Kenya to tighten laws on pickets as Raila Odinga calls for national protests

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Supporters of the Azimio la Umoja coalition watch from their flats as the opposition leader Raila Odinga gives a speech during a nationwide mass protest.
Supporters of the Azimio la Umoja coalition watch from their flats as the opposition leader Raila Odinga gives a speech during a nationwide mass protest.
Donwilson Odhiambo/Getty Images
  • The Kenyan government plans to tighten laws so that it has more authority over picketers and demonstrators.
  • Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki says the government will not watch protesters turn the country upside down.
  • This comes at a time when Raila Odinga is calling for a spate of national demonstrations.

The Kenyan government will work on new legislation to give it more authority over picketers and demonstrators.

This comes after Raila Odinga - who lost the presidential election by a narrow margin last year - called for a spate of national demonstrations.

Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said the government would not watch protesters turn the country upside down.

"It is not feasible for security organs to allow masses of people to roam streets and neighbourhoods of their choice, carrying stones and other offensive weapons while chanting political slogans and disrupting the daily activities of others.

"Accordingly, law enforcement agencies shall not tolerate the reported plans to repeat the violent, chaotic and economically disruptive protests that took place in Nairobi and Kisumu on 20th March 2023 whatsoever," he said.

He added that among the immediate measures was the introduction of subsidiary legislation.

This would be in the form of regulations pursuant to the Public Order Act and the Statutory Instruments Act to provide for the legal circumscription of assemblies, demonstrations, pickets and petitions, including, but not limited to, notification procedures, duties of security agencies to protect the rights of those participating in assemblies, demonstrations, pickets or petitions, and the demarcation of assemblies, demonstrations, pickets and petition zones.

The law will also seek to limit "the number of assemblers, demonstrators, picketers and petitioners at any particular occasion" and give direct "responsibility for clean-up costs; and responsibility for, and payment of, damages to those harmed by activities of assemblers, demonstrators, picketers or petitioners" to whoever sought and was granted permission.

Last Monday, demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the rising cost of living in the East African Community's largest economy.

The police did not authorise the demonstrations and the situation became chaotic when the police killed a university student and 31 police officers were injured.

On Sunday, Odinga, who leads the Azimio la Umoja–One Kenya Coalition Party, called for demonstrations in Nairobi on Monday and a repeat on Thursday.

In a press statement, he warned would-be protesters to be wary of a plan, allegedly by the deputy president, Rigathi Gachagua, "coordinating a major operation of mayhem against planned Azimio la Umoja protest rallies".

Odinga claimed that the plan against "otherwise peaceful protesters" already had an armoury and two command centres from where attacks would be plotted.

He said:

Two homes are currently being stocked with all sorts of modern and crude weapons, including guns, pangas and machetes.

He also accused legislators within his party of working with the vice-president.

Odinga is no stranger to public confrontation and demonstrations.

In 2007, violence erupted when Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity was declared the winner and Odinga was rejected for a second time as a candidate for the Orange for Democratic Movement.

The violence - estimated to have resulted in 1 100 deaths and 350 000 internal displacements, according to some scholars, such as such as Johan de Smedt - ended when a power-sharing deal was agreed upon in 2008.

In 2017, at least 24 people died in Nairobi, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) count, when police clashed with Odinga's supporters.

In a statement at the time, Odinga called it "unprecedented and unnecessary brutality" and said he would not accept his loss to Uhuru Kenyatta.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Voting Booth
What are your feelings about the rise of ransom kidnappings in SA?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
It's always been a problem, but was underreported before
9% - 124 votes
The crisis requires a tactical response from SAPS
13% - 177 votes
SA's security cluster remains asleep at the wheel
78% - 1046 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.