EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE BY POLICE DURING AZIMIO PROTESTS
The National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) expresses its deep concern and utmost condemnation regarding the anti-government protests organized by the Azimio la Umoja coalition on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, which resulted in widespread disruption, vandalism, and violation of human rights across various counties in Kenya.
The protests, held in counties including Nairobi, Machakos, Kisumu, Homabay, Kisii, Makueni, and Kajiado, witnessed the unfortunate destruction of private property, severe disruptions to business operations, and a breakdown of traffic systems in the capital city and rural areas. Schoolchildren inside Kihumbuini Primary School in Kangemi, Westlands Constituency, who should be shielded from such chaos, were tragically caught in the crossfire, enduring traumatic experiences and suffering critical injuries due to tear gas allegedly fired by the police.
As a Commission entrusted with safeguarding the rights and welfare of all individuals, particularly vulnerable groups including children, NGEC strongly denounces the teargassing of innocent schoolchildren. It is a barefaced violation of Article 53 of the Constitution of Kenya,2010 which provides children with protection and guarantees their safety in all circumstances. Furthermore, Kenya is bound by international law to uphold the rights of children during times of civil conflict, underscoring the gravity of this incident.
In light of these appalling events, NGEC urgently calls for an exhaustive and independent investigation into the circumstances that led to the use of tear gas inside a school. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) must commence this inquiry and ensure that those responsible for such abhorrent actions are held accountable for their misconduct. The safety and well-being of our children must never be compromised under any circumstances, and justice must prevail for the affected pupils, their teachers and families.
While the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 upholds the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration as a means to petition authorities on matters of public interest, such rights must be exercised responsibly and without violating the rights of others. The NGEC condemns any act of violence, vandalism, looting, or discrimination perpetrated during the demonstrations. The quest for justice and expression of grievances should never come at the expense of innocent lives or property.
NGEC urges the government and all relevant stakeholders to prioritize the protection of human rights, especially during protests. We stand firm in our commitment to advocate for equality, justice, and the well-being of all individuals, particularly the most vulnerable members of society.