NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 7- More than 50 activists were arrested on Tuesday as they marched in Nairobi to mark Saba Saba or 7th July.
The day is marked in Kenya to commemorate July 7, 1990 when violent protests broke out in Kenya to demand free elections.
Since then, activists stage demonstrations to champion key issues, with this year dedicated to policy brutality following killings of innocent civilians since March as police enforced the night curfew declared by President Uhuru Kenyatta as part of measures to contain the rise of coronavirus cases which had surged to 8,067 by Tuesday.
The activists had planned demonstrations in the Central Business District and slum areas, but police dispersed them and arrested others.
They waved placards screaming SabaSabaMarchForOurLives, Stop the Killings and Respect the Constitution.
The arrests, mainly targetting protest organisers, were effected in Mathare, Kayole, Dandora and other informal settlements.
“I am yet to know my offense after I was arrested,” said Wilfred Olal who was coordinating the protests in Dandora, through the Community Justice Centre. He was taken to Pangani Police Station where nearly 20 others were locked up.
Other activists arrested were taken to Kayole police station and police posts in Mathare and Huruma. They were arrested while singing sang freedom songs as others waved the national flags.
“We are marching for our lives,” one protester said, “every live matters.”
Contingents of heavily armed police officers were deployed to the areas where the protests were staged to disperse them.
In Mathare, police lobbed tear gas at the demonstrators when they defied orders to disperse.
They were protesting police brutality and demanding justice for the victims.
Nairobi Police Chief Philip Ndolo said the protests were illegal.
“It is outlawed, it is not legal, and no permit has been given. As you are aware, no public gatherings are allowed at this time due to COVID-19 and we will not allow anyone to hold any meeting or march of any kind,” he said.
The Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) condemned the arrests, tweeting “Release all human rights defenders arrested for enjoying their constitutional rights.”