PUBLIC AI Index: AFR 32/05/00
EXTRA 71/00 Ill-treatment / Fear for safety 22 August 2000
At least one person was killed and many others injured when police and security
forces, broke up a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Nairobi on 19 August 2000.
Police prevented over 3,000 people from meeting at the Kamukunji grounds,
eastern Nairobi. Police reportedly fired rubber bullets and teargas into a
crowd waiting for members of parliament to arrive and address the meeting.
People fled into a nearby housing estate and teargas fumes caused families
to flee their homes. Amnesty International is concerned at the violence with
which police and security forces broke up the demonstration and fears for the
safety of those attending a demonstration planned in Mombasa for 26 August.
The Kamukunji rally, convened by Ford-Kenya MP James Orengo and supported by
a number of members of parliament, was called to discuss public frustration
at issues including the delay to a promised constitutional review, the energy
crisis, famine, water shortage, unemployment and corruption.
Several members of the opposition were prevented from addressing the rally
and were forcibly confined in the Parliament buildings. A number of youths
armed with stones and batons blocked all exits from the parliament and threw
stones at opposition members and their vehicles when they attempted to leave.
Armed police surrounding the building took no action to prevent the attacks.
When opposition members were finally allowed to leave the Parliament building,
they were prevented from reaching Kamukunji by police firing teargas and rubber
bullets at them and the surrounding crowd as they neared the venue.
Twenty-one people were arrested in connection with the demonstration and were
charged with "creating a disturbance". Twenty people pleading not guilty were
released on bail of 4,000 Kenyan shillings (US$52) and are due in court on
4 September. None of the youths who blockaded the parliament building, allegedly
government supporters, were arrested.
Amnesty International is concerned that a similar rally planned in Mombasa
on 26 August 2000 will be prevented from taking place. The police have refused
permission for the meeting on the grounds that President Moi will be in Mombasa
addressing another meeting.
During the run up to the 1997 parliamentary and presidential elections, a number
of pro-democracy rallies were violently disrupted by the Kenyan police. In
response to national and international criticism, the government promised a
review of the Constitution before the 2002 elections. Concern has mounted in
Kenya about the lack of progress with carrying out this review. The public
debate on reform is divided between those who think that the Parliament should
carry out the review and those who think it should be a wider process led by
people outside parliament.
A legal amendment to the Public Order Act introduced in the run up to the 1997
elections permits public meetings to go ahead without police permission, as
long as organizers notify the police. However, the police can prevent a meeting
from taking place for various reasons, including if there is a clash between
two meetings. Organizers of the Kamukunji rally notified the police, who agreed
to provide the demonstration with full security. However, at the last minute