How Long Must Excessive Force Target Peaceful Protesters? Condemnation of Excessive Use of Force Against KMPDU Members

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

Press Statement:

Nairobi, Friday 1st March, 2024              

For Immediate Release

      How Long Must Excessive Force Target Peaceful Protesters?

Condemnation of Excessive Use of Force Against KMPDU Members

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), strongly condemns the appalling act of violence perpetrated against members of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) during their peaceful demonstration yesterday in Nairobi. Reports from the media and other platforms have confirmed that the KMPDU Secretary General Dr. Davji Atellah, was gravely injured by a teargas canister fired by the police, highlighting the excessive and unjustifiable use of force by law enforcement agents. We dare ask now - How Long Must Excessive Force Target Peaceful Protesters?

It is evident that on Tuesday this week, the leadership of KMPDU adhered to legal protocols by notifying the authorities of their planned protest, in accordance with the relevant articles of the constitution and relevant laws. They duly informed the Nairobi Regional Commander of their intention to hold a peaceful protest. During the peaceful protests over the delayed posting of medical interns and other critical concerns within the health sector, Dr. Atellah and fellow Medical Practitioners were surprisingly met with excessive force, violating their constitutional rights and endangering their lives. It is distressing that what should have been a peaceful exercise of the right to assembly turned into a scene of violence and injury. This is deeply concerning and demand urgent attention.

For the umpteenth time, KNCHR reiterates that Article 37 of the Kenyan Constitution guarantees every person the right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions to public authorities. The right to peaceful assembly serves as a fundamental pillar of democracy. It is a mechanism through which grievances are expressed and solutions sought in a civilized manner and that is exactly what the Doctors were doing yesterday.

Additionally, the Kenya National Police Service Standing Order on managing demonstrations and the Public Order Management Act provide clear guidelines on how to manage demonstrations without resorting to excessive force. Despite this, yesterday’s response from the law Enforcement Officers was shockingly violent and unwarranted. A blatant show of impunity by law enforcement agents, who seem to disregard the constitutional rights of citizens.

The State, through its duty bearers, has a responsibility to establish mechanisms that ensure the freedom of peaceful assembly is upheld and not subjected to excessive force. The right to peaceful assembly is crucial for collective expression and serves an important role in the social, political, cultural, economic and civil aspects of our Kenyan society, especially in addressing grievances.

In light of these sad developments, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights strongly condemns the excessive use of force against peaceful KMPDU Members and demand the following actions:

  1. Immediate Investigation and Accountability: KNCHR calls upon the relevant authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the out of order incident and hold all the security agents responsible for excessive use of force accountable under the law. Further, the Commission calls for the establishment of a mechanism to ensure accountability and oversight of law enforcement agencies to prevent a recurrence of such egregious acts of violence.
  2. Dialogue and Engagement: KNCHR implores the Cabinet Secretary of Health - Susan Nakhumicha and the Ministry of Health officials to immediately engage in meaningful dialogue with the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union to address the latter’s concerns and avert a potential strike that would adversely affect healthcare services across the country, especially in rural areas.
  3. Protection of Public Health: It is essential to recognize that any disruption in healthcare services, particularly amidst the current reports on lack of essential medicines and medical services in some public health facilities in some parts of the country, will have severe consequences for the well-being of the Citizens. KNCHR urges all stakeholders to prioritize the resolution of issues within the health sector for the benefit of all Kenyans.
  4. Respect for Constitutional Rights: The State has a duty to uphold and protect the constitutional rights of its citizens, including the right to peaceful assembly. KNCHR further calls on the police to exercise restraint and adhere to international human rights standards in their handling of protests.

In light of these developments, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights stands ready to facilitate dialogue and serve as an impartial arbiter between the KMPDU and the Ministry of Health, as it has done in the past. KNCHR encourages both parties to avail themselves of this opportunity to find mutually acceptable solutions.

Roseline Odede, HSC
Chairperson
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

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