On March 18, 2023, police reportedly arrested at least 50 student members of the Kenya University Students Organization (KUSO) during a press conference, ahead of nationwide protests.
KUSO, a group allied with Kenya’s opposition party, held a press conference in Nairobi to announce that they would participate in a nationwide protest planned for March 20, over the country’s economy, rising cost of living, and the lack of financial aid available to students. Police arrested the students for holding a meeting without a permit. The students were released on bail later that evening.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students in retaliation for their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly – conduct which is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kenya is a party. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain safety and order, they also have an obligation to refrain from restricting nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions aimed at restricting students’ freedom of expression, association, and assembly undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.