PBI-Kenya concerned by the burning of the Nyando Social Justice Centre in the western city of Kisumu

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: The Nyando Social Justice Centre says: “Nyando social justice center has been a target by Ahero police officers so this time round they decided to fire several teargas canisters into our offices till they caught fire.”

PBI-Kenya has tweeted: “Yesterday [Wednesday July 19], the Nyando Social Justice Centre in Kisumu was burned down. In June, we visited @CboNyando and learned about the wonderful work of the WHRDs [women human rights defenders] there.”

For almost ten years, the centre has provided sanctuary and support for women survivors of gender-based violence and human rights defenders.

Photo: PBI-Kenya at the Nyando Social Justice Centre in June 2023. Kisumu is situated about 350 kilometres north-west of Nairobi.

They further shared a tweet from the Defenders Coalition that says: “The centre was allegedly set ablaze by police officers.”

And they have tweeted: “The Social Justice Centres Working Group alerts about [human rights defender] Boniface Ogutu Akach in Kisumu and demands information concerning his whereabouts.” There are concerns that Akach was abducted by the police due to his documenting of police violence during the ongoing protests in Kenya.

Photo: The social justice centre this morning.

Context

Yesterday CNN reported: “A wave of deadly protests has hit Kenya as anger over tax hikes and the cost of living spilled into the streets.”

And this morning The Guardian notes: “Teargas and live ammunition were used against demonstrators as pockets of violence broke out in Kenya during a second day of protests against tax increases and rising living costs. Despite relative calm in Nairobi on Thursday morning, there were clashes in the informal settlements of Kibera and Mathare in the capital, and in the western city of Kisumu.”

The Associated Press (via CTV) adds: “Police in Kenya say they have been ordered not to report deaths amid demonstrations against the rising cost of living, but an independent watchdog [the Independent Medico-Legal Unit] says at least six people were shot dead by police on Wednesday and 27 were shot dead in such protests earlier this year.”

That article also notes: “While police in Kenya have long been accused by rights groups of using excessive force, there is growing concern about tactics used under the government of President William Ruto, elected last year. One police officer also was seen posing as a journalist in Wednesday’s protest, which the Media Council of Kenya called dangerous.”

Role of the IMF

While the tax hikes by President Ruto are deeply unpopular, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says they are a “crucial” step toward reducing Kenya’s debt vulnerabilities.

In February 2021, Kenya agreed to a 38-month IMF program to reduce debt vulnerabilities. That program was extended in May 2023 to April 2025.

On Monday July 17, the IMF executive board signed off on nearly $1 billion in new funding for Kenya. IMF Deputy Managing Directory Antoinette Sayeh said approval of Kenya’s fiscal 2023-2024 budget and the 2023 Finance Act were “crucial steps”.

Sayeh adds that tighter financing conditions also required a “prudent debt policy” and continued efforts to prioritize concessional loans.

Killings by the police highlighted at the UN

On June 26, 2023, Peace Brigades International stated at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: “In Kenya we would like to express our concerns about the number of assassinations by police in 2022 documented by Missing Voices. Human rights defenders that deal with these cases are facing threats and witnesses are not ready to speak because they are afraid of reprisals. Also, we would like to express our concerns about the 12 assassinations committed by the police during the protests in March.”

Video: Yannick Wild of PBI-Switzerland.

On July 20, Amnesty International Kenya issued this statement that highlights: “Preliminary investigations have revealed that the police have used beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention of protestors, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of tear gas and water cannons, and other serious rights violations to police the protests. We call for an immediate stop to violent policing and criminalising of protests by the state. We demand urgent investigations and prosecution of police officers and their commanders for excessive use of force by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority and the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

The High Commission of Canada in Kenya has also tweeted this statement:

We continue to follow this with concern.


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