Video from @WanjeriNderu on Twitter
About fifty-six (56) activists in Kenya were arrested, and demonstrators were teargassed by the police to disperse a rally being conducted peacefully to call for social amelioration, end to police brutality and extrajudicial killings (EJKs). Organizers are still trying to account for other activists who were not seen in the local police stations.
Armed only with masks, soap, water, and their placards, the activists assembled to different converging points before marching towards the town center of Nairobi. The rally was organized by the Social Justice Working Group, whose community chapters are members of the ILPS Kenya. The protest action commemorated the traditional day of popular protests in Kenya, known as the Saba Saba (“Seven Seven” in the Swahili language).
Thirty years ago, on July 7, 1990, mass demonstrations took place against the one-party regime of the dictator Daniel Moi. In 1992 police canceled the Saba Saba rally and engaged those who had assembled in running battles, triggering riots that lasted four days. About 20 were killed and many more injured in what’s memorialized today as Saba Saba.
After three decades, the same thing is happening again under President Uhuru Kenyatta. Some of the demonstrators were able to reach the town and attempted to assemble to start a program when hundreds of police suddenly fired teargas on the crowd and arrested the leaders on site. Other contingents that were still converging in their community, like the Mathare Social Justice Centre, were already dispersed by the police before they can even start to march.
The march started from all the venues with Social Justice Centers that is Kayole, Komarocks, Dandora, Kariobangi, Korogocho, Ruaraka, Githurai, Kiamaiko, Kibera, Mathare, Kamukunji, Mukuru, makadara and Kiambiu. The destination was at Harambee house.
Those who are now detained at Kayole Police station are Wilfred Olal, Leila Umar, Edwin Nyangena, Sallky Muthonja, Musili Defti, Rachel Mbithe, and James Omondi. In Pangani Police station, those detained are Kelvin Aroni, Nicole Nandi, Tobias Orao, Collins Ochieng, Floice Ochieka, Isaac Amunga, and Lucy Wanjiku. Different support groups are still gathering other names at present.
There were also reports that Gacheke Gachihi, leader of Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), was also arrested. Gacheke is one of the convenors of ILPS-Kenya and MSJC was an initiative of young community activists in Mathare in 2015 to envision a center that would promote more participatory forms of justice. Since then, the center has been involved in several initiatives, most notably the foundational campaign to document extrajudicial killings. This resulted in the launch of the 2017 report titled: Who is Next? A Participatory Action Report Against the Normalization of Extrajudicial Killings in Mathare.
Kenyan activists are calling for solidarity with other organizations in Africa and the rest of the world to condemn the wanton violation of their right to free speech and assembly that are supposedly guaranteed in the Kenyan constitution.
Coordinator of Mathare Legal Aid and Human Rights Advocacy
Convenor of ILPS-Kenya
Revolutionary Socialist League, co-convenor ILPS-Kenya