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.