KINYUA ORDER

Laws give police power to stop early campaigns

State invoked Public Order Act in what spells trouble for politicians mobilising for 2022

In Summary

• Persons attending unlawful gatherings risk one year jail term.

• No person shall hold a public meeting without notifying the police at least three days prior.

Police at Kebirigo High School in Nyamira Thursday, October 8, 2020.
Police at Kebirigo High School in Nyamira Thursday, October 8, 2020.
Image: MAGATI OBEBO

The Public Order Act, famed as Cap56, gives the police express powers to outlaw any public meetings and processions.

The law defines a public meeting as any that is held in a public place which more than 50 persons are to be permitted to attend.

A public place, as per the law, is any which a section of the public are entitled or permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise.

Persons attending unlawful gatherings risk one year jail term.

Following the National Security Advisory Council directive invoking the Act, no person shall hold a public meeting without notifying the police at least three days prior.

The notice shall state the full names and physical address of the organiser, date of the meeting, and proposed site or route.

The Public Order Act provides that public meetings will be restricted to between 6am and 6pm.

No parallel meetings will be allowed at any venue with the police required to notify organisers who give notifications of the same in writing.

Organisers of public meetings or their agents will be required to be present throughout the meeting and are mandated to help the police maintain peace and order.

Police may stop a meeting if there is “clear, present, or imminent danger of a breach of peace or public order.

“The police may give orders to disperse such a meeting, procession or gathering as are reasonable in the circumstances…and in regard to the rights and freedoms of persons in respect of the issued orders,” the Act says.

 “Any meeting held contrary to the said laws will be deemed as an unlawful assembly…and shall be liable to imprisonment for one year.”

Kinyua, in the orders provoked by the chaos in Murang’a that left two dead, also asked the NCIC to conduct crackdown on hate speech on social media.

Political players have challenged the invocation of the laws, saying it is clawing back on rights and freedoms granted by the Constitution.

Former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri raised concerns the country’s leadership could be backpedalling on freedom of assembly.

The Service Party leader challenged the ODM brigade, led by Raila Odinga and Siaya Senator James Orengo, to speak against the laws.

“Kenya’s second liberation was largely a struggle against misuse of this Act. Our champions, among others, were Raila and Orengo. We supported them then, we shall support you again. Over to you,” he said.

Lawyer Steve Ogolla said the government cannot use Public Order Act to censure constitutionally ordained freedoms of assembly and association, and media freedoms.

“Hate speech presupposes speech; so, to ban rallies in advance ostensibly to 'remove hate speech', is to stretch common sense to breaking point,” the lawyer said.

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said the greatest threat to national security is not social media or public or political gatherings.

“The greatest threat to our national security is deceit, wrangles and fights at the highest level of government and governing party,” the lawmaker said.

He said Kinyua's statement “is panic button for the side that has lost the public”.