Ghana President Akufo-Addo must veto anti-homosexuality bill
1 March 2024

Nairobi, Kenya—Ghana's parliament on February 28 passed the Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values bill, which represents a grave violation of fundamental human rights.

The bill imposes harsher sentences for the LGBTQ+ community. It has a jail term of up to three years for anyone convicted of identifying as LGBTQ+. It also sets a maximum five-year jail term for forming or funding LGBTQ+ groups.

The bill awaits President Nana Akufo-Addo's assent to become law, and poised to be one of the harshest towards the LGBTQ+ community in Africa.  The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) demands the president to veto the bill.

KHRC further demands that Ghana respects its obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international human rights instruments. These agreements explicitly protect the rights of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and prohibit discrimination on such grounds.

The passage of the bill undermines Ghana's commitment to regional human rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

The unfortunate development in Ghana will undoubtedly lead to widespread human rights abuses, including discrimination, persecution, and violence against LGBTQ+ individuals. It will foster a climate of fear and intolerance, further marginalizing already vulnerable communities and perpetuating injustice within Ghanaian society, as is the case in Uganda.

In May last year, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni signed one of the world's strictest anti-LGBTQ+ laws, which spelt out the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality". African legislators must stop their hate towards the LGBTQ+ community.

KHRC demands that Ghana's President Akufo-Addo veto the bill and reaffirm his commitment to upholding all citizens' fundamental human rights. Ghana should align its laws and policies with international human rights standards and work towards building a society that respects and celebrates diversity in all its forms.

Signed

KHRC

Attack on LGBTQ activist Kabuye underscores urgency to repeal Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act
9 January 2024

The attack on Kabuye goes against human rights. Every person deserves respect, dignity, and safety, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. This is non-negotiable. We cannot compromise on protecting the rights and freedoms of each individual.

Repeal Anti-Homosexuality Act 

The attack is a stark manifestation of the appalling consequences spurred by the Anti-Homosexuality Act enacted by President Museveni in May 2023. This regressive legislation has fanned the flames of hate and intolerance against LGBTQ persons.

The law has catalyzed increased persecution and exacerbated the vulnerability of individuals within the LGBTQ community, especially those on the frontlines advocating for equality and justice. Now, anti-LGBTQ attacks are more frequent than ever before.

It is essential to recognize the direct correlation between discriminatory legislation and the surge in hate-driven incidents against LGBTQ individuals and activists. The Anti-Homosexuality Act has fostered an atmosphere of fear and discrimination.

We vehemently oppose such oppressive laws and stand in support of the rights and dignity of every individual, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We underscore the urgency of repealing the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda. It will show that Uganda stands for equality, human rights, and justice for all its citizens.

We hope for prompt action to bring the attackers of Kabuye to justice. Authorities should handle this seriously, conducting a thorough investigation to identify and prosecute the culprits to the fullest extent of the law.

Signed

KHRC

Defenders Coalition

CRECO

GALCK+

INEND

Kawangware Paralegal Trust

National Students Cauvus-Kenya

Usalama Reforms and Democracy Without Borders—Kenya

We will not allow Executive tyranny against Judiciary, other institutions and Kenyans
4 January 2024

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), MUHURI, and Social Justice Centres Working Group strongly condemn the reckless and insidious attacks by William Ruto against the Judiciary and Kenyans who continue to challenge his repressive policies.

It is noticeably clear what Mr. Ruto is politically scheming against the judiciary in the midst of the deepening political and economic regression under his rulership: having  already infiltrated and captured Parliament and many other independent institutions, he now set his sights on this crucial arm of the state, which remains the core beacon of hope and justice to Kenyans.

His recent remarks are an affront to the doctrine of separation of powers. It is clear that the constitutionally guaranteed, and therefore protected, role to interpret the law belongs with the judiciary. The president, by making the careless and ill-thought remarks, failed to respect the institutional and decisional independence of the judiciary. Mr. Ruto’s action of singling out particular cases in court and publicly disparaging the characters of judicial officers is tantamount to intimidation and a blatant attempt to interfere with the decisional independence of the judiciary.

Further and in what appears to be his characteristic manipulative nature, President Ruto took on a path to set the public against the judiciary when he declared that the courts were being used to halt his development programmes. And in brazen contempt of court, in the full glare of the media, he went on to order the Principal Secretary for Roads to ensure resumption of construction of a road whose determination was still pending in court.

This statement serves as a pointed reminder for Mr. Ruto:  The Judiciary, as explicitly outlined in Article 161 of the Constitution, stands as an independent and equal arm of government. This means that the judiciary is meant to be beholden solely to the Constitution and the people of Kenya, impervious to the meddling fingers of any person or authority. The Judiciary is not his pawn to manipulate; it is an autonomous entity designed to operate beyond the reach of political and executive whims and puppetry. In any case, the president should know better to follow the well-established judicial hierarchy that provides channels for individuals who are dissatisfied by a court decision to appeal or seek review of the decision in a higher court.

For the Judiciary is mandated to ensure justice prevails in all circumstances and therefore should not sacrifice constitutionalism at the altar of political expediency. Its steadfastness in upholding the rule of law should not be misconstrued as corruption and should be protected from the unfettered 'powers' of the Executive. Indeed, we take note that some of the cases coming under the president’s attack raise important and valid issues around public participation and the procedures followed in coming up with laws that impose levies and fees, for instance on the Social Health Insurance Fund and housing projects. As a healthy democracy, it is important that such issues are canvassed and resolved through the platform of a court of law.  Any other way would open floodgates to anarchy.

Moreover, Mr. Ruto should remember that  he is not above the law and the national office he occupies is a creation of the Constitution and the people of Kenya. Thus, his threats to disobey court orders will set a calamitous and regrettable impact on his regime. Given that the executive arm of the government is a key player and beneficiary of the criminal justice, his bad decisions against the judiciary will fuel lawlessness and lead to self-sabotage. He must be reminded that he occupies an immensely important office assigned to him by the people of Kenya. He therefore must exercise great caution in the execution of his mandate and ensure he remains measured in his utterances.

It is utterly disheartening that the treacherous journey undertaken by daring Kenyans since the 1960s to dismantle presidential imperialism and its unbridled control of courts and other state institutions during the autocratic KANU regimes under Presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi culminating in the Constitution of Kenya 2010, is now at risk of being undermined by the divisive and disruptive pronouncements emanating from an office designated as a symbol of national unity. This is a stark indictment of a political system that appears oblivious to the sacrifices and aspirations of the people he is meant to serve.

It also ironical and unacceptable that the regime in its dispatch from State House Nairobi (dated January 3, 2024, and titled "Just for the record") in response to a statement issued by the Law Society of Kenya dated January 3, 2024, mischievously misconstrued its current fights with judiciary with the quest for progressive reforms instituted by the Kibaki regime after the removal of KANU in December 2002. In fact, what we are experiencing is a devious effort to take us back to the horrible and repressive dispensation where judiciary was subservient to the executive.

We cannot forget the fact that a good number of this regime are a product of this bleak, dark past.  It is no wonder we are increasingly creeping into a fascist regime that attempts to suffocate virtually every state agency.  This must be resisted strongly.

One wonders whether the Attorney-General (AG) and the Solicitor-General are in dereliction of their duties. Their primary role is to promote, protect, and uphold the rule of law and champion the public interest as the principal advisors of the President. However, their performances cast doubts on whether they are anything more than spineless enablers of Executive overreach, owing to their allegiance to power over principles.

Demands and Actions

  1. President Ruto must immediately issue an unequivocal apology to the Judiciary and stop the attacks, interference, intimidation and threats including to other institutions and all Kenyans who continue to challenge his punitive and retrogressive decisions.
  2. Judiciary should consider laying down its tools unless Ruto retracts his political threats and utterances for the rule of law is no longer applicable to this regime.
  3. The Kenya Kwanza regime must end its proclivity to autocracy, personal rule and obsession with institutional capture and disregard of the rule of law.
  4. Kenyans and the legal fraternity should strongly consider filing complaints with the Law Society of Kenya against the Attorney-General and the Solicitor General for failing to provide sound legal advice to the President regarding the critical role that the Judiciary plays.
  5. Finally, and pursuant to Article 3(1), we call upon Kenyans to continue respecting, upholding and defending the Constitution at all times, and by all legal means.

In conclusion, we remain in solidarity with the judiciary on this matter and offer our unequivocal support to the LSK in its call for nationwide demonstrations next week in expression of civic dissent against the attacks by the president. We call upon lawyers and the rest of Kenyans to turn up in big numbers.

May Justice be our Shield and Defender. Aluta Continua

Signed

KHRC

MUHURI

SJCWG

Prosecutors who bungled Arror and Kimwarer dams’ case sued
2 January 2024

On December 14, 2023, an anti-corruption court acquitted former Treasury Cabinet Secretary (CS) Henry Rotich and eight co-defendants of fraud-related charges linked to the troubled construction of two dams.

The court criticized the prosecution's handling, noting a lack of diligence. Only eight out of 49 witnesses were presented, with 41 witnesses not interrogated, suggesting a possible strategy for a prosecution-led acquittal.

The court condemned the prosecution's approach as destined for failure, characterized by a reckless dereliction of duty from the beginning. Obiri and Mureithi were prosecutors in this case.

As a result, on December 29, Transparency International, KHRC, Katiba Institute, and Africog filed a lawsuit seeking accountability for the reckless dereliction of duty by prosecution advocates.

In the petition, the organizations asked the court to lift the immunity of the prosecutorial counsel and hold them personally liable if the former accused persons pursue damages for malicious prosecution.

The urgency is emphasized, fearing additional losses from potential damages paid from the public purse, already depleted by the Sh63 billion loss. The case cost the public even more—from resources spent on investigations and prosecution to adjudication conducted for the flopped case.

Apart from Obiri and Mureithi, the Director of Public Prosecution, Renson Ingonga, was also sued, with the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) serving as an interested party.

The petition also seeks to prevent government officials from using public funds to compensate damages if Rotich or the other former suspects win their case for wrongful prosecution. The argument is straightforward: there is uncertainty regarding the responsible parties returning public money in case of a favorable ruling for the former accused.

Additionally, the organizations are urging the court to impose fines on Obiri, Mureithi, and Ingonga to discourage future neglect of prosecutorial duty, protecting the public from unnecessary costs resulting from the accused's actions.

We demand that no more public resources should be applied in this matter, including the defense of the prosecutors sued—they should do so at their costs.

Read the petition here.

 

Signed:

TI-Kenya

KHRC

Katiba Institute

Africog

2023: a year of deepening regression in governance and human rights
31 December 2023

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) remains concerned by the worsening state of the nation, which is caused by the deepening culture of impunity and manifesting in flagrant disregard for the rule of law. People's dignity and rights, among other values and principles of good governance enshrined in the Constitution, have been neglected by this regime. Yet Kenya Kwanza swore to protect all these, but it has failed.

KHRC and our human rights and governance actors have been monitoring and responding to this dire situation since September 13, 2022, when this regime assumed office. We delivered several reports to prove the looming crisis, first on November 10, 2022, September 13, 2023, and another on November 17, 2023, accessible herehere and here, respectively.

Our observations have been confirmed so many times by different opinion polls conducted throughout 2023, with the latest including those of Infotrak and Tifa released on December 29. All surveys showed the country has increasingly moved in the wrong direction, citing the high cost of living, unemployment, and poverty.

10 indicators of Kenya's worsening situation

As we close the year today, we wish to point out the following 10 indicators of Kenya's worsening situation. These points will remain on our agenda in 2024. It is a pity these critical issues didn't find the requisite policy conversation and action in the so-called National Dialogue Committee (NADCO), which focused more on the ruling elite across the political divide.

  1. Punitive taxation

The Finance Act, 2023, among other policies, caused unprecedented inflation due to increased and new taxes, including housing levies. Thus, life in 2023 was so hard and unbearable. There were many indications of massive poverty and suffering nationwide. These laws and policies violated the economic and social rights enshrined in the Constitution. Sadly, even in the face of widespread opposition to these taxes, Parliament did nothing to stop them, demonstrating a disdain for the voices of the people. Shockingly, despite a court decision finding some taxes in the Finance Act unconstitutional, it allowed the government to continue this illegality until January 10, 2024. This raised concerns about the potential state capture of the Judiciary, casting a dark shadow over the integrity of our legal system.

  1. Odious debt

In its campaign promises and initial days in office, the Kenya Kwanza regime assured the public of responsible fiscal management, vowing not to burden citizens with additional debt. But it did the opposite, borrowing at least Sh1.5 trillion in the initial nine months in office. Further, the country was subjected to taxation and other oppressive policies by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other lenders. These odious debts were complicated by runway theft of resources by the national and county governments. This has decimated public resources, which could have been optimized in development, among other social services and rights to the people.

  1. Appointment of criminal in state and public offices

This situation started during elections where politicians with questionable integrity were cleared to contest, and some got elected in August 2022. This regime deepened this further by having more culprits appointed into state and public offices, contrary to Chapter 6 of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity. Having such criminals has eroded public trust in those offices and increased opportunities for more theft and misappropriation of public resources. Such appointees, who faced criminal and civil cases, had these suits dropped under suspicious circumstances.

  1. State capture and weakening of independent institutions

The unfortunate control of Parliament and county assemblies started with the reign of the Jubilee regime. Kenya Kwanza, which lied that it would end such capture, doubled down. This regime in 2023 went even further and started targeting constitutional commissions and independent offices. This is how they did it: first, it denied these commissions and offices resources to function optimally. Secondly, it appointed compliant state officers like judges and commissioners to those critical positions.

The endless dropping of high-profile criminal cases by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) was part of this scheme, with the Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal being a case in point. As a result, it has become untenable to oversee the Executive. The rogue regime is now misruling the country with limited accountability.

  1. Corporate capture and related rights abuses

Despite the positive strides made in adopting the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in 2023, the business community in our country still wields considerable power and influence, allowing them to perpetrate injustices unchecked. These violations manifest in various forms, including labor, security, environmental, land, and natural resource issues, with recent incidents highlighting concerns in Bamburi, Kasighau, and Delmonte.

In a troubling development this December, Delmonte guards were implicated in the death of four Thika locals.

Throughout 2023, Bamburi Cement PLC faced mounting accusations of hiring G4S guards who, according to Kwale residents, were complicit in attacks resulting in deaths, injuries, and rapes against them. These allegations cast a harsh light on the company's practices and raise serious questions about its commitment to the well-being of the communities it operates in.

In another disturbing revelation, senior workers at Wildlife Works and Verra were accused of serial sexual abuse and the use of sex as a bargaining tool for job opportunities within the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya. The SOMO and KHRC joint report in 2023 exposed these hidden scandals, casting shadows over the entire sector and prompting broader concerns about its dedication to safeguarding human rights. The detailed report is accessible here.

  1. Shrinking civic space. 

The culture of repression in 2023 manifested itself through the systematic denial of people's constitutional rights to information, peaceful assembly, protest, and free speech.

Between April and August 2023, we witnessed egregious violations, including arbitrary arrests, violent disruptions, illegal detentions, injuries, and even fatalities during protests against the Finance Bill, 2023, and the escalating cost of living. These events marked one of the darkest chapters in the country's history since the passage of the Constitution in 2010.

Attempting to organize demonstrations against the government and the private sector in Kenya became virtually impossible in 2023, with severe consequences for those who dared to try. The oppressive atmosphere extended to threats by the Executive against the media for their coverage of the administration's misgovernance, severely undermining freedom of expression. In 2023, CS Moses Kuria gained notoriety for threatening the press, but media outlets held him accountable.

Moreover, the regime's intolerance towards free speech took a tragic turn with the killing of blogger Daniel Muthiani in Meru, highlighting the dangerous consequences individuals face for expressing dissenting views.

  1. Discriminatory nature and character of Kenya Kwanza regime

Through Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, this regime has explicitly declared itself a "shareholder-holding government," emphasizing benefits solely for regions and communities that supported its electoral victory. Tangible actions substantiated Gachagua's rhetoric, which is evident in development initiatives and public appointments.

Furthermore, a concerning pattern emerged in the biased selection of individuals for key government positions, particularly in terms of gender, youth, and persons with disabilities. These appointments contradicted constitutional provisions and the principles outlined in the regime's manifesto. Notably, these irregular appointments also fell short of meeting the two-thirds gender rule, as advised by the Supreme Court.

The deviation from constitutional principles and the regime's commitments raises serious questions about the government's dedication to inclusivity, fairness, and adherence to the rule of law.

  1. Unlawful and arbitrary evictions

In blatant disregard of the protective provisions enshrined in the Constitution, as well as other relevant laws such as the Land and IDPs Act, and international instruments, there were violent, forceful, and irregular displacements in 2023 of Kenyans from their habitual places of residence. Notably, the Mau evictions targeted the Ogiek community. Another was in Machakos on a parcel contested between Mavoko locals and Portland Cement Company. All these evictions resulted in severe human rights violations, humanitarian crises, and substantial economic losses for the affected population.

Regrettably, the residents of Mombasa also experienced the brunt of such evictions, as bulldozers descended on their homes in Changamwe on December 18, rendering hundreds of them homeless. The demolition of these homes aimed to make way for apartments well beyond the financial reach of the local population, thereby infringing upon their right to accessible and adequate housing.

  1. Anti-people education policies

In 2023, the challenges surfaced prominently during the transition from the 8-4-4 education system to the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), significantly compromising the overall quality of education. Notably, the new funding model for university education exacerbated disparities, placing an undue burden on students from poor backgrounds. Accessing government-funded loans became particularly frustrating for such students due to convoluted preselection criteria riddled with biases.

Moreover, the recent mess in processing the 2023 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams pointed to a deeply entrenched and compromised examination process in Kenya.

  1. Heath, for who?

Kenya's health system is in crisis, with the current regime's promised "universal health care" falling far short of expectations. The transformation of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) into the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) was merely a cosmetic change that did not translate into tangible improvements in service delivery. As 2023 draws to a close, the NHIF still owes private hospitals significant sums of money, running into billions of shillings. These hospitals, relied upon by numerous Kenyans supposedly covered by government insurance, refuse to provide treatment until the outstanding bills are settled. Unfortunately, there is no indication that the government intends to address this substantial debt promptly, resulting in the continued denial of critical healthcare to millions of Kenyans.

On our own

It is essential not to overlook the pivotal role of elections in shaping Kenya's political landscape and governance. Comprehensive reforms addressing key concerns and political interests are imperative.

As we reflect on the challenges of 2023, it is evident that the year has been bleak for Kenyans. In the words of Fr. Gabriel Dolan, our board member and a columnist with the Saturday Standard, "We are pretty much on our own, so get up, speak up and get down off the fence".

KHRC remains steadfast in its commitment to fighting for the rights of Kenyans and holding the current regime accountable. In the first quarter of 2024, KHRC will host a significant convention to explore strategies to halt the deepening regression in governance and human rights. This initiative aims to bring stakeholders and concerned citizens together to collectively address the country's pressing challenges.

Signed

KHRC

President Ruto must halt punitive economic measures, death threats, and repression of activists
22 December 2023

On record, several patriotic and spirited activists and organizations have gone to court to challenge Ruto's punitive and retrogressive taxation, among other policies in Kenya. Such includes Senator Okiya Omtatah, Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Katiba Institute, The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA), Transparency International-Kenya, International Commission of Jurist—Kenya, Siasa Place and Tribeless Youth.

Individuals and actors who stand for the sovereignty of the people and values and principles of governance enshrined in the Constitution should be protected and respected rather than be treated or profiled as enemies of the State, as Ruto tried to posture.

His statement, coming at a time of deepening culture of impunity, creeping dictatorship, and shrinking democratic space in the country, reminds Kenyans of the very sad, dark, and bleak colonial and KANU regimes that were characterized by gross repression and injustices.

It is no wonder those who tried to fight these horrible policies in the streets between June and August 2023 were met with unprecedented and unmatched police brutality. It also explains why the regime police in Kisii resisted the efforts by Senator Omtatah to record a statement regarding the same threats.

Let it be clear: We won't sit and watch any ruler defile our hard-won democracy and Constitution, which safeguards our fundamental rights and freedoms to seek legal and political recourses amid governance adversities. No one, including Ruto, can curtail it.

It is essential for the ruling regime and the political class, in general, to understand that while they have tried to advance their interests and undermine people's rights over decades, Kenyans have a robust history of rebelling, resisting, and overcoming fiercely and fearlessly.

As per the second stanza of our national anthem, "Let one and all arise; with hearts both strong and true," we remain bold and committed to standing against any policy that undermines public interests and people's rights.

KHRC remains committed to advancing its mandate of human rights-centered governance and standing with the people of Kenya for the envisioned human rights state and society where citizens can freely exercise their rights without fear or favor.

Aluta Continua.

Signed

KHRC

Controversial collapse of Arror and Kimwarer case points to ODPP’s capture and incompetence
20 December 2023

From the outset, the court observed that the prosecution's approach was designed for failure, characterized by a reckless dereliction of duty. The collapse of the Arror and Kimwarer case confirms the ODPP is politically captured and part of a conspiracy to defeat justice.

However, this outcome did not come as a surprise to us.

Various stakeholders, including the civil society, the Judiciary, and the public, have consistently voiced concerns regarding the ODPP's handling of high-level criminal cases, especially those with political connections. We have observed a worrying emerging pattern where cases have fallen apart due to withdrawal by the prosecution or ended in acquittals because of poor prosecution.

In the Arror and Kimwarer case, it became evident that the prosecution was committed to deliberate failure. The trial faced continuous frustration, prompting both Magistrate Eunice Nyutu and High Court Judge Nixon Sifuna to openly call out the prosecutors in charge of the case, Geoffery Obiri and Oliver Mureithi. The management of this case exemplified what can be termed "prosecution-assisted acquittals": the prosecution mischievously outdid the defense counsel's efforts in securing the release of the suspects.

The fact that the prosecution scheduled and failed to interrogate 41 witnesses who could have submitted credible evidence to win the case indicates incompetence and manipulation. The prosecutor who led this case must not handle any prosecutorial role and must be removed from that office through any legal means.

DPP Renson Ingonga must know that prosecutorial powers are not a plaything that can be exercised at whims between his office and political power holders to absolve suspects with political connections.

The deliberate undermining of cases for political reasons is not a recent development.

The pattern began in the reign of former DPP Noordin Hajj. Despite the former DPP's public assurances that charges were only filed when fully satisfied that the cases met the evidentiary threshold to secure a conviction—which in criminal cases must be beyond a reasonable doubt—his office frustrated the same matter with the same evidence and the same witnesses that informed their decision to charge. ODPP is such a critical cog in the criminal justice system, and the right to justice and the fight against corruption must not be handled with such casualness.

Our demands

We are demanding the following from the DPP:

  1. To assert authority, the DPP must seize the Arror and Kimwarer case, redirecting it towards its foundational principles, raison d'être, and constitutionalism. Immediate and decisive action is required. This entails promptly assuming responsibility for the issue and undertaking urgent remedial measures. It is crucial to identify any personal culpability among his officers that led to the wrongful identification of the 41 witnesses as credible—if indeed they were. Subsequently, the DPP should initiate a swift process to ensure that the actual culprits are brought to court and charged accordingly. If Rotich and eight others were the real suspects, they must face the law again.
  2. If the DPP does not do this, we will take the requisite legal measures including individual action against the relevant officers in the ODPP who acted outside the principles of the Constitution and the law in handling the case, and in so doing have led to the loss of public resources including financial and human resources spent on the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of the matter.

Further, we demand that:

  1. Former CS Rotich and the eight other suspects involved in the Arror and Kimwarer dam case should be barred from public office appointments. Their acquittal is suspect and requires a comprehensive, independent investigation to examine the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the case thoroughly.

Signed

  1. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
  2. Transparency International-Kenya (TI-Kenya)
State of the Nation address: It was a big deception!
17 November 2023

Article 132 (1) of the Constitution mandates the President to address Parliament annually, providing a comprehensive report on the measures taken and progress achieved in realizing national values and principles of governance.

Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) raises the following concerns in response to the State of the Nation Address.

  1. Integrity, transparency and accountability in public finance management

The President talked boastfully about cutting down on wasteful spending, but it's just words! There's a massive gap between what he said and what his regime does with Kenyans money. The Office of the Controller of Budget's report for the second quarter of the 2022-2023 financial year revealed a serious breach of the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act 2012. Picture this: in just three months, from November 2022 to January 2023, ministries, departments, and agencies threw away over Sh3 billion on local trips, Sh2.8 billion on statehouse functions, and another Sh0.88 billion on the Deputy President's office's coordination and supervision. They failed to meet the 70:30 budget spending rule—out of the whopping Sh3.3 trillion budget for the 2022-2023 financial year, only 21.5 percent went to development. This was a letdown!

On top of everything, we've had more than five major corruption scandals and unethical behaviors during this time. From the Sh3.7 billion KEMSA mosquito net scandal to the release of contaminated sugar by KEBS, the former Trade and Industry CS Moses Kuria attacking the media, and scandals with edible oil and NHIF. And let's not forget the recent Sh17 billion fuel importation scandal at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA). It’s been an absolute disaster, yet the President's address did not say how he intends to effectively tackle graft. This paints a grim picture for the leadership of this country. Kenyans need to use their power to demand better. We should be ready to kick out leaders with questionable characters and use the courts and other legal tools to deal with this problem.

This regime also attempted to extend the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) positions, with 50 officials raking in at least Sh780,000 monthly of taxpayers’ money. And that’s not all. The regime succeeded in creating unnecessary roles and offices for the spouses of the Deputy President and the Prime Cabinet Secretary, a reward for the President's allies but a failure in governance and a burden to you, a taxpayer.

If we don't put a lid on this regime’s extravagance, we should forget essential services, a crucial part of devolution. This regime must respect, follow, and defend the rules about managing our money in the Constitution. And the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) must step up—keeping the regime in check and making sure they don't play fast and loose with our money should be its priority.

  1. Human rights and security

In his talk, the President said our freedoms and rights are essential for democracy. He said the whole system should be people-friendly and protect our independence, per the Constitution. To make it happen, he stressed that everyone in charge, like the police and the courts, should be professional, independent, fair, and stick to our national values. But in the past year, things have been the opposite.

Between March and July 2023, the police shot and killed more than 30 people protesting. The President said he'd get rid of a killer police squad, but it came back under his watch. And to make things worse, the President praised the police for acting in a way that's not humane, dignified, and according to the law.

Then there's the President's "mambo ni matatu" line, basically saying he can deal with the so-called cartels however he wants. This goes against the Constitution and hints that he can do whatever he pleases–like influencing court decisions and going after his opponents. That's an abuse of power and a danger for those trying to get justice in cases involving big names and government agencies. Ruto didn't mention these threats in his speech, but we want him to know we haven't forgotten and we're keeping a close eye on him.

  1. Inclusion and non-discrimination

The President discussed inclusion in his address, citing financial incorporation through the Hustler Fund and expanding the National Youth Service (NYS) enrollment. However, per the Constitution, inclusion must be integrated into governance's political, economic, and social spheres, which this regime has failed. For instance, 50 percent of the President's Executive appointments came from the Gikuyu, Embu, and Meru communities, 30 percent from the Rift Valley region, leaving a mere 20 percent for the rest. This blatant favoritism is not just a betrayal in the face of diversity; it's a recipe for perpetuating ethnic discontent that has plagued our nation. The current cabinet composition falls short of the promised inclusion and threatens to undo any progress in fostering unity among different communities. The President's words on inclusion ring hollow against this backdrop of skewed appointments. He should strictly uphold this critical constitutional value.

  1. Democracy and participation of the people

Public participation is critical in how the government runs, according to Article 10 of the Constitution. But here's the problem: the President's State of the Nation address didn't mention this crucial value. It makes us wonder, does this regime care about hearing from its citizens? Even though there are laws to involve the public, many obstacles get in the way, including tokenism, insufficient information, political games, and other barriers that stop people from having a real say in decisions that affect them. Here's a clear example: 970 of 1,080 petitions said no to extra taxes in the Finance Bill of 2023. But the regime-friendly lawmakers pushed it through anyway, with the President warning his allies not to go against it. They recently gave the public just a few days to have a say on health-related bills—not enough time for real input. Sadly, this kind of thing is becoming a trend, going against what citizens want. Public participation means letting people have a real say in decisions and policies that affect them. It's a democratic principle that ensures the government listens to all kinds of voices—and this regime should not ignore it.

  1. High cost of living

In his talk, the President bragged about his government pouring a ton of money into agriculture to make more food and reduce the cost of living. Fertilisers’ prices reduced to Sh2,500 from Sh6,500. Even though this was commendable, many farmers are griping that they can't even get their hands on the fertilizer. And the President didn't say how his administration would fix this.

Additionally, since Ruto took charge, living costs have shot up, and things will get worse. The administration keeps piling on new taxes, squeezing Kenyans so much that many can't pay their debts, lose jobs, and struggle. We can’t breathe because the Ruto regime is choking us with taxes. Fixing the sky-high cost of living requires a serious plan, not punitive levies and taxes. The administration should ditch tax additions, cut out wasteful spending, fight corruption, and put that money where it counts—into things that help the country grow and improve Kenyans lives.

  1. Odious debt

The Kenya Kwanza regime promised not to borrow more and burden us with extra debt during their campaigns and when they took office. As of September 2022, our public debt hit Sh8.7 trillion, about 69.4 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, nine months after this regime came to power, the debt shot up to Sh10.2 trillion, compared to Sh8.579 trillion in June 2022. That's a whopping Sh1.5 trillion borrowed under President Ruto's watch.

Shockingly, the Controller of Budget in November this year told the National Assembly that taxpayers coughed up Sh1.89 billion as commitment fees for loans that were never even given out. The President didn't even mention this severe breach in public borrowing during his address, raising questions about whether the non-disclosure were deliberate actions by his administration. We need an urgent audit of all the money we owe, inside and outside the country, to ensure the regime uses public resources wisely.

  1. State of judicial system

At the start of the President's term, there was talk about fixing the justice system for fair law enforcement, an independent judiciary, and the rule of law. Appointing six judges to the Court of Appeal, as the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) suggested, and boosting the Judiciary budget by Sh3 billion was a good move.

But there's a persistent takeover of independent institutions by the Executive, and it's in plain sight. Serious cases against high-profile individuals, including murder, were dropped without a solid reason. Is it just a coincidence that the President's allies who ended up in his cabinet were the first ones benefiting from shady decisions by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP)? When he addressed the nation, why didn't the President come clean about why the people he defended during campaigns, claiming their prosecution was just politics, suddenly walked free when he took power? This regime is doing the opposite of what it promised—they're practicing the very state capture they vowed to stop. It's all a big deception!

  1. Hustler Fund

The President talked up the achievements of the Hustler Fund, launched on November 30, 2022, aiming to offer affordable credit and boost savings for ordinary Kenyans and small businesses. The President coined some successes that look way bigger than they are, all to make the Fund seem more successful than it is. In reality, many who got loans find it tough to pay them back, showing the need for a serious look at what the program is meant to do and how it's set up to ensure it works well and isn't just about politics. There are also worries about how the data of people applying for the fund is protected. The regime must implement solid policies to keep applicants' information safe, per the Data Protection Act of 2019.

  1. State of education sector

The Kenya Kwanza regime promised to fix education by creating a team to sort out the problem bedeviling the sector. But the team didn't get its act together for junior secondary school. There are no enough buildings, school resources are coming in late, and teachers aren't getting the training they need.

The new funding for higher education turned things upside down, making parents carry the load that used to be on the government. Now, university and technical courses cost more than expected. Before, government-backed students paid Sh16,000 a year for classes and got a yearly loan of up to Sh60,000. But now, they must cough up an average of Sh650,000 a year, and scholarships are so little to offset the fee.

This change is pushing students to drop out or skip courses altogether. And to top it off, because of technical glitches, only 30 percent of students who should get help applied for government scholarships and loans this year through the Higher Education Fund and Higher Education Loans Board (HELB). Most students have been shut out of higher education.

It gets worse. The Kenya Kwanza regime is blocking students under 18 from getting education loans because they're legally minors. Before, these students could use their parents' details to get the cash. It's a mess. Although the National Assembly stopped implementation of some of these plans, it must ensure that they will never be effected to protect the right to education.

  1. Breach of Article 132

The President's address was two months late, blatantly violating the constitutional requirement for an annual report. Article 132 (1)(c) explicitly commands that:

"President shall once every year--

(i) report, in an address to the nation, on all the measures taken and the progress achieved in the realisation of the national values, referred to in Article 10;

(ii) publish in the Gazette the details of the measures and progress under sub-paragraph (i); and

(iii) submit a report for debate to the National Assembly on the progress made in fulfilling the international obligations of the Republic."

Kenyans anticipated that the President would uphold his commitment to the rule of law by delivering the address on time. He failed, disregarding the very principles he swore to uphold.

Failed speech

Given all the serious problems mentioned, it's clear that the speech didn't tackle the main issues affecting Kenyans. The current state of the nation is undeniably gloomy and desperate. This regime has set up a weak foundation for governing that won't hold up against the political, social, and economic hits that are sure to come. It's not steering the country towards the transformation we need. Considering all this, we demand that the Kenya Kwanza regime stick to the Constitution. It's the backbone of good governance and the roadmap for Kenya's success.

Signed

KHRC

Ogiek eviction during Tree Planting Day is a strange move for nature care
13 November 2023

Kenya positions itself as the leading voice on issues of climate change in Africa, yet viciously evicts indigenous people who play a crucial role in conservation of nature, and are at the frontlines of the impacts climate change. This is the fate of the Ogiek in Kenya who face state orchestrated evictions from their ancestral homes, despite the landmark judgments by African Court of Human and People's Rights, recognizing their entitlement to live on their ancestral land in the Mau Forest and providing reparations for the material and moral harm suffered as a result of their marginalization and dispossession of their lands.
On this national tree planting day, it is worth remembering that indigenous people are the unsung heroes of environmental stewardship and must be at the centre of climate action. The Preamble of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change makes it clear that all States "should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights.” It is only through equitable, and inclusive partnerships that seek to strengthen and empower communities most impacted by climate change, that we can truly attain just and sustainable climate action. On this tree planting day, let us also sow seeds of human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, and non-discrimination.

Consequently, we demand:

  1. The government must expedite the implementation of the African Court's judgments on the Ogiek case, which stated Mau Forest is their ancestral home. The government, among other reparations, must also compensate the Ogieks Sh157 million for moral and material harm they suffered, as the court ordered.
  2. The government must cease and desist from any further violations, including but not limited to forceful evictions, and undertakes to commit to using the best available means to provide reparations to preserve the dignity, culture, and future of indigenous communities affected and to explore alternatives in line with its international and regional treaty obligations.
  3. We strongly oppose using exclusionary and militarized methods in conservation that limit access to essential resources without offering fair or better alternatives. This undermines people's fundamental rights and freedoms. We insist that indigenous communities should be a top priority in climate action.

 Signed:

  1. Ogiek People’s Development Project
  2. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC
Systemic sexual abuse exposed at celebrated carbon offset project in Kenya
6 November 2023

SOMO and KHRC are publishing a dossier of evidence based on the testimonies of 31 current and former employees and members of the local community.

The sexual abuses reported at Wildlife Works’ Kasigau project include physical assault and attempted rape on company premises or land as well as persistent harassment and the use of humiliating sexualised slurs.

One employee testified that,“Women are treated as sex objects but nothing happens because [the perpetrators] intimidate everybody.”*

Senior men in the company used their positions of power to demand sex in return for promotions and better treatment at work. Refusal of these sexual demands was met with retribution, including being bullied, intimidated, and refused promotions or other work-related benefits.

One woman described how rejecting sexual advances leads women to “live and work in fear…because we can be dismissed at any time without good reason.”*

The culture of abuse at Wildlife Works’ Kasigau project was widely recognized by men and women SOMO interviewed. Key perpetrators of the abuse were repeatedly named by those interviewed. According to our investigation, the abuse has persisted for a decade or more.

A male employee shared, ‘It’s so cruel… our sisters are just not safe working at that company. I can’t allow my sister or wife to work at that company because the things that will happen to her there can affect her for the rest of her life”.*

SOMO director Audrey Gaughran said, “Our investigation found compelling evidence that the culture at Wildlife Works’ Kasigau project is one that has enabled sexual abuse to become common-place and common knowledge.

“Again and again we heard harrowing accounts of assault, abuse, intimidation, and degradation of women by men in positions of power at Wildlife Works' Kasigau project.”

Female employees were not the only targets. The wives of male rangers were also reportedly pursued by one perpetrator and told their husbands’ employment depended on them having sex with him.

The poverty in the region and very limited employment alternatives mean people are desperate to get and keep jobs at Wildlife Works, even when the cost is so egregious.

Humiliating and degrading treatment of female community members

The abuse of power by senior male staff also extended to the local community. SOMO and KHRC received testimony from women living in the villages surrounding this project about encounters with Wildlife Works rangers that left them traumatised, humiliated, and, in some cases, in physical pain.

Rangers subjected women found gathering firewood or grazing their livestock on company land to  humiliation and abuse, forcing them to kneel on the ground for three hours or longer.

“We cried and cried,” one woman recalled, “but there was no mercy.”*

Kenya Human Rights Commission programme manager Mary Kambo said, “We are calling on the Kenyan government to conduct an independent investigation into the serious allegations of sexual abuse at Kasigau.

“As a bare minimum victims must get redress, perpetrators must be held to account and safeguards be put in place to protect the human rights of Wildlife Works’ employees and the local communities.”

Multinational corporations drive demand for the carbon-offsetting industry

Multinationals like Netflix, Shell, and Microsoft, which are based in the Global North, offset their carbon emissions on paper by purchasing carbon ‘credits’ from companies such as Wildlife Works that claim to reduce emissions elsewhere in the world - often in the Global South.

The carbon offset industry is significantly driven by the demand created by these big multinationals.

“Carbon offsetting is a deceptive business that profits from commodifying nature and communities. It enables corporations to greenwash and avoid real emission reductions,” said Audrey Gaughran.

Investigation must be independent

SOMO and KHRC shared the findings about sexual abuse with Wildlife Works in early August 2023, urging an independent investigation that would ensure the safety of victims at Kasigau. Wildlife Works responded by setting up an internal investigation run by a Kenyan law firm.

In October 2023, SOMO asked all of the women and men interviewed in June and July 2023 if they had met with the lawyers working for Wildlife Works. Only one man and one woman of the original 27 people who gave SOMO and KHRC testimonies said they had been interviewed.

Researchers spoke to these two individuals and three additional people who had been interviewed by the lawyers. Four of the five shared that they had told the lawyers about the widespread sexual harassment and abuse happening at the Kasigau project. The fifth person, a woman who said she has been subjected to severe abuses at Wildlife Works, chose not to disclose this to the lawyers, worrying that “maybe they could have me fired.”

Audrey Gaughran said: “It is vital that the investigation into sexual abuse at Wildlife Works’ Kasigau project be fully independent, compliant with human rights standards, and that it leads to accountability and remedy for all those affected.”

Ends

Notes to editors

*Testimony provided to researchers by employees of Wildlife Works Kasigau REDD+ project and members of the local community.

SOMO has shared the findings of the report in advance with Netflix, Shell, McKinsey, and Microsoft in writing. Only Shell has responded and stated that it takes the reports seriously and is in contact with the project developers. Shell awaits the findings of the investigation into these allegations that Wildlife Works has commissioned.

About SOMO

SOMO investigates multinationals. Independent, factual, critical and with a clear goal: a fair and sustainable world, in which public interests outweigh corporate interests. We conduct action-oriented research to expose the impact and unprecedented power of multinationals. Cooperating with hundreds of organisations around the world, we ensure that our information arrives where it has the most impact: from communities and courtrooms to civil society, media and politicians.

About KHRC

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is a premier and flagship Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Africa that was established and incorporated in 1992 by Kenyans exiled in the United States of America (USA) and later registered in Kenya in 1994. KHRC founders are among the foremost leaders and activists in struggles for human rights and democratic reforms in Kenya and beyond. The KHRC is committed to its mandate of enhancing human rights-centered governance at all levels and its vision to secure human rights states and societies. KHRC’s mission is to foster human rights, democratic values, human dignity, and social justice.

For interview inquiries contact:

UK/Europe

Harriet Beaumont, Press Coordinator

[email protected]

+44 7900 203307

US

Matisse Bustos, Press Coordinator

[email protected]

+1 917 806 6181

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