The start of the new year has not been an easy one for human rights defenders in Kenya and the region. Just in the first days of January 2023, LGTBQ+ activist Edwin Chiloba was killed. Also in January, the murder of Thulani Maseko from Eswatini prompted HRDs in Kenya to organize #Justice4Thulani protests in solidarity with Eswatini HRDs. Several HRDs were the victim of arrests and break-ins, and organisations raised alarm about the possible enforced disappearance of South Sudanese HRD Morris Mabior who had been seeking asylum in Kenya.
On a positive note, in the first quarter of this year, the case against the police officers that disappeared and killed the ‘Mavoko 3’ (human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and their driver Joseph Muiruri) in 2016 came to a close with the serving of sentences. In February, the Supreme Court of Kenya affirmed the decisions of lower courts to allow for the registration of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission as a non-governmental organization in Kenya with the words gay and lesbian in the name. However, this Supreme Court decision came with enormous backlash.
In March, the opposition leader Raila Odinga called for mass protests on the premise of electoral justice, high cost of living and reconstitution of the country’s electoral commission (IEBC). There were demonstrations on March 20, 27 and 30. The Police Reforms Working Group – Kenya, of which we are a member of, published a statement on March 27 that says “Very regrettably, the failure to create a conducive environment for the March 20 Azimio la Umoja rally created the conditions for the violence, death and destruction of property… We are very concerned by yesterday's statement by Police Inspector General Japhet Koome that seeks to threaten protesters, criminalise and illegally ban all protests.” The PRWG-K also emphasised that the right to protest played a powerful and transformative part in the democratisation and constitutionalism process that has enshrined equality, equity, non-discrimination, constitutionalism, and human dignity. Find the full statement here.