LGBTQ persons' right to association under attack. Kenyan authorities must protect it.
5 October 2023

A Joint Statement by Civil Society in Kenya

On February 24, 2023, the apex court said LGBTQ persons have a right to association and reaffirmed this position on September 12.

However, this monumental decision was followed by a series of anti-LGBTQ protests in Mombasa and Lamu.

Blatant incitement to violence characterized the protests—Nyali MP Mohamed Ali rallied his supporters to kill people with different sexual orientations, audaciously invoking religious texts to justify this indefensible stance.

Now, this hate campaign is coming to the capital, and we know this will affect LGBTQ persons' lives because previous street actions placed this group in harm’s way.

We take this opportunity to unequivocally condemn all the previous and ongoing nefarious activities that continue to expose this community's rights to life, security, and dignity.

The Constitution and the court’s decision must be respected.

We call upon the Kenyan police to immediately intervene and take legal action against those who plan to harm LGBTQ persons. We wish to remind the promoters of hate and the public that under Article 33(2) of the Constitution:

 The right to freedom of expression does not extend to: (a)propaganda for war; (b)incitement to violence; (c)hate speech; or (d) advocacy for hatred that: (i)constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm; or (ii)is based on any ground of discrimination specified or contemplated in Article 27(4) 

We further demand that the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) exercises its investigative mandate and collaborate with other actors in the criminal justice system to ensure effective prosecution for the acts of hate speech in this situation.

Unfortunately, this delicate matter was recently brought to the attention of the police and NCIC, who seem to have abdicated their constitutional and statutory duties of maintaining law and order and facilitating respect for diversity, respectively.

We also call upon the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to act against Mohamed Ali, whose conduct in this situation damages the leadership and integrity values and standards established for State Officers in Article 73 of the Constitution.

Finally, we wish to oblige Kenyans to exercise more tolerance and restraint—having diverse sexual orientations and gender identities is not a crime but a fundamental aspect of human diversity.

We must nurture a more inclusive and accommodating culture devoid of cruel and discriminatory motives and practices. No one should ever dare to impose their religious beliefs and social values on others, for our Constitution guarantees all people's freedom of religion and beliefs.

Let it be known that we will not relent in our unwavering pursuit of justice, equality, and the protection of the rights and dignity of all.

Signed:

  1. Kenya Human Rights Commission-KHRC
  2. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  3. Defenders Coalition
  4. Katiba Institute
  5. Independent Medico-Legal Unit-MLU
  6. INUKA ni Sisi Trust
  7. Kituo cha Sheria
  8. Siasa Place
  9. Constitution Education Reforms Consortium-CRECO
  10. Social Justice Centers
  11. Partnership for Empowerment Network (PEN)
  12. Usalama Reforms Forum
  13. National Students Guild
  14. Grace Agenda
  15. Democracy without Boarders
  16. Kawangware Paralegal Trust
  17. Kariobangi Paralegal Network
  18. Center for memory and Development
  19. Forum for Civic Participation in Governance
  20. Women Collective Kenya
  21. Coalition for Grassroots Human Rights Defenders-Kenya
  22. East Africa Legal Service Network
  23. Feminists for Peace Rights and Justice Center
  24. Raise Your Voice
  25. Women in Grassroots Uprising
  26. Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH)
  27. Warembo Unique
  28. Viba Explore
  29. Africa’s Voice of Nature
  30. Civil Society Network

For media inquiries, please contact Ernest Cornel at [email protected] or 0722253893.

Kenya needs effective national tax policy to tackle heavy taxation
26 September 2023

As Kenyans continue to grapple with the burden of taxation, a sense of frustration and bewilderment prevails, and many are asking themselves: when will the cycle of ever-increasing taxation come to an end? The Kenya Kwanza government is considering more statutory deductions, taxes, and levies through the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) under the Social Health Insurance Bill, 2023. The proposal to have a mandatory 2.75 percent monthly contribution from employees' basic salaries for the health scheme is excessive and will further strain the taxpayer. Okoa Ochumi coalition survey, done between May 19 - June 6, showed 77 percent of Kenyans do not support the proposed NHIF deductions.

Furthermore, another proposal involves implementing an unemployment tax. Ikolomani MP Benard Shinali has introduced the Unemployment Insurance Bill, 2023, which suggests that employees contribute one percent of their income, with a corresponding one percent contribution from employers, directed towards the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Don’t forget that the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) rose to Sh1,700 from Sh1,080 early this year.

And just in June, this regime introduced a 1.5 percent housing levy. Many of us recall how this administration initially presented this tax as a voluntary contribution scheme, where employees would contribute three percent to the housing fund, matched by an equal amount from their employers. The government assured Kenyans that after 15 years, we would own a home, and if we didn't wish to purchase a house, we could access our contributions after seven years. However, the government later reversed course without consultation, despite 92 percent of Kenyans rejecting the proposal, according to data from Okoa Ochumi. It transformed what was supposed to be a voluntary contribution into a mandatory tax begging whether Kenyans’ views matter in government decision-making processes.

Unprecedented taxes!

There is a pattern here: More taxation lurks in the shadows whenever President William Ruto initiates a financial action. Given the unmistakable track record of this administration's insatiable appetite for imposing overt and concealed levies, we are merely witnessing the tip of the iceberg, and without vigilance, a substantial portion, if not direct and covert taxes could siphon off the majority, of our earnings. For instance, we have increased rates on certain goods, exemptions for others, a zero rating for some supplies and a new deadline for remitting the tax. Notably, the government doubled the VAT on petroleum products from 8% to 16%. Also, the government is mulling over increasing VAT to 18% to align with other rates of countries within the East African Community (EAC) in the Draft Medium Term Debt Management Strategy for FY 2024/25 and 2026/27. Currently, super petrol retails at KES 211.64 per liter within Nairobi. A further increase in VAT to 18% will raise the price of the commodity to KES 215.87, considering the current EPRA-approved prices.

Stop double taxation!

Currently, Kenyans are facing the issue of double taxation due to recent changes in tax regulations. Starting from July 1, this government began imposing taxes on professional club entrance and subscription fees, which an employer pays on behalf of its employees. Fees are deducted when calculating taxable income. It has resulted in a situation where the employer and the employee are burdened with the tax, leading to double taxation.

Additionally, the Kenya Kwanza government has expanded the range of taxable supplies to include compensation for loss. Under the Finance Act, a standard VAT rate is applied to insurance compensation related to taxable supplies, even when the rightful owner had already deducted input tax while purchasing the lost supplies. Taxing insurance compensation, which replaces lost value after a damaging event, amounts to another instance of double taxation.

Another concern for Kenyan taxpayers is the risk of being taxed by county and national governments for the same income. For instance, Nairobi County has proposed a tax of Sh10,000 per month for vehicles up to seven tons carrying construction materials in and out of the capital. Similarly, starting from January 1, 2024, vans, pick-ups, trucks, prime movers, trailers, and lorries will be required to pay an advance tax of Sh2,500 per ton of loading capacity or Sh5,000 per year, whichever is higher, as specified by the Finance Act.

Blatant abuse of sovereignty of the people

Under Article 1 of the constitution, sovereignty belongs to the people, and as such, all these taxes cannot be implemented without meaningful public input. However, we are all too aware of the interference of public participation in Kenya. It often seems like a mere checkbox process influenced by politics, making it an unreliable safeguard against punitive laws. For instance, despite 970 out of 1,080 petitions (90%) opposing additional taxation through the Finance Bill of 2023, lawmakers aligned with the regime rammed it through. The president used strong-arm tactics; warning MPs allied to the Kenya Kwanza political wing not to oppose the bill. Recently, the Senate and National Assembly allocated a few days for public participation in health-related bills, which was insufficient for the public to give meaningful input. Unfortunately, scenarios of this nature have become a trend, thus subverting the will of the people.

We need a national tax policy

The regime’s ability to impose excessive taxation has been facilitated by Kenya's absence of a comprehensive national tax policy, which would provide a systematic framework for developing and implementing tax-related laws, regulations, and guidelines. Currently, our tax system lacks predictability, which poses difficulties for both individuals and businesses, as it heavily relies on financial legislation introduced annually. To effectively tax sectors that are traditionally challenging to regulate, such as agriculture, the informal economy, and online businesses, there must be a well-defined framework to steer the taxation process.

More proposals

Instead of burdening Kenyans with punitive taxes, the government SHOULD broaden the tax base by focusing on previously untapped revenue sources that have a less detrimental impact on economic growth. One unexplored source in Kenya is the property taxes, which can be feasibly enforced. For instance, by updating the property valuation roll in Nairobi City County, it is anticipated that property tax collections will more than double the current rate of 36 percent.

The government MUST also address tax evasion by high-net-worth people, which reduces the tax base. This can be achieved by enacting appropriate legislation regarding cross-border transactions and financial transparency. It is estimated that the government has been losing an average of Sh40 billion annually due to illicit financial flows since 2011.

Additionally, tackling specific challenges in tax administration and enhancing efficiency and effectiveness necessitates digitization. Kenya can take a cue from Rwanda's experience, where an electronic billing system has nearly doubled Value Addition Tax (VAT) collections. Rwanda's electronic billing system provides real-time data and increasingly covers the informal sector, making tax collection more efficient.

Lastly, the government MUST urgently combat corruption and the misuse of public funds. Resources should be allocated to sectors that promise high returns, promote sustainable development, and enhance the welfare of citizens.

Signed by Okoa Uchumi members:

  1. Kenya Human Rights Commission
  2. Twaweza East Africa
  3. Christian Aid
  4. Transparency International-Kenya
  5. Amnesty International
  6. Centre for Fiscal Affairs
  7. REMUSI Housing Cooperative Society
  8. National Taxpayers Association
  9. The Institute for Social Accountability
  10. Social Justice Centre
Civil society statement on continued harassment of Journalists by security officers
21 September 2023

We civil society members under the umbrella of the Civic Freedoms Forum, note with concern the harassment of journalists by a police officer witnessed yesterday while the journalists covered the demonstrations held by Langata Cemetery workers. In a video clip, the unidentified officer is witnessed pushing journalists who were recording the police as they lobbed tear gas to peaceful protesters. This happened just a few days after a similar attack on three journalists covering a police raid at a suspected chang’aa den in Katine village, Matungulu Sub-County in Machakos County.

This is part of a worrying trend which has been building up since in November 2022 when Nation Media Group journalist Mr Mwangi Muiruri, was attacked by plain clothes policemen attached to the office of Kenya’s second lady on November 24, 2022, in Muranga County. During the demonstrations in March and July this year, journalists from Citizen Tv and international media covering demos in Kibra, Nairobi, were attacked and robbed by a knife-wielding gang. In Mathare, two Africa Uncensored journalists were arrested by police. In the Nairobi CBD, NTV journalist reported that police demanded deletion of photos taken and destroyed the reporters’ press card.

Attacks on journalists are crimes that go against the journalists' rights and privileges protected by law under the Constitution and the Media Council Act, 2013. The right is also guaranteed under regional and international human rights instruments ratified by Kenya, including, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Banjul Charter) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We, condemn, in the strongest terms possible, the actions of the police officers involved; first for harassing journalists and second, for lobbing teargas at peaceful protesters and mourners at the cemetery. Journalists have a professional duty to report the truth as it happens. They also have the right to enjoy media freedom in the course of their work.

We, therefore, call upon the Government and particularly the Inspector General of Police and all police officers to:

  • Respect media freedom and desist from the continued intimidation and harassment of journalists in their line of duty.
  • Respect the freedoms of assembly, association, protest and picketing as enshrined in Article 37 of the Constitution, and desist from disrupting peaceful protests by lobbing teargas at peaceful protesters.
  • IPOA and the Internal Affairs Unit to investigate this and similar incidents and hold the officers accountable.

Signed by:

  1. Kenya Human Rights Commission - KHRC
  2. Independent Medico Legal Unit - IMLU
  3. ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa
  4. Muslims for Human Rights - MUHURI
  5. Defenders Coalition
  6. Constitution and Reform Education Consortium - CRECO
  7. Partnerships 4 Empowerment & Networking in Kenya  – PEN Kenya
  8. Initiative for Inclusive Empowerment - IIE
  9. InformAction
  10. Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi!
Kenyan human rights groups sue police chief over 2017 poll deaths
18 September 2023

The petition has centered on the aftermath of the 2017 presidential election, during which police employed brutal and deadly force to suppress dissent, resulting in 33 fatalities in the capital. Koome was the Nairobi Police Commander at the time.

On August 11, the former chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Wafula Chebukati, declared Uhuru Kenyatta as the victor in the presidential poll.

Chebukati's announcement triggered protests across Kenya, particularly in Opposition strongholds, as residents cited vote rigging. It didn't take long before the police responded with firearms, batons, tear gas, and water cannons, resulting in the tragic loss of dozens of Kenyan lives. Nairobi was severely hit, with a total of 33 deaths reported.

As stated in the petition, government pathologists confirmed the deceased succumbed to gunshot wounds. However, the suit affirms that not all the dead were present on the streets; some were sadly killed in their homes and businesses.

Besides Koome, the petitioners sued the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and the Attorney-General (AG). The interested parties in the case include the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), and the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU). The case will be mentioned on September 28.

Human rights violations

Due to the human rights violations, Khalifa, on January 24, 2023, sent a letter to IPOA requesting information about the agency's actions following the 2017 police killings. Per the petition, IPOA delayed its response until April 12, when they replied that they were investigating only 15 cases, not all 33. However, IPOA did not disclose the status of the investigations or provide reasons for not probing the remaining 18 deaths.

Furthermore, on July 26, 2023, Khalifa wrote to Koome inquiring about the progress of the investigation into the police killings of the remaining 18 people. Like IPOA, Koome delayed his response up to August 15. According to the petition, Koome declined to furnish details of the investigation and redirected Khalifa to seek answers from IPOA.

Due to this lack of transparency, which hampers access to justice for the victims of police killings, KHRC, MUHURI, and Khelef have initiated legal action to obtain these records from IPOA and the Inspector-General. Getting the investigation report into police killings is crucial for identifying and holding the officers accountable for these deaths.

Read the petition here.

Signed:

  • Kenya Human Rights Commission
  • MUHURI
Kenya Kwanza's first year in office fails to inspire hope in Kenyans
13 September 2023

Corruption 

Leading up to the 2022 general elections, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) publicly identified 245 potential candidates with pending graft cases. With Ruto being sworn in as president, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) withdrew the cases for the people who the regime wanted to appoint to office. The ODPP provided an implausible explanation, asserting lack of evidence to pursue these cases. The regime promptly appointed these individuals to the government, a stark contradiction to the pledge to uphold the rule of law. Corruption remains at the core of this administration's operations. Reports have also emerged indicating that the government has incurred massive financial losses amounting to billions of shillings through various scandals, spanning from the National Insurance Health Fund to the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA). 

Capture of Independent Offices 

Kenya Kwanza promised to institutionalize political parties and depersonalize and depoliticize state institutions including state institutions. The regime has an insatiable appetite to capture political parties and independent commissions and offices contrary to Article 250 of the Constitution. A case in point is the president's on the role of the National Land Commission (NLC) on valuation and compulsory acquisition of land contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and the Land Act 2012. The regime interfered with the appointment of the Inspector General of Police (IG), the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and created many illegal offices. 

National Unity – Country of shareholders? 

The president, his deputy and other key officers are taking irresponsible actions and using illiberal language in clear breach of Article 10 of the Constitution. The assertion that Kenya operates as a country of shareholders, which is in violation of Articles 4 and 27 of the Constitution, has increasingly led to divisions along ethnic and regional lines. This is an entrenchment of the language of exclusion in public service delivery. The appointments to public offices are clearly skewed into ethnic hegemonies. This has further evidenced the extent to which independent commissions like the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) have been weakened and have shied away from condemning such actions. This threatens the much-sought nationhood anticipated in Article 10 of the Constitution on national values and principles of governance.  

Uncontrollable public debt 

Kenya Kwanza committed not to borrow more and burden Kenyans with extra debt. As of September 2022, Kenya's public debt reached Sh8.7 trillion, equivalent to about 69.4 percent of the GDP. In just the first seven months of the current government's tenure, the public debt ballooned to Sh9.63 trillion, comprising Sh4.54 trillion in domestic debt and Sh5.09 trillion in external debt. These figures reflect a total borrowing of Sh933 billion, with Sh176 billion sourced domestically and Sh757 billion externally under the Kenya Kwanza administration.  

The high cost of living has burdened Kenyans, and the regime promised to implement measures to alleviate their suffering. The cost of food and other basic needs has skyrocketed, and the regime continues to use the language of tokenism to appease hungry and angry citizens. The regime does not want to subsidize goods and services to Kenyans living in abject poverty.  Instead, the Treasury introduced provisions like the Finance Act of 2023, which imposed additional taxes on Kenyan citizens, further exacerbating their financial hardships. The government is likely to increase more taxation avenues for Kenyans.  

Many state-owned enterprises continue to grapple with financial distress and poor governance, forcing the government to provide substantial bailouts. This has severely eroded public trust in entities like Kenya Power, amongst others. Additionally, there is growing concern among Kenyans about the escalating public wage bill, which consumes a staggering 69.3 percent of the government's expenditure in the fiscal budget for 2023/2024, leaving only a meager portion for critical development projects. 

Police Brutality 

Civil society documented over 75 cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances between March and August 2023. Shockingly, police killings have become normalized in this administration, with President Ruto publicly endorsing these extrajudicial executions, commending the officers responsible for their actions. The utterances of the President, especially the infamous “mambo ni matatu” (you have three options) phrase, is a confirmation of the regime’s hand in perpetuating police brutality.

After swearing in, the President condemned extra judicial executions and promised to put a stop to police killings and institute public inquiry. It is becoming apparent that there has been a reconstitution of a police killer squad that has been targeting innocent Kenyans. The deployment of police to suppress protests was perceived as an endorsement by the political leadership to employ excessive force, including injuring and killing protesters. These constraints undermine the very principles of democracy and hinder the free exchange of ideas essential for a vibrant and progressive society. 

Freedom of Media 

Article 34 of the Constitution safeguards press freedom, yet this regime, following in the footsteps of its predecessor, has consistently infringed upon it. Since September 2022, the government has repeatedly disregarded this constitutional provision by subjecting the media to physical and verbal attacks, harassment, and intimidation during public protests, including in protected spaces like the courts. Police have tear-gassed journalists, leading to physical injuries and fostering an atmosphere of self-censorship that hampers reporting critical and sensitive issues. 

The assault on the media is not the culmination of this administration's actions; it has now extended to weaponizing the criminal justice system. President Ruto has adopted a notably more aggressive strategy, resorting to threats against suspects and exerting pressure on litigants to withdraw cases from the courts. Recently, Ruto issued a stark ultimatum to individuals he labeled "cartels," presenting them with three options: leave the country, face imprisonment, or embark on what he metaphorically described as a journey to heaven, in other words, a death wish. 

Stifling devolution 

Ruto's administration opted to allocate a reduced sum of Sh385.4 billion as shareable revenue to counties, a departure from the Commission of Revenue Allocation's (CRA) recommended figure of Sh407 billion. This decision raises concerns about the government's commitment to devolution and the equitable distribution of resources. While the allocated amount represented an increase compared to the previous budget, Parliament failed to provide a clear rationale for deviating from the CRA's recommended formula. By allotting less than the recommended amount, the government's choice contradicts its constitutional duty to ensure access to essential services, including healthcare, education, and water, as outlined in Article 43 of the Constitution, at the county level. This shortfall in funding hampers citizens' access to these fundamental rights, potentially exacerbating poverty and inequality. 

Education 

The public education system is on the brink of collapse. The much-hyped presidential working party reform initiative that was to help fix the problems in education has instead exacerbated the problem from basic education to tertiary level. The right to education as articulated in Articles 43 and 53 has been turned on its head. The curriculum review process is haphazard, the infrastructure development is lopsided, and financing is wanting. The higher education financing framework is a tool to block the children from poor families from accessing tertiary education.

Land and Natural Resources 

The national land management information system continues to be a mirage shrouded in secrecy – for example in Isiolo, the Ngaremara. The implementation of the Community Land Act has hit a snag and there is an aggressive annexation of community land for mega projects. There are increased cases of forced evictions for communities and there is no mechanism for resolution of historical land injustices as required by the Constitution and land laws. The statements lifting ban on logging and comments that seem to reinstate the shamba system are antithetical to the constitutional principles around forestation and conservation, and goes against Kenya’s commitment to combat climate change.

Youth 

In this regime, youth have been victims of multiple exclusion, receiving a piece of governance misfortune daily – from unemployment, police brutality, increasing cost of living to uncertainty with regard to what the future holds. The youth find themselves suffering perpetual depression. 

Civic Space  

Kenya Kwanza regime promised in their plan to commence the Public Benefit Organization (PBO) Act immediately on ascendancy to office. Contrary to this, they have purported to issue a letter to all NGOs in Kenya requiring them to align their programming and activities to their bottom-up agenda. This directive is unconstitutional and uncalled for and negates democratic principles and ideals. Human rights defenders have been unjustly targeted through threats, profiling, arbitrary arrests, and killings in an attempt to curtail their civic freedom and stop them from doing their work. 

Signed:

  1. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) 
  2. Katiba Institute 
  3. Transparency International – KE  
  4. ICJ Kenya 
  5. Defenders Coalition 
  6. CRECO 
  7. Kenya Land Alliance 
  8. Elimu Bora Working Group 
  9. Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi! 
  10. Siasa Place 
  11. Social Justice Working Group 
  12. The Institute of Social Accountability - TISA 
  13. Informaction 
  14. Pamoja Trust 
Supreme Court reaffirms LGBTQI’s right to association
12 September 2023

Ten years ago, Kenya's NGO coordination board refused to register NGLHRC, falsely claiming they "promoted same-sex conduct."

But in February this year, the Supreme Court said the board was wrong to stop NGLHRC's registration, allowing formal organization recognition.

The opponents of the ruling filed for review of the court's judgment. The judges issued their verdict today, reaffirming what we all know: The right to association and freedom from discrimination cannot be restricted.

Everyone's rights must be honored no matter who they are or who they love.

The NGO board was wrong all those years and will remain so.

While we celebrate this victory, the journey towards a truly inclusive society is far from over. LGBTQI+ individuals still confront violence and discrimination, serving as a stark reminder that the fight for equality endures.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) will not stop defending everyone's rights, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We will keep pushing until LGBTQI+ persons can enjoy all their rights, free from discrimination and violence.

Judy Jepchirchir’s Firstchoice Recruitment Agency - a classic example of daylight fraud, impunity and corruption at its peak
6 September 2023

In recent days, Kenyans have been treated to news of human rights violations, fraud and corruption by the Firstchoice Recruitment agency-whose founder and director - Judy Jepchirchir is still at large. First Choice is reported to have swiftly defrauded unsuspecting Kenyans of their hard-earned money under the guise of finding/connecting them to job opportunities in the middle east, in particular Qatar, during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

We note with concern that over 1000 job seekers fell prey to this scam with the amounts lost by victims ranging between Kshs. 40,000- Kshs.650,000. It is outrageous that, Judy Jepchirchir abused the trust of youth in her own backyard in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County and is on record threatening her victims and bragging about connections with key political figures in the country, an action that points to deliberate attempt to evade accountability. And as if to shove this in the faces of those she has preyed on, Jepchirchir has failed to honour summons by the Senate, a record three times, which begs the question ‘who is protecting Jepchirchir?’ This scandal highlights a troubling trend of heightened impunity and corruption within Kenya's recruitment industry.

It is unfortunate that fraudsters such as the Firstchoice Recruitment agency are taking advantage of the high unemployment rate in the country to defraud millions of desperate unemployed youth seeking job opportunities beyond the Kenyan borders.  Further, such occurrence not only jeopardizes the livelihoods of job seekers but also erodes the trust that the public should have in recruitment agencies to facilitate fair and honest employment opportunities.

In addition, the exploitation by Firstchoice Recruitment agency is contrary to the spirit and letter of the Constitution, labour laws and infringe on the economic and social rights of the affected Kenyans. Section 9(2)(3) of the Labour Institutions (Private Employment Agencies) Regulations of 20I6, provides procedure to be followed by the registered agencies during recruitment including job specification / description and the number of positions available— a procedure which KHRC notes with concern was disregarded by Firstchoice recruitment agency. Jepchirchir’s actions amount to fraud. In Criminal Appeal No E025 of 2021, fraud is a common law tort of deceit whose ingredients are false representation of a false fact with the intention that the other party should act on it and that party suffers damage which is the case in this matter.  necessitating the utmost attention, as they have resulted in the defrauding of numerous Kenyan citizens.

CALL TO ACTION

  • The conduct of Firstchoice recruitment agency is CRIMINAL and should be treated as such. We therefore demand that those responsible be brought to justice and that measures be put in place to prevent such incidents from recurring in the future.
  • The Senate Labour and Social Welfare Committee expedite investigations into the unfolding scandal by Firstchoice recruitment agency to advise on the next steps including underscoring the critical need for a comprehensive examination of the industry practices.
  • The National Employment Authority (NEA), which is mandated to take the necessary steps to protect the unemployed against any form of abuse or exploitation, must wake up and live up to this mandate. NEA must move with speed and collaborate with other relevant government agencies to ensure the young people who have been exploited by Jepchirchir get justice which should include full and speedy compensation.

In conclusion, this fraudulent case is a clear depiction of the rot, murk and high-level corruption that define most employment agencies in Kenya. These agencies operate with reckless abandon, sending people to death traps in the Middle East, in the name of securing them jobs and yet no accountability is realized. NEA must see this as a reminder that vigilance and accountability are essential in maintaining the integrity of Kenya's job market. It is imperative that the authorities take swift and decisive action to address these allegations and restore trust in the recruitment industry.

Signed:

  • Kenya Human Rights Commission
President William Ruto throws the Constitution of Kenya to the dogs two weeks before celebrating one year since he was sworn into office
31 August 2023

It is therefore very disappointing and discouraging for Kenyans to hear the President make statements that amount to cold-hearted threats if the so called ‘cartels’ would not withraw the court cases involving Mumias Sugar Company. We condemn the utterances which amounts to contravention of the constitutional rights under Article 48 of the Constitution of Kenya and other international treaties. We are concerned that threats to the Indian investors to leave the country are not far from those of the former President of Uganda, Idi Amin, over five decades ago which led to actual eviction of businessmen of Indian decent from Uganda.

These statements would also make Kenyans to believe that the abduction of Rai a few days ago could be connected to the rising cases of forceful, and illegal abductions by the ununiformed police officers. The civil society organisations are deeply concerned that these threats by the Executive will eventually compromise the independence of the Judiciary as well as continue the punitive transfer of judges and magistrates who rule against the interest of government as we have seen in the past. While the President continue to assure Kenyans that the rule of law will prevail, it is becoming obvious that he has no interest in upholding the same.

We, therefore, Urge the President to apologize to Kenyans for making such callous remarks against the business community and to an extent those of Indian decent. Remind the President to fulfil the following as promised in the Kenya Kwanza Manifesto:

  • Establishing a Special Tribunal for Gross Human Rights Violations and Enforced Disappearances
  • Ratifying and domesticating the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
  • Ensuring equal protection for all under the law
  • Ending police abuse, especially against urban youth, through enhancing police oversight (IPOA and NPSC) and creating an ombudsman to monitor human rights violations.
  • Ending all forms of extra-judicial executions by security services
  • Restoring the public interest where it has been lost as a result of the executive’s disregard for court orders and the rule of law

Signed

  1. Article 19 Eastern Africa
  2. Constitution and Reform Education Consortium - CRECO
  3. Defenders Coalition
  4. Independent Medico-Legal Unit - IMLU
  5. InformAction TV
  6. Initiative for Inclusive Empowerment - IIE
  7. Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi!
  8. Kenya Human Rights Commission - KHRC
  9. Muslims for Human Rights - MUHURI
  10. Partnerships 4 Empowerement and Networking in Kenya (PEN KENYA)
New Government’s Education Funding Model Excludes many students
31 August 2023

The President's hurried and premature roll-out transferred the responsibility of providing education from the state to the parents, many of whom are struggling to keep their children in school. 

There must be clarity about selecting universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) courses. Eligible students face prolonged university and college placement delays due to a lack of clear instructions from Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Services (KUCCPS). 

Currently, university and TVET courses are associated with higher fees than expected. Previously, government-supported students would pay Sh16,000 per annum for similar classes—and get a loan of up to Sh60,000 yearly. But now they have to part with an average Sh650,000 per annum, all without scholarships. The implication has been students dropping out or avoiding selecting the courses altogether. 

Additionally, the criteria used to qualify a study for government support still need to be determined. Knowing which student is vulnerable, very needy, needy, and less needy is challenging, yet these are the government's yardstick in assessing the level of support it will offer students. 

Due to technical glitches, only 30 percent of eligible students applied for government scholarships and loans through the Higher Education Fund and Higher Education Loans Board (HELB). The situation has left most students unable to apply for funding and likely locked out of higher education. 

Devastatingly, the Ruto regime's system has frustrated brilliant students under 18 from receiving education loans due to their legal status as minors. Before, these students would have easily used their parents' details to get the money. 

Furthermore, fresh students encountered challenges with registration fees, accommodation, catering, scholarship materials, and medical security during the reporting and registration phase. The lack of implementable guidelines contributed to this situation. 

The Elimu Bora Working Group (EBWG) calls for halting the ill-conceived funding model. We want the country to return to the previous model for continuing and new students and eventually eliminate tuition fees. EBWG wants the government to ensure unhindered university and TVET entry for qualified students and waive registration fees. 

Signatories 

  1. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) 
  2. Uraia Trust 
  3. Elimu Tuitakayo 
  4. Constitution Reforms Education Consortium (CRECO) 
  5. Social Justice Centre Working Group (SJCWG) 
  6. National Students Caucus 
  7. Kenya National Interface Team (KNIT) 
  8. Youth Agenda 
  9. Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) 
  10. Centre for Education Policy and Climate Justice (CEPCJ) 
  11. Association of Parents with Children with Special Needs 
  12. Education for Africa (EFACO) 
Joint Statement on petition to Ban TikTok in Kenya
30 August 2023

The Petitioner, Ben Ndolo, claims that content on TikTok is inappropriate as it “promotes violence, explicit sexual content, hate speech, vulgar language, and offensive behaviour which is a serious threat to the cultural and religious values of Kenya”. The petition further avers that the platform is not regulated by the Communications Authority leading to the failure to remove inappropriate and offensive content. It also cites TikTok for violating privacy rights of children and its users, and sharing people’s data with third parties without consent. Moreover, it states that the app is addictive and could lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and sleep deprivation.

Social media platforms, including TikTok, have emerged as spaces for creative expression, entertainment, information sharing, social interaction, public participation, awareness raising, education, and engagement on a wide range of issues. Platforms in this time and age have also become an alternative source of relevant and credible news and information not covered by traditional or mainstream media, a notice board for ongoing events, including for government bodies, and the new digital public square for discourse, engagement and the exercise of democratic rights.

While social media platforms have played an important role in the realisation of rights – including freedom of expression and access to information – the proliferation of harmful content on the platforms has had severe human rights impacts, particularly during times of crisis, such as in Ethiopia. Platforms and companies hosting social media platforms therefore have a responsibility to put in place measures to identify and to address risks presented by  harmful online content that can contribute to societal harm; and lawmakers have a responsibility to protect users from harm while also upholding free expression and other fundamental rights.

In 2022, the #KeepItOn campaign against internet shutdowns documented platform blocks or bans in 23 countries. Many of those governments imposed the platform blocks under the justification that the platform had failed to properly moderate harmful content. These blocks severely undermine freedom of expression and access to information, and yet there is no evidence that they meaningfully reduced the proliferation of harmful content or kept people safe. One such example includes Nigeria’s Twitter ban, which the ECOWAS court ruled unlawful. Importantly, Kenyan authorities have not taken the bait on this blunt force approach, including when authorities publicly declined to block access to Facebook during the 2022 election period.

Such a ban would, therefore, stifle the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of association and assembly and political participation. It would also adversely affect the economic rights of Kenyans, and hinder the country’s progress towards a more open and inclusive digital society.  While these rights are not absolute, any limitation of them should satisfy the three-part test of proportionality, necessity and legality. It goes without saying that a total ban would not satisfy these principles. Several members of parliament have also noted the disproportionality of the petition’s prayers.

Kenya has a robust policy, legal, institutional, and regulatory framework for the ICT sector. While there is room for debate on how these frameworks can be further strengthened to tackle harmful online content,  experts have warned that over-regulation of content moderation by states – including full banning of platforms – can lead to the suppression of legitimate discourse and dissent. Overreaching regulation of social media platforms can also lead to market uncertainty with destabilising impacts on people in the most vulnerable economic sectors. And where regulations rely on broad and subjective legal definitions (e.g. targeting of  “inappropriate or offensive” content), it often results in arbitrary enforcement and abuse by  authorities.

We call upon the Public Petitions Committee and the National Assembly to:

  • Reject the proposal to ban TikTok or any other social media platform in Kenya.
  • Adopt a holistic and human rights-based approach in line with constitutional and international human rights standards to ensure the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights while addressing legitimate concerns surrounding social media use.
  • Engage in open and inclusive multi stakeholder dialogue with all relevant stakeholders (including academia, civil society, tech companies, government, and media) to develop effective and evidence-based approaches to address concerns surrounding social media platforms.
  • Promote media information literacy and digital literacy programmes to educate citizens, with digital skills to harness online opportunities, be responsible digital citizens, enjoy their digital rights, and ensure their online safety.

We call upon TikTok to:

  • Invest in adequate administrative, human, technical and financial resources in content moderation to ensure their policies, processes, structures and practices are rights-respecting, context- and culture-sensitive, efficient and effective, particularly in their non-English speaking and global majority markets.
  • In alignment with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNPGs), provide periodic public reporting on progress toward the adoption and implementation of the above measures.
  • Engage and collaborate with stakeholders – including academia, civil society, government, independent experts and media – in a meaningful way to get insights to ensure platform policies and enforcement practices are responsive, proportionate and consistent with human rights standards and best practices.
  • Streamline transparency and accountability mechanisms, including by providing regular and comprehensive transparency reports with disaggregated data by country of the content removed from their platform and insights on how content is reviewed, flagged and removed. Such regular transparency reporting is already a de-facto standard for the tech sector in general.
  • Empower users to protect themselves from harmful content, including by adopting simplified community guidelines or standards; ensuring mechanisms for reporting harmful content and abuse are efficient and user-friendly; implementing effective remedial mechanisms for users; educating users about the risks of harmful content; providing tools and options to users to manage their online experiences such as, age and content filters; and engaging in educational campaigns to promote safe and responsible platform usage and digital literacy.
  • Apply principles of transparency, confidentiality, purpose limitation and data minimization to their data practices, to ensure  that users have adequate knowledge and autonomy over the processing of their data.

Signatories

Access Now

ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa

Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)

KICTANet

galck+

Haki na Sheria

Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)

Paradigm Initiative

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