Police yesterday fired tear gas to break civil society protests in Nairobi’s CBD against closure of three major TV stations and a return to dictatorship.
Kenya Human Rights Commission director George Kegoro, his deputy director Davis Malombe and International Commission of Jurists chairman Njonjo Mue led the demos from Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park. They made stopovers at the Standard Group offices and Nation Centre and demanded that the firms’ TV stations be switched on. KTN and NTV were back on air last evening.
The demonstrators also told the government to stop “persecuting” journalists Ken Minjungu, Larry Mandowo and Linus Kaikai.
They were, however, teargassed after they attempted to use Harambee Avenue to get to Harambee House, which houses the Interior ministry’s offices. A senior police officer said they were instructed not to allow any demos along the avenue.
Mue said, “We are concerned about the dangerous turn that our country has taken. In the recent months, we have seen an introduction of a very dictatorial way of doing things. We are here to defend our Constitution and say that we will not stand a government that is quickly becoming a criminal enterprise.
“We’ve seen blacking out of major TV stations that Kenyans rely on for local news. We’ve seen arbitrary arrests of opposition politicians that are not just arrests, but abductions by a police force that is quickly becoming a criminal gang. We’ve seen violations of human rights and freedom of information.”
He criticised the government for resorting to dictatorship and taking Kenya back to the dark days of single-party rule, instead of resolving issues that hold the economy to ransom and cause youth unemployment.
Kegoro said there are plans to include public actions and reaching out to authorities, including the courts, to stop repression.
“What started a few days ago [crackdown on politicians] after the opposition swore in Raila Odinga as the People’s President is disturbing and regrettable to us as citizens of the country,” he said.
“We’ve seen muzzling of media and closure of TV stations. The courts have ordered the reopening of the stations, but the government has defied the orders.
“Miguna Miguna was arrested, the court ordered his release, but the government defied the orders. We’re seeing what the Moi administration did — arresting someone at one place and taking him rounds around the country to punish them before they are charged.”