By: Dominic Kabiru 19/03/2018
The National Human Rights agency has released its 2018 annual report on the current status of human rights and fundamental rights in Kenya. The national Commission that has a constitutive mandate, released its highly awaited status report today in Nairobi at a media function that took place at its head office.The Commission popularly known by its acronym, KNCHR plays an overseer and advisory role to Government in upholding a human rights culture in the country.
During the media briefing, the KNCHR Chairperson Ms Kagwiria Mbogori pointed out from the onset, that the Human rights agency’s report was a “deliberate effort within its mandate to increase and create awareness on the human rights status in Kenya while endeavouring to hold the Government accountable in the promotion and protection of human rights”.
The Commission’s Chairperson, who was flanked during the media briefing by Commissioner Jedidah Waruhiu and Deputy Secretary to the Commission, Ms Wambui Gathathi, said that KNCHR status report was delivered ahead of the fifth Presidential State of the Nation address which will be delivered on the 29th March 2018. The delivery of the human rights report is normally issued in the spirit and letter of the National Values and Principles of Governance that are spelt out under Article 10(2) of the Constitution, the Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2014 and the National Human Rights Policy and Action Plan.
By and large, the report acknowledged and lauded the positive strides made by Government in its submission of its reports on the country’s obligation and commitments towards international treaties and protocols.
The national commission encouraged the State to ratify the few outstanding treaties and covenants such as; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child as well as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). The report observed that Kenya has been sluggish in reporting under the African Human Rights System.
The Commission, while releasing the twenty point report that covered a spectrum of human rights issues in the country, also reflected on the poignant moment that was outcome of the 2017 General Election and the repeat Presidential Election and the violence that was witnessed during the entire electoral cycle. It noted that there was gross human rights violations that led to deaths, injuries, damage to property, bribery, misuse of public resources, cases of misuse of children and school grounds during campaigns, incitement and electoral related sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). During the celebration of the International Women’s Day on 8th March 2018, the Commission made a public a declaration of the cases it documented on sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) during the electoral process of 2017.
Other areas of concern highlighted in the KNCHR report include; the unresolved extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances to persons. The Commission called for accountability on the part of law enforcement agencies implicated. The police brutality meted on University of Nairobi students when anti-riot police officers entered the University, specifically at Department of Architecture, Design and Development (ADD) precincts has been highlighted in the report.
The report also gives highlights of the status on freedom of assembly, demonstration, picketing and petition that is protected by the Constitution of Kenya. The Commission has called on the State to set up an independent mechanism to audit the losses incurred by various business ventures during the 2017 electioneering period and subsequently it has recommended the requisite compensation and accountability. This, the report states, “should be done in all counties that recorded violence during the electoral process of 2017”.
The Commission’s 2018 report has also recommended to the Government to bridge its relationship with Civil Society Organizations, community leaders, paralegals, social workers, media practitioners, volunteers lawyers, Human Rights Defenders as the freedom of association and civic space plays a pivotal role in shaping the human rights culture in our country in ensuring Government compliance with human rights obligations.
The critical role of the media has also been highlighted in the report and KNCHR has emphasized that journalists and the media as a whole have a duty to inform the public and the public in an enabling and secure environment. As such members of the fourth estate require to optimally enjoy their rights and freedoms in the course of their duties as stipulated in Article 21, Article 33, Article 34, Article 35 and Article 36 of the Constitution and other statutory provisions.
The human rights report of 2018 also delves on the economic social and cultural rights as enshrined in Article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya. The right to the highest attainable standard of health, accessible and adequate housing, reasonable standards of sanitation to be free from hunger, to clean and safe water in adequate quantities, social security and education have been identified as areas the Government need to be proactive in as it prioritizes on the government’s “big four agenda” development initiatives which targets increased; Manufacturing, Food Security, Health and Housing. The Commission report has further called on the national Government to improve collaboration between itself, through the Ministry of Health, and County governments to enhance delivery of healthcare services across the country, especially in marginalised areas. “Devolution should therefore be a catalyst and cornerstone to assure development in all regions” the report further reads.
The 2018 report noted that the two thirds gender rule still remains an aspiration yet to be realized in both elective and appointive posts.
The Commission has called on the Executive to work with the Legislature to exemplify the achievement of gender parity in the country by ensuring all appointments are in full compliance with tenets of the Constitution.
The report has further called on the government to address the rights of indigenous communities Vis a vis environmental sustainability in order to avoid the continued neglect and physical threats, insecurity and destruction of property of the Sengwers, the Endorois, the Ogieks and other indigenous people.
The report has also recalled the 2015 commitment by Government towards reparations for victims and survivors of historical injustices in Kenya by setting up a Ksh. 10 billion restorative justice fund which has come to nought to date.
The Commission’s report has also taken contrary view to reports that; the National Police Service Commission had effected a decision to cut the salaries of police officers. This, the report says, is a decision that portends far reaching and negative consequences to the country, bearing in mind that police officers are the custodians of national security. “The ripple effect of such a decision will lead to low morale of the National Police Service officers and ultimately affect the much needed police reforms that had gained momentum”, the report indicates. The Commission urgently called on the President to suspend the implementation of the police officers’ pay cuts until an all-inclusive engagement involving stakeholders is reached. Download full report