November 1, 2023, Nairobi, Kenya—On October 30, 2023, the Kenyan police, without providing any reasons for their unconstitutional actions, blocked victims of gross human rights atrocities perpetrated by the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) from gathering and addressing the media at a city hotel. The victims were from Laikipia and Samburu counties. They included the family of the late Agnes Wanjiru, a young woman whose family accused British soldiers of having a hand in her gruesome murder in 2012, and the widow of Linus Murangiri, who died during a fire incident linked to BATUK soldiers. The victims planned to air their grievances before King Charles III’s arrival to Kenya.
On October 31, 2023, the police again, without providing any reasons, blocked a peaceful procession by a group of patriots from the Social Justice Centers Working Group who intended to present a petition to the British High Commission. This is despite the group having notified the police of the planned precession on October 27, 2023. Just before the peaceful procession could commence at the Dedan Kimathi monument in the capital, a truck full of uniformed and ununiformed police officers armed with teargas canisters blocked the procession. The police also confiscated two banners with these messages: “BRING BACK KIMATHI REMAINS” and “BRITAIN MUST APOLOGIZE.”
These barbaric acts by the police demonstrate that despite the many attempts at police reforms, the systemic philosophical and operational nature of policing in Kenya has never changed since its establishment as a militia to protect the business interests of Sir William McKinnon and his company Imperial British East Africa (I.B.E.A.) in the 1880s. As it were in the 1880s and throughout the colonial period, the Kenya police in 2023 is still a tool to protect the elite’s interests (predominantly white) while brutalizing, oppressing, and repressing the so-called natives.
We are especially concerned that this is happening within a context in which for the last year since the Kenya Kwanza regime came into office, the Kenya police has re-acquired a forceful, brutal, coercive character and made it impossible for citizens to organize public protests and other gatherings meant to challenge the governance abuses and failures of the ruling political and corporate elites just as its colonial predecessor.
We strongly condemn these despotic and unconstitutional acts by the police and wish to remind the government that Articles 33, 34, 36, and 37 of the Constitution of Kenya guarantee the freedom of expression, media, association, assembly, demonstration, picketing, and petition, respectively. We reiterate that any attempts to limit these fundamental rights and freedoms unconstitutionally will be vehemently resisted. Police officers perpetrating human rights violations while attempting to limit these fundamental rights and freedoms outside the provision of Article 24 of the Constitution will be held individually culpable.
We demand that the Kenya Police allow all victims of human rights violations perpetrated by British colonial and post-colonial institutions to exercise their rights and freedoms of expression, media, association, assembly, demonstration, picketing, and petition without any intimidation and harassment. These are fundamental, inalienable rights guaranteed by the constitution, which the police have no powers to limit arbitrarily.
We demand that the police resist any attempts to take Kenya back to the dark and repressive Colonial and KANU rules. Kenyans shall sustain the fight for their constitutional rights as they did during the colonial and KANU days.
We call upon all groups who have suffered severe human rights atrocities perpetrated by British colonial and post-colonial institutions to come forward and air their grievances and demands to King Charles III without any fear.
At the minimum, we still maintain that the King must issue a public apology and commit to adequate reparatory and compensatory measures for all the diverse groups of victims of the horrific atrocities.
Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)