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[PRESS STATEMENT] SERI stands with the people of Kenya and condemns excessive force by Kenyan police (3 July 2024).

SERI Presser Kenya protests 2024 combinedOver the past two weeks, Kenyans, led by their youth, have been taking part in the #RejectFinanceBill2024 protests against a 2024/25 tax bill seeking to raise $2,7 billion to repay foreign loans. The protests have been met with excessive and deadly force. According to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), as of 1 July, at least 39 people have been killed, about 360 injured, over 600 arrested and there have been at least 32 cases of abductions. The KNHCR has also reported that some actions by security agencies have amounted to torture. SERI mourns the deaths of those killed in these protests and condemns the excessive use of violence by the Kenyan government.

Kenyans have been struggling with increases in the cost of living, high levels of unemployment, and growing poverty, all against a backdrop of increasing international debt and corruption by an extravagant political class. Approximately 60% of Kenya’s GDP goes towards servicing debt. The proposed taxed bill, since withdrawn by President William Ruto, has sparked these recent protests. However, Kenyans have asserted that these continued protests are a response to a bleak economic future which the tax bill represents. The protests are therefore a public expression of dissent and a legitimate and important means of holding government accountable and responsive to the needs and concerns of ordinary citizens. The right to protest is enshrined in Article 37 of Kenya’s constitution which places a responsibility on the state to facilitate the right as opposed to supressing it.

As a signatory to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, as well as various other international instruments, the Kenyan government is obliged under international law to respect and protect the right to life, the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, freedom from other ill-treatment, to protect the right to liberty and the right to freedom of assembly. The use of force should be in line with international standards on its use adhering to the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, precaution, and accountability. This means that the use of force must be authorised by law, be necessary in the circumstances, be proportionate to the threat presented, that ground operations must be planned to minimise the risk of harm, and that the use of force must be accountable and therefore justified and justifiable.

In addition, the Kenyan government has an obligation to ensure that prompt, effective, independent, impartial, and transparent investigations are carried out into the deaths that occurred. The victims of this violence and the loved ones of the deceased have a right to an effective remedy to which the Kenyan government must ensure they have access. Failure to address this will breed impunity and lead to further corrosion of the government’s relationship with the people of Kenya. Justice and accountability are especially important to facilitate the healing of those affected by this violence.

SERI’s defense of the families of the miners killed in the Marikana massacre in 2012, showed us first-hand the impact of police violence as a response to the exercise of democratic rights. In our ongoing pursuit of an effective remedy and justice for the families, we have also seen how the continued denial of justice and accountability has affected the victims and survivors of Marikana and emboldened the police in South Africa to act with impunity. We would urge the Kenyan government to choose a different course.

As the protests continue, we express our heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of the deceased. We also wish to express our solidarity with the Kenyan protestors advocating for greater government accountability and improved living conditions. No one should have to die during the course of a protest or any other demonstration.

Contact details: 

  • Thato Masiangoako, SERI researcher: 082 590 8973 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


  • Download the statement here.