Kenya has a thriving protest culture. In recent years, tens of thousands of people across the country have taken to the streets to protest against a wide range of issues. At the same time, an insufficient legal and policy framework, combined with frequent violations of human rights by law enforcement, impede the realisation of the right to protest in the country.
The rights encompassed in the ‘right to protest’ are guaranteed in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 in the comprehensive Bill of Rights (Chapter 4 of the Constitution). These include the rights to life, liberty and security of person; privacy; non-discrimination; freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion; freedom of expression and association; freedom from torture; and the rights to food, housing, sanitation, water, health, education and social security.
The Constitution also obliges the state to ‘observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights’ and to enact its obligations under international human rights law.
The rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights can only be limited by law, if it is ‘reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom,’ proportional and shall not totally derogate from essence of the rights. Some rights, such as freedom from torture and the right to a fair trial are absolute rights and cannot be limited.
Article 244 of the Constitution obliges the police to ‘comply with constitutional standards of human rights and fundamental freedoms’ and Article 21 of the Constitution binds the state, including the police, to observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfil rights and fundamental freedoms.
In practice however, the police continue to use the national legislation governing public-order situations which are yet to be amended to comply with the Constitution.
In addition, Kenya has explicitly accepted human rights obligations through the international and regional human rights treaties which it has signed and ratified. Under Article 21(4), these treaties are legally binding on Kenya, imposing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.
Kenyan comedian Eric Omondi on Tuesday was arrested after attempting to storm Parliament buildings.
The comedian, who has been trending on social media for a while now, tried to lead music artists in storming Parliament in a bid to fix the music industry in Kenya.
Taking to social media, he said, “History loading…Tomorrow 10 am!!! Tuesday, November 16th will be remembered for years to come. Calling Upon all musicians/artists and all media houses/outlets to meet us at Parliament Building tomorrow 10 am.”
The comedian said artists would be agitating for better pay at events and demanded that they get the same amount for curtain-raising as foreign acts are paid.
He also added that he wanted the Kenyan media to be compelled to play 75 per cent Kenyan content.
“All local media to play 75 per cent of local music just like it is in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe and the list goes on and on.”
According to Central OCPD Adamson Bungei, Eric was arrested for the offence of causing a disturbance near parliament buildings. “He had not followed procedures to stage the so-called protests. We are however sorting him out,”
In terms of international law, the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression are recognized in various treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Together, these rights constitute the right to protest.
To better define the right to protest, the United Nations and regional mechanisms, such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, have developed international standards, which include 10 general principles that apply before, during and after a protest.
This all you need to know when preparing for a protest. Human rights must be respected without discrimination, Every person has the right to protest, Only limited restrictions may apply, States must facilitate protests, Force should only be used if strictly unavoidable, Every person can observe, monitor and record protests, The collection of personal information must be lawful, Every person has the right to access information, The right to protest in private spaces and finally Accountability and the right to remedy.
In conclusion, the Beauty about being Kenyan is the Right to protest for a right.