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Police have become highly intolerant

Publication Date: 7/10/2008

The people of Kenya fought valiantly for what has been dubbed the Second Liberation. It was a great victory when the dictatorial single-party regime was consigned to history so that democracy could flourish.The new era was supposed to give us much more than just the right to form political parties and to belong to, and vote for, parties of our choice.

It heralded a complete opening of the democratic space and the freedoms and liberties that follow.  These include the freedom of speech, freedom to hold, impart and receive ideas, freedom of association and assembly — the list is long.

We should not forget that it also includes the freedom to shout, demonstrate, march and generally make our feelings known or let out our frustrations on pressing matters of the day.

The legal and constitutional reforms carried out as part of the Inter-Party Parliamentary Group package in 1997 were expressly designed to ensure that we move decisively away from the culture of the single-party regime when breaches of such fundamental rights were so rampant.

That is why it is worrying that a government which came to power as a beneficiary of the agitation for democracy should be so quick to take us back to the dark days of intolerance and repression.

We were witness to police brutality the other day when the authorities moved against a small group that wanted to press publicly for the resignation or sacking of Finance minister Amos Kimunya.

The police say that the demonstration had not been licensed, but the principle which should apply in such cases is not so much the fine print of the law but whether such gatherings are a threat to public order.

Almost every other day in our major towns, we see all sorts of groups assembling, without licence, to make their views known on various topics.

Police usually do not bother to intervene unless such gatherings become unruly. It is only on issues deemed politically sensitive that they wade in with excessive zeal. In the process, they only give high publicity to groups that otherwise would have been ignored.

Write to the author

About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.


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