the Kenyatta International Conference Centre where they were to assemble before proceeding on a march to state house.

The Kenya National Human Rights Commission’s monitors established that the demonstrations led to arrests, destruction of property, injuries and are verifying claims of use of live bullets by security agencies.

“If proven, it would be very unfortunate and the same can be prosecuted under the command responsibility principle. IPOA should carry out investigations, in the meantime, the immediate call to action is to urge the IG to restrain and control any use of live bullets against protesters as it amounts to excessive force,” KNHRC Chairperson Ms Roseline Odede said in a statement.

The commission further called out those who took advantage of the protests to destroy property, loot and harm others saying such acts amount to criminal activities that are prosecutable with penal consequences.

“Police should be able to isolate and arrest violent protestors who are breach of peace and arrest and arraign all those involved in any form of criminal conduct and at the same time protect those who are innocent during the demonstrations,” she added.

The Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) condemned the use of intimidation, arbitrary arrests and teargas.

“We affirm that all police officers should be used appropriately and proportionately during all public order management situations. This is an unnecessary use of force that violates the right to protest,”IMLU posted on Twitter.