VIOLATES CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOMS

Ruling to pay for protest damage denounced

Critics call it an attempt to return Kenya to dark days before multi-party democracy

In Summary

• A multi-partyism crusader and Embu teachers have rejected a court ruling requiring damage caused by protesters to be covered by organisers.

• They say it violates constitutional guarantees of freedom of picking, assembly and speech. 

University students led by 9former0 Kenya Universities Students Association chairman Owino Babu (in grey jacket) march along University Way protesting the failure by Helb to release funds.
FIERY PROTEST: University students led by 9former0 Kenya Universities Students Association chairman Owino Babu (in grey jacket) march along University Way protesting the failure by Helb to release funds.
Image: FILE

A  multi-partyism crusader and Embu teachers on Sunday denounced a High Court ruling requiring protest organisers to pay for damage caused by their demonstrations.

Ford Asili secretary general Njeru Kathangu and Kenya National Union of Teachers Embu branch executive Secretary Josphat Kathumi termed the ruling unreasonable, impractical and a reversal of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms

These include freedoms of speech and assembly.

 

They spoke separately to the Star.

Nyeri judge James Makau delivered the ruling on August 8. It arose from a case filed Nyeri MP Ngunjiri Wambugu seeking directions on how demonstrations should balance the rights of those picketing with rights of nonparticipants.

Knut Embu branche's executive secretary Josphat Kathumi on August 30, 2018.
NO WAY: Knut Embu branche's executive secretary Josphat Kathumi on August 30, 2018.
Image: REUBEN GITHINJI

It is expected to be appealed.

Speaking un Embu town, Kathangu said that the government or anybody or anything people demonstrate against cannot impose fines or punishment for demonstrations.

He said for many years the government did want any demonstrations and has never accepted them.

The ruling has made it impossible for people to demonstrate, especially when the government has been aggrieving the people at will  and forcing them to demonstrate.
Knut's Josephat Kathumi

Kathangu said that the system is trying to take the country backwards and the move must be stopped by every means. He said the Constitution must not be amended to penalise demonstrators.

He said that property is usually destroyed when people react to mistreatment, such as the beating or killing demonstrators.

 

“People have every right to demand responsibility from their government if a citizen is killed for doing what is provided for by the Constitution, or if property is destroyed," Kathungu said.

There is no way out for the government "except to compensate and in fact apologise to the people,” Kathangu said.

Kathumi said demonstrations should be peaceful "but what about thugs coming in and demonstrators counter-attacking the hooligans?" he asked.

Njeru Kathangu, Ford Asili's secretary general speaking in Embu
WE WON'T PAY: Njeru Kathangu, Ford Asili's secretary general speaking in Embu
Image: REUBEN GITHINJ

He said it’s practically impossible to go telling the people along the route that demonstrators will follow that there will be a protest, especially in rural areas.

 “The ruling has made it impossible for people to demonstrate, especially when the government has been aggrieving the people at will and forcing them to demonstrate,” Kathumi said.

"The ruling is like telling the people there's no freedom of expression. Parliament should not enact such laws and the judge who gave the ruling is very unreasonable,” he said.

The ruling said protest organisers will be required to bear responsibility for the destruction and other costs incurred during demos.

(Edited by V. Graham)