Remarks by Commissioner George Morara; The Vice Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, during the Launch of the report, Breaking the Cycles of Violence; Gaps in Prevention of and Response to Electoral Related Violence, at the Hotel Intercontinental-Nairobi.
17th December 2019.
Hon. Safina Kwekwe Tsungu, Principal Secretary State Department of Gender Affairs, through you, allow me to recognize the courage and commitment of the victims and survivors of sexual violence present here with us today and those who are not in this room but whose pain and suffering continues to remind us all that we must say NO TO SEXUAL VIOLENCE.
Li Fung, Senior Human Rights Adviser Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR);
My colleague, Commissioner Jedidah Wakonyo Waruhiu
Anna Mutavati, Country Director, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women)
Naitore Nyamu, Head of Kenya Office, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
Jaqueline Mutere Executive, Director and National Coordinator, Grace Agenda
Distinguished representatives of development partners
Ladies and gentlemen.
I wish to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to you all on this important occasion as we launch the report on the Gap Analysis report on the Prevention and Response to Election-related Sexual Violence in Kenya; a subject of mutual concern to our institutions and our country. I take this opportunity to most sincerely thank the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the organizers for inviting the KNCHR to this event.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has been at the forefront in monitoring the Government’s compliance to the international, regional and national standards as pertains to sexual and reproductive health rights, with a particular focus on the protection against sexual and gender based violence. You will recall that on 28th November last year, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights launched a report titled Silhouettes of Brutality; a documentation Prior to the release of the KNCHR the report on sexual violence, other reports highlighting electoral related violence were released. These reports were titled, the Fallacious vote, Mirage at Dusk and Still a Mirage at Dusk.
The reports highlighted a worrying trend of sexual violence being used as a weapon in election-related conflicts as was evidenced in the 2007 and 2017 General Election against a backdrop of the State obligations to national, regional and international human rights instruments. The findings of these reports are a stark reminder about the vulnerability of men, women and children, particularly the poor or those from marginalized segments of society, during general elections in Kenya.
Indeed, KNCHR observations are in line with those of the UN Secretary General which were made in April 2017 and I quote;
“Sexual violence continued to be employed as a tactic of war, with widespread and strategic rapes, including mass rapes, allegedly committed by several parties to armed conflict, mostly in conjunction with other crimes…”
It is worth noting that through the reports by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights several recommendations to key actors, with a focus on accountability and reforms on the requisite prevention and protection mechanisms of electoral-related sexual violence, were made. It is a bit disappointing that most of recommendations are yet to be implemented.
Closely related to this discussion is the rule of law which is a critical pillar of good governance.
Impunity takes place where there is an absence of the rule of law. The absence of the rule of law can lead to violent conflict or repression leading to gross violations of human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has observed and I quote;
“The absence or collapse of the rule of law in any state can result in repression, leading to gross violations of human rights. Impunity is often the primary obstacle to upholding rule of law. Human rights become a mockery when, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence go unpunished, when amnesty laws exempt perpetrators from responsibility, when inquiries into violations fail to produce results, and cultural rights cannot be attained through the judicial process”.
In Kenya, we tend to experience moments of heightened lawlessness around election-time. The rule of law basically breaks down during election times.
As we gather here today for the launch of this report, I thought it would be important for us to reflect on our transitional Justice processes; I thought it would be important to pursue accountability while seeking to achieve reparations for the victims. But importantly, we must all put our minds together, to deliberate on the Prevention of and Non-Recurrence of Electoral-related Sexual Violence. Sexual violence must simply have no space in our society, whether it is election-time or not!
Following the National Dialogue and Reconciliation process that was undertaken after the 2007/2008 Post-Election Violence, an agreement for the establishment of a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, with a mandate to investigate and report on gross violations of human rights and historical injustices that occurred between 12 December 1963 and 28 February 2008 was reached. Upon conclusion of its work, the then Commission recommended the establishment of an independent implementation mechanism that would be sufficiently resourced to provide redress to victims in the form of reparations for historical injustices. In 2007, KNCHR was part of a Multi-Sectoral task force that drafted the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Act and advocated for its enactment in 2008.
Following the winding-down of the TJRC’s term and the presentation of its final report to the President on 21st May 2013, the KNCHR has continued to advocate for reforms and accountability for historical atrocities and human rights violations. With regards to Electoral-related Sexual Violence, the major interventions undertaken by the KNCHR include, among others, supporting victims of sexual violence through court processes and supporting the victims and survivors’ networks.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
To guarantee non-recurrence, legal and institutional reforms are necessary; especially in instances where it has been shown that institutions and laws have failed to prevent atrocities. I am happy because this report builds on this conversation. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights lauds the great work that you have done in coming up with this report. Particularly, we fully associate ourselves with this report in emphasizing the need to entrench mechanisms that ensure prevention of Election Related Sexual Violence in the future, driven by values relating to human security, stability and sustainability of the human rights agenda in Kenya. Please receive assurance of our support as we work towards the implementation of the recommendations.
To this end, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights shall continue to promote and support effective reparations programs, designed to ensure that victims of Electoral-related Sexual Violence are acknowledged publicly, symbolically, and where need be, compensated materially. I therefore take this opportunity to urge all of us to work together, to bolster our collective resolve to build resilience, prevent Electoral-related Sexual Violence and continue to support our people’s aspirations to live free in a county free from impunity and indignity.
We must continue engaging, not only nationally but at the international level as well. Ladies and Gentlemen, Kenya is up for review under the UPR mechanism. So, we must continue the calls for accountability at the UPR level by urging States:
Finally, for those who mark and celebrate these, I take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!
I thank you all for listening to me.