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Update on Civil Society Campaign against Police Violence


A brief update on our progress so far in the civil society campaign against escalating state and police violence in Kenya. For background, please see the statement titled: “Kenya: Investigate Police Brutality”, at the bottom of this email.


Three hours after we rolled out the Direct Action campaign yesterday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga encountered Ann Njogu (lawyer who was beaten and sexually assaulted by police on July 8th) at the office of a foreign ambassador and said “Ann, I didn’t know what had happened – I just learned by sms!”

Our scepticism about his “ignorance” aside, this is an amazingly quick result on our direct action strategy. Odinga asked Ann Njogu to deliver the civil society Memorandum on Police Violence to his office, where she was cordially received. We will seize this opportunity to request that Odinga meet civil society representatives for a serious discussion on escalating police violence, and his responsibility to stop it.

The court hearing in Kibera on Tuesday, of Ann Njogu and Others vs. Republic of Kenya, was attended by Officer Richard Mugwai, the senior police officer who sexually assaulted Ann Njogu and led the beating of all 7 activists. After the hearing, he beckoned over Omtatah Okoiti, one of the 7 activists (whose face is still marked from Mugwai’s violent attack), and said “Please do not deal with me as an individual. Please deal with the police force.”

This tells us that our strategy of naming individual police officers who violate human rights, and holding them directly accountable, is definitely hitting home, and will have a ripple effect throughout the Police Force.

A press conference was held yesterday in Mexico City, at the Global HIV/AIDS conference, to release the international petition calling on Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to address police violence and sexual assault on civil society activists in Kenya. Over 80 human rights, social justice and governance organizations across the world have signed the petition.

(1) At 10am yesterday, civil society met at the Central Police Station to file the official complaint of police violence. All relevant and required affidavits, medical reports, etc. were presented to the Officer in Charge of the Station. Over several hours, our colleagues were pushed around from office to office, encountered repeated stonewalling, and flat-out refusal to accept and file the complaint. They finally had to leave with the complaint unfiled.

(2) Our colleagues in Bunge La Mwananchi have alerted us to ongoing police violence against street children, including the horrific shooting of 6 street children in South B on Tuesday. (See my earlier posting to the listserve on this). It is important that we link all these cases and address the overarching issue of police violence at all levels and sectors of society.

(3) In court on Tuesday, we observed that police were illegally frustrating free expression even within the court, which is under the magistrate’s jurisdiction. Shailja Patel was told, arbitrarily, to remove her cap. The same order was not given to others in the courtroom also wearing hats. During the hearing of our case, a policeman told Shailja Patel to stop taking notes. Counsel Haroun Ndubi later advised that both police actions are illegal in an open courtroom, where the guiding principle is that justice should not only be done but be SEEN to be done. For future reference, if other civil society members experience similar harassment in an open courtroom, they should alert the nearest lawyer or call attention to matter in court, so police are advised on how to behave.


(1) In court on Tuesday, our counsels, Martin Oloo and Haroun Ndubi, argued that Section 78(1) of the penal code, under which activists are being charged with unlawful assembly, is a violation of fundamental freedoms guaranteed to Kenyans under the Constitution.

They therefore requested a constitutional interpretation of case in High Court. The prosecutor requested time to study the submissions. The next hearing, at which we will hear the Magistrate’s decision, is on August 22nd, Kibera Court, 9am. A high turnout by civil society members will have tremendous impact – please show up!

(2 IIt is vital that we sustain the momentum begun by the Direct Action Campaign. It is encouraging to know that our message has got through to at least one key office-holder, Raila Odinga. Now we need to keep up the flow of messages, through all channels, until the criminal violations committed are actually redressed, and the culture of police impunity and state violence is dismantled.

1 comment to Update on Civil Society Campaign against Police Violence

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