Kenya: Ban on demonstrations must not legitimize police crackdowns

Reacting to the Kenyan government’s decision to ban demonstrations in the central business districts of the country’s three main cities, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:

“This ban, announced just two weeks ahead of a fraught repeat presidential election, is likely to become a basis for heavy-handed police crackdowns,

“This kind of outright ban is only justifiable in the most extreme circumstances where the police would otherwise be unable to ensure public order and safety,

“If people nevertheless continue to gather to protest, the Kenyan authorities must ensure that the police response complies with international law and standards on human rights and law enforcement. In particular the police must seek to avoid the use of force, which they may use only where it is strictly necessary and to the extent required for enforcing the law. They must not use this ban as a green light to crack down violently on opposition supporters.”

Announcing the ban in Nairobi today, Acting Internal Affairs Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said it was in response to a “clear, present and imminent danger of a breach of peace and public order”, and that the Inspector General of Police had been notified accordingly. The ban comes one day after the opposition National Super Alliance called for daily protests in its campaign for staff changes at the electoral commission.