On Wednesday, June 19, police in Nairobi teargassed and violently dispersed hundreds of peaceful demonstrators who gathered to call for an end to Sudan’s violent crackdown on protests in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
More than 100 people have been killed since June 3 in Sudan, as peaceful protests against the country’s military rule persist despite the brutal response. The demonstration in Nairobi was organized by #Africans4Sudan, a coalition of African activists and rights groups calling for an end to abuses against protesters in Sudan and the establishment of a civilian-led government.
Nairobi police also arrested Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC) deputy director Davis Malombe and activist Julius Kamau, both of whom are scheduled to be tried on charges of unlawful assembly on Friday, June 21.
KHRC director George Kegoro said the police had granted KHRC a permit for the demonstration but later blocked protestors from proceeding.
“We were able to march only about 20 meters before they started charging us and throwing teargas,” said Kegoro. “The officer in charge told us to go picket at the Sudanese Embassy instead because the Kenyan government is friendly to the government of Sudan, so the demonstration shouldn’t be carried out on Kenyan soil.”
This is the second time in less than a week that police in Kenya disrupted Sudan solidarity protests. Nairobi police teargassed and dispersed Kenyan and Sudanese activists protesting ongoing abuses in Sudan on the evening of June 14.
The right to peacefully protest is enshrined in article 37 of the Kenyan Constitution and several human rights treaties to which Kenya is a party. For example, articles 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights guarantee the right to free expression, association, and assembly.
Despite this, Kenyan authorities continue to thwart protest attempts.
Wednesday’s violent dispersal underscores the current climate in which police authorities show little constraint against violating the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. “It’s back to the eighties,” said Kegoro. “There simply is no certainty about what will happen to you once you go out into the streets.”
Kenyan authorities should allow peaceful demonstrators to proceed without fear of attack, and respect and support their rights to assembly and expression. Instead, they seem to be acting in line with their Sudanese counterparts, turning demonstrators into victims of the very abuses they hope to end.