Kenya National Commission on Human Rights
Press Statement: Nairobi, Tuesday 14th March, 2023 For Immediate Release:
HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS DURING PHASE TWO OF THE JOINT SECURITY OPERATION IN THE COUNTIES OF: TURKANA, ELGEYO MARAKWET, BARINGO, WEST POKOT, SAMBURU AND LAIKIPIA
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) is deeply concerned by the unfolding human rights situation in the six (6) Counties of Turkana, Elegeyo Marakwet, Baringo, West Pokot, Samburu and Laikipia following the order by the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Administration dated 12th March 2023 ordering all law-abiding citizens to vacate identified troubled areas within 24 hours failure to which they will be treated as criminal elements.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights notes that most of the areas identified and dubbed as “crime scenes” are civilians habitual places of residence and the net effect of the vacate order will have far-reaching negative effects on a myriad of their human rights and fundamental freedoms as protected in our Constitution. It is evidently clear, as attested by yesterday’s mainstream media coverage, residents are leaving their homes in droves with no clear, definite or alternative place to reside. The question begs: Within a 24-hours ultimatum, where are these displaced civilians of the disturbed areas supposed to go?
The civilians, who indeed have been victims of banditry activities, are struggling to move out of the disturbed areas with nowhere to go; and the resultant impact is the mushrooming of overcrowded makeshift camps and centers with no provisions for basic commodities like water, food, reasonable standards of sanitation and healthcare services. Suffice it to say, the relocation move has been particularly torturous for the vulnerable groups in these communities; specifically to the elderly, persons with disabilities, children, the sick and expectant women.
Equally, the Commission is concerned that; coupled with the current harsh realities of the ongoing drought, and considering that members of these displaced population are predominantly pastoralists, moving away from areas they had pasture for their livestock has exacerbated the famine and hunger situation for them. Further, schools in these areas have been closed indefinitely with the children having no recourse to their right to education.
This situation on the ground following the Sunday 12th March 2023 order by the Government, if not urgently checked, will quickly degenerate into a humanitarian crisis. Thus, immediate mitigation actions and measures need to be taken by the Government as a matter of urgency and priority.
The Commission wishes to reiterate to the Government of its cardinal obligation under Article 238(2) b of the Constitution to pursue National Security in compliance with the law and with the utmost respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.” While the Commission fully supports the security operations aimed at restoring peace and order in the larger North Rift region, it calls on the same to be in line with a Human Rights Based Approach that recognizes the ultimate goal of protecting the civilian population in these troubled and disturbed areas, particularly focusing on the vulnerable groups. Further, it is important for this second phase of the joint security operation to adhere to both national and international humanitarian and human rights laws, principles and standards which sets out clear obligations to facilitate the delivery of relief for civilians in need.
To this extent, and pursuant to its Constitutional mandate, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is calling on the Government to take urgent extraordinary measures to avert an impending humanitarian crisis by immediately embarking on the following;
- THAT the 24-hours ultimatum be substantially extended to ensure all civilians have been fully evacuated from the troubled areas before the security operations can commence;
- THAT the security agencies guarantee the safety and security of all civilians in the identified areas and guarantee them a safe and orderly passage;
- THAT due to the pastoralism nature of the affected communities, and in view of the impending displacement, the National and County Governments provide safe houses and spaces where the communities can temporarily relocate with access to basic commodities of water, food, adequate and reasonable sanitation;
- THAT the National and County Governments take appropriate measures and ensure that there will be no child that is denied their right to education through a seamless provision of alternative education centers in the affected areas;
- THAT healthcare services be prioritized to the communities in the affected areas with specific priority and focus to the special interest groups such as; the elderly, persons with disabilities, children, the sick and maternal care to expectant women;
- THAT the security operation teams should leverage on the existing local administration structures for purposes of sharing information with members of the public on disturbed areas, relocation arrangements for populations being displaced from disturbed areas, and emergency support services such as; access to relief assistance as well as guidance on the areas that warrant classification as disturbed areas.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights further calls upon the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Administration to allow humanitarian agencies including the Kenya Red Cross to assist such vulnerable civilians to move to safer grounds as well as provide any other humanitarian assistance.
The Commission is monitoring the security operation pursuant to its constitutional obligation and calls on residents of the affected areas to assist and cooperate with security agencies to bring an end to the perennial insecurity in the region. The Commission is available to provide linkages between members of the public and the security agencies to ensure the success of the operation.
Finally, the Commission calls on anyone with information and human rights concerns relating to the security operation to share it through-: SMS-22359, Email- email@example.com WhatsApp 0798 849 871, and Toll-Free Line 0800 720 627.
Roseline DA Odede
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights