Kenya National Commission on Human Rights
Press Statement: Malindi, Thursday 11th May, 2023 For Immediate Release:
KNCHR Calls For A Coordinated Approach in Resolving The Shakahola Tragedy
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights wishes to condole with the family and
friends of those who have lost their lives or those whose loved ones are missing in the Shakahola tragedy. The Commission wishes to commend all those who have continued to ensure that people are rescued and bodies are exhumed, identified and re-united with their families. The multi-agency team led by officers from the Ministry of Interior and National Administration have played a commendable role and KNCHR applauds the ongoing effort. The Commission, particularly want to appreciate Civil Society Organizations and people of this community who played the important role of whistleblowing and continue to assist in resolution of this matter.
The mandate of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is to promote and protect human rights of all Kenyans. In this regard, KNCHR has been monitoring the situation and wish to state the following:
KNCHR notes an improvement of this situation that is currently allowing some access and encourage continuity to provide the transparency and verification required to elicit confidence and overcome misinformation. More can be done in providing and supplying platforms for access to information especially for the families on tracing, psychosocial amenities available and feedback.
KNCHR recommends that there is a review of priority to focus on rescue of the living. In this regard, the Commission calls upon a strategy that facilities saving the lives of radicalized persons still in the forest. This should involve allaying their fears that they will be treated as survivors and not suspects.
In this respect, KNCHR commends the State and non-State actors who have provided some counselling and other psychosocial support and encourage continued and enhance services. KNCHR urges all persons to continue applying the principle of ‘do no harm’ in their interventions and reporting.
The Commission calls upon leaders of religious organizations, be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu or others with one voice to condemn this practice of self-harm in the name of spirituality. This will help in the de-radicalization of the radicalized.
KNCHR also calls upon the urgent investigation by the National Police through the DCI of reports that there may be radicalization in other communities in other areas such as; Vumbo forest in Kwale County. Timely action will prevent similar tragedies.
The Commission hereby encourages continued and enhanced use of DNA technology in identification of bodies, drone and other Geographic information systems (GIS) technology in mapping of settlements for rescue of persons in the forest.
In this regard, KNCHR calls upon the relevant Government agencies to provide adequate security to ensure their safety and documentation of information they have. Furthermore, KNCHR calls upon all people of goodwill to support these private institutions with resources to continue with this good work.
The Constitution of Kenya in Article 53 and the children’s’ Act 2022 elaborate that the best interest of the child as the overall consideration in ensuring access to food, protection from negligent and cruel treatment and the right to free compulsory basic education. Our young generation is at threat and all efforts must be made not to lose them. This must never happen again. KNCHR proposes the initiation of proactive mechanisms and programs in formal and informal learning spaces.
There is need for a coordinated approach to understand what really happened at Shakahola. Even better, a single agency endowed with requisite skills and entrusted with such function would be ideal. This is what is envisioned and provided for in the National Coroners Service Act 2017. The Shakahola tragedy brings to fore the importance and urgency of National Coroners Service Act. We hereby call upon the operationalization of this act.
In conclusion the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights reminds all that Article 26 of the Constitution of Kenya states that every person has the right to life. In this regard, it is the role of Government to ensure safety and security of all persons. This should protection even against themselves in the preservation of life.
Inarguably in the Shakahola tragedy, there were gaps leading to deaths of 145 persons to date and still counting. It is evidently clear, there has been failure and lapse of government machinery to protect its citizens.
In this regard, KNCHR calls upon the mandated Government agencies to identify persons in the security agencies, regional administration or other agencies under whose watch there were acts of omission or commission leading to this tragedy. Kenyans expect that the planners and implementers of these heinous human rights abuses will be investigated and prosecuted without fear of favour. The Commission, once again emphasizes that all persons, State or non-State complicit in allowing this to continue must be brought to account. This will not only ensure justice is done, but prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Finally, the Commission calls on anyone with information and human rights concerns relating to the mass killings in the Shakahola area to share through SMS-22359, Email- firstname.lastname@example.org and Toll-Free Line 0800 720 627.
Roseline DA Odede