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Kenya: Fear for safety/Ill treatment for pro-democracy activists

, Index number: AFR 32/005/2000

At least one killed and many others injured after peaceful pro-democracy rally in Nairobi. When police and security forces, prevented over 3,000 people from meeting. Police reportedly fired rubber bullets and teargas into a crowd waiting for members of parliament to address the meeting. Amnesty International is concerned at the violence with which police and security forces broke up the demonstration.

PUBLIC AI Index: AFR 32/05/00
EXTRA 71/00 Ill-treatment / Fear for safety 22 August 2000
KENYAPro-democracy activists
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
the police called off the meeting, citing security grounds. Amnesty
International considers that legislation such as the 1997 amendment to the
Public Order Act contravenes international human rights law on the right to
freedom of expression and assembly.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English or your own language:
- expressing concern about police brutality and ill-treatment of peaceful
demonstrators protesting at the Kamukunji grounds, Nairobi, on 19 August 2000;
- seeking assurances that future peaceful protests and activities organised
by pro-democracy advocates will not be subjected to violence, threats,
harassment or arrests by the Kenyan police;
- expressing concern at the lack of police action when opposition members were
prevented from leaving Parliament by stone-throwing youths;
- urging the authorities to set up a prompt and impartial investigation into
above events, ensuring that those responsible for using excessive force are
brought to justice, and that when dealing with future protests the security
forces follow international guidelines such as the Code of Conduct for Law
Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms
by Law Enforcement Officials.
Philemon Abong’o
Commissioner of Police
Police HQ
PO Box 30083
Telegrams: Police Commissioner Abong’o, Nairobi, Kenya
Faxes: + 254 2 330 495
Salutation: Dear Commissioner
Mr Amos Wako
Attorney General
PO Box 40112
Telegrams: Attorney General Wako, Nairobi, Kenya
Faxes:+ 254 2 315 105
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
and to diplomatic representatives of Kenya accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 12 September 2000.

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