On Harassment of Protestors

Posted by on 11th July 2011

Categories:   Citizen Engagement

By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)

There’s the constant debate about whether we as nation are apathetic or just frightened, particularly when faulty government policy is met with silence.  After seeing police fire tear gas rounds, chase down with batons and arrest at least 15 of the people who were peacefully marching to protest the rising cost of living, I tend to think it’s the latter and not the former.

Just recently armed police stormed the Ministry of the Education and arrested 10 out of 25 activists that were protesting peacefully at the Minister of the Education’s offices, it still not clear what charges if any have been brought against protestors. What happened to the constitutional right to protest?  Under Article 37 of the constitution ‘every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.’ After all the protestors are not defying the will of the Kenyan people they are expressing it.  Look at what they are protesting…the rising cost of living – the country’s inflation was red flagged by the IMF when it hit an all time high of 14.49% in June, the cost of fuel is through the roof, the cost of unga is no longer affordable for the majority – and the theft of 4.2 billion shillings for free primary education. The protests are not an attack on democratic and accountable governance it is a demand for it. It is a refusal by the protestors to be part of the silent in public/noisy in private majority.

When politicians are wilfully defying the wishes of the electorate, protest is necessary. It is never justified for the police to launch violent attacks on peaceful protestors and that’s not to say that those breaking the law during the protests i.e. looters and vandals should be arrested.  However ,majority of the protestors were peaceful, and dealing with protestors by violently infringes their right assembly.