Riots in Nairobi on 7 July 1997 [KEN29297.E]

Riots were widely reported in Nairobi and other Kenyan towns on 7 July 1997 (AFP 8 July 1997, Africa News 8 July 1997, DPA 26 July 1997, The Economist 19 July 1997, HRW 17 July 1997, The Times 8 July 1997). Kenyan political opposition parties and activists called rallies on 7 July 1997 throughout Kenya, reportedly to pressure the government of President Moi into making constitutional reforms. The rallies allegedly degenerated into chaos and bloodshed when "demonstrators threw stones, burned tyres, attacked passing cars and looted shops in a number of the 56 towns where opposition activists held rallies to call for constitutional reforms" (AFP 7 July 1997).

The trouble started at the All Saints Cathedral when the police stormed into the church "to disperse the congregation which, included the legislators, who were praying for eight people who had earlier been beaten and injured by the police." (Africa News 8 July 1997; AFP 8 July 1997; The Times 8 July 1997; The Economist 19 July 1997). Three opposition members of parliament and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Timothy Njoya, as well as several other people including students were seriously injured in Nairobi and other towns such as Thika, Kisumu and Nakuru (Africa News 8 July 1997; The Times 8 July 1997). Reports of the number of persons killed throughout vary from seven to ten (AFP 8 July 1997; The Times 8 July 1997; Africa News 8 July 1997). The Economist, writing ten days later, gives the death toll as 13 (19 July 1997).

The Economist reports that police also stormed the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Nairobi and severely beat a lecturer and students, including a female student who was shot "in the stomach with a plastic bullet as she tried to flee." (ibid.; HWR 17 July 1997). Violence was also reported on the streets of Nairobi where police bludgeoned women with children on their backs, and dragged passengers out of taxis and beat them up (The Economist 19 July 1997).

Human Rights Watch reports that in addition to Nairobi University campus, the campus of Kenyatta University was also raided. "Numerous students, several bystanders, and at least one professor were hospitalized, some with gunshot wounds" and four students were among the ten or more individuals killed in the government crackdown the previous day." Further clashes between the police and the students led to the closure of the campuses on 9 July 1997 (17 July 1997).

Following a wave of international condemnation, including an open letter from Human Rights Watch (HWR 17 July 1997, DPA 26 July 1997), President Moi met with religious leaders on 15 July 1997 and promised to allow legal reforms (The Economist 19 July 1997). He is reported to have stated at a rally on 16 July 1997 that opposition parties wishing to hold rallies would automatically get official licences, "except in rare circumstances, to avoid further clashes between police and demonstrators" (DPA 26 July 1997; The Economist 17 July 1997).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Africa News. 8 July 1997. "Kenya: 10 Killed in Chaos." (NEXIS)

Agence France Presse (AFP). 8 July 1997. Hugh Nevill. "'Prepare for Further Sacrifice.': Kenyan Opposition." (NEXIS)

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 26 July 1997. "Hundreds in Kenya's Port City Mombasa for Demonstration." (NEXIS)

The Economist. 19 July 1997. "Kenya: Brutal Seventh."

Human Rights Watch (HRW-News). 17 July 1997. "Kenya - Excessive Force Used on Student Protestors." (NEXIS)

The Times [London]. 8 July 1997. Sam Kiley. "Seven Die as Police Smash Protests." (NEXIS)