A recent legal dispute concerning the Azimio protests has reached the courtroom, as the government faces a lawsuit for employing a colonial law against those accused of orchestrating the events.
The case, as covered by The Standard, questions the validity of Section 77 of the Penal Code, which deems it unlawful to either plan or participate in acts of defiance against authority.
Among the Azimio leaders charged with subversion (undermining power that is in authority in an established system.) are Babu Owino, the MP for Embakasi East, and Anthony Oluoch, the MP representing Mathare.
The focus of this legal challenge revolves around the contentious Section 77, a colonial-era legal artifact adopted by successive Kenyan governments since its introduction in 1960.
Initially meant to suppress opposition during colonial times, this law also resurfaced during the Mwakenya trials in the 1980s.This colonial-era law prescribes a maximum imprisonment of seven years for those found guilty of subversion
A coalition of organizations including the Law Society of Kenya, Katiba Institute, Kenya Union of Journalists, International Commission of Jurists, Bloggers Association of Kenya, and Africa Center for Open Governance has jointly filed a case contesting this outdated law.
Other parties involved include Article 19, Kenya Human Rights Commission, and Tribeless Youth. Joshua Otieno Ayika, a lawyer, has also been listed as an interested party; he faced charges in the Makadara Law Court related to his tweets.
Ayika was accused of using language detrimental to public order and security, further charged with posting subversive content intended to incite chaos among Kenyans.
The legal representatives of these advocacy groups, namely Bosire Bonyi and Ochiel J Dudley, contend that Section 77 contradicts the 2010 Constitution by shielding government officials from criticism.
Azimio la Umoja coalition claims to have extensively examined the hardships faced by demonstrators. Alleging that a minimum of 50 individuals lost their lives due to anti-government protests, with several others being hospitalized for severe injuries.
Azimio, through a press release, asserts that several hospitals were instructed to withhold casualty figures and deny admission to those claiming to be victims of police brutality.
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According to the coalition, they have obtained evidence supporting allegations of police and hired gang involvement in shootings and the fatal shooting of unarmed individuals at close range. As this legal battle progresses, it underscores the conflict between a colonial-era law and contemporary demands for accountability and justice.