The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights expresses concern over the excessive use of force against protesters in Kenya


The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission), through its Country Rapporteur for Kenya – Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso and its Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa – Commissioner Maria Teresa Manuela, is following the situation of protests in the Republic of Kenya with concern. 

The African Commission has received information from different sources highlighting incidents of excessive use of force by security personnel in Kenya, in the context of the protests that took place in the country on 20 March 2023 and 27 March 2023. Information reaching the African Commission reveals that two people have been killed since the protests started last week, including a student from Maseno University in the western city of Kisumu, who was killed by a shot in the neck when police officers fired live rounds on the protesters. There are also reports of widespread use of tear gas on protesters, as well as the arrests of hundreds of protesters.

The African Commission wishes to remind the Republic of Kenya that the freedom of assembly is enshrined under Article 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), and the Guidelines of the African Commission on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa require that governments should strictly respect and protect peaceful protests, and also stipulate that in cases of protests leading to incidents of riots, law enforcement officials can only use legitimate means of upholding law and order, and opt for use of force only proportionally in cases of imminent threat to life. 

The African Commission also expresses its deep concern about acts of vandalism, destruction of property and other acts that amount to criminal offenses by those who have taken advantage of the protests to engage in violent acts, and affirms that such acts are not protected under nor justified by freedom of assembly.   

The African Commission urges the Republic of Kenya to ensure that the interference of security forces with protests must be legitimate and proportional, and should use methods that isolate and arrest those engaging in violent acts, rather than indiscriminate use of force against protesters. 

The African Commission calls on the Government of Kenya to undertake independent, transparent, and prompt investigations into incidents of excessive use of force by security personnel in the context of the protests, and to bring those who used excessive force to justice, and as well provide effective access to justice and remedy to the victims.

It further calls on the Government of Kenya to ensure that the instructions given to security personnel deployed during protests follow the African Commission’s Guidelines for the Policing of Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa, to ensure that they adhere to the standards under the African Charter, by which the Republic of Kenya is bound. 
28 March 2023
Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso
Country Rapporteur for the Republic of Kenya

Commissioner Maria Teresa Manuela
Special Rapporteur on Prisons, conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa