On September 1, Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the August 8 elections, in which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had declared President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner with over 54 percent of votes. In compliance with court orders, the IEBC scheduled fresh elections for October 26, the withdrawal of Raila Odinga on October 10 has created uncertainty on whether the elections could take place on the stated date. The elections were marred by serious human rights violations by Kenyan security forces, who used excessive force to break up protests and carry out house-to-house operations particularly in opposition strongholds in Nairobi and western Kenya. At least 12 people were killed by police in western counties of Kisumu and Siaya alone and another 33 in Nairobi during the violence.
Over the past five years, Kenyan authorities have consistently failed to adequately investigate a range of abuses across the country and undermine basic rights to free expression and association. Human rights activists and journalists face numerous obstacles and harassment.</p>
Government Crackdown Threatens Rights
Human rights groups have been concerned since President Uhuru Kenyatta took power in 2013 at the authoritarian direction Kenya’s government has been taking. But the situation has taken an alarming turn in the past week. Three highly repressive measures by the authorities since January 30 should worry us all, including the international community, which has been treating Kenyatta’s administration with kid gloves.
Kenyan media and nongovernment groups that are even mildly critical of the government have come under immense pressure in the last five years.
Read the full Oped here:
Kenya: Bring Detained Lawyer to Court
(Nairobi)– Kenyan police should urgently produce Miguna Miguna, an opposition party lawyer who was arrested in Nairobi on February 2, 2018. He is among three people, including two members of parliament, arrested in a crackdown by Kenyan authorities against those who participated in Raila Odinga’s oath ceremony on January 30. Police have failed to produce Miguna in court in accordance with court orders on both February 2 and February 5, as well as Kenyan law, which requires the accused to be brought to court within 24 hours.
“Kenyan authorities should urgently obey a court order to either release or produce Miguna Miguna in court,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The flagrant flouting of court orders undermines the basic concept of the rule of law.”
Odinga, presidential candidate for the leading opposition coalition, NASA, rejected Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the country’s presidential election, after a court ordered a rerun of the August 8 election. Miguna and another lawyer, Tom Kajwang, swore in Odinga as “the people’s president” on January 30 on the basis of August 8 election results, which Odinga and his NASA coalition insist they won.
The authorities also ignored a February 1 court order suspending the government shutdown of mainstream television and radio stations on January 30.
Authorities Arbitrarily Shut Down TV, Radio Coverage
Kenyan authorities stopped news outlets from covering a planned public event by a political opposition leader on January 30, 2018.. The Communications Authority of Kenya switched off three television stations and their affiliated radio stations. The television and radio stations were still off air at time of writing.
The authorities appear to have been angered by the decision of the media companies to defy President Uhuru Kenyatta’s order to editors at a meeting on January 26 not to cover the planned swearing in of the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, who rejected Kenyatta’s victory on October 26, 2017 in the presidential election. The Kenyan authorities have not given any explanation or legal justification for their attempt to ban media coverage of Odinga.
Please read the full report here:
Kenya: Security Forces Should Respond with Restraint
“With political tensions mounting ahead of the planned swearing-in of opposition candidate Raila Odinga, it is crucial security forces respond to any protests or violence with restraint and respect for rights,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Everyone should respect and uphold rights enshrined in the constitution and international law, especially the right to life.”
Kenya: Sexual Violence Marred Elections
Kenya: Rein in Police, Condemn New Abuses
(Nairobi) – Kenyan authorities should condemn recent violence, rein in any police abuses, and investigate scores of killings, most of them by police, during the prolonged electoral period, Human Rights Watch said today.
A series of protests and clashes between police and opposition supporters began on November 17, 2017, at the Nairobi airport while supporters of the opposition leader Raila Odinga escorted him to the town center. Protests and clashes continued in opposition strongholds in Nairobi and western Kenya following the Supreme Court decision on November 20 affirming President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election.
Read the full statement here:
Kenya, Again, Represses Civil Society
Days ahead of the deadline for filing petitions against the repeat presidential election results on November 6, Kenyan authorities, again, cracked down on civil society groups critical of the vote in which Uhuru Kenyatta was once again proclaimed winner.
On November 3, the Kenya Non-Governmental Organizations Co-ordination Board, the regulatory authority for nongovernmental groups, summoned three civil society organizations – Inuka Kenya, Katiba Institute and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) – to respond to allegations of money laundering and employing foreigners without valid work permits, among other reasons.
And on November 6, the board banned the operations of, “Kura Yangu, Sauti Yangu” (“My Vote, My Voice”), an election campaign initiative by a coalition of civil society groups, and, “We the People,” a citizen’s alliance that focuses on good governance, for allegedly operating illegal bank accounts and funding political operations in Kenya.
These organizations say they were targeted because of their work. The head of MUHURI said his organization was targeted because of its involvement in filing elections petitions. He believed the board’s action amounted to a “witch-hunt.”
This is not the first time the board has targeted civil society organizations that were critical of the government or that challenged the credibility of results during this election season.
On August 14, days after Kenyatta was initially declared the winner of the now-annulled August 8 presidential election, the board announced it had cancelled the registration of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) – one of the oldest human rights groups in Kenya – citing alleged tax evasion and other issues.
A day later, the board wrote to the director of criminal investigations with a request to shut down the offices of the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) and arrest its directors. AfriCOG is an organization that specializes in governance issues and has criticized Kenyan authorities for corruption. A high court judge in Nairobi temporarily stopped the board from shutting down AfriCOG and the acting interior cabinet secretary, Dr. Fred Matiang’i, put on hold the deregistration of the two groups, pending further investigations.
Then on October 5, the board also threatened to suspend the activities of the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO), an organization engaged in funding the judiciary including programs concerning the handling of election disputes.
The recent crackdown is part of a wider repression of civil society in Kenya in recent years. The government urgently needs to change course and instead of harassing these organizations, Kenyan authorities should respect their rights and their role in meaningful dialogue.
Another Kenya Election, More Abuses
On October 26, Kenya held its second presidential election two months after the Supreme Court nullified the results of the August 8 polls after a successful legal challenge by the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga. The vote was held in a tense environment after Odinga boycotted the election – citing lack of faith in the electoral body – and urged his supporters to stay home on voting day.
On October 30, Uhuru Kenyatta was once again proclaimed the winner – but the result was quickly rejected by Odinga and his supporters. Okiya Omtatah, an activist, has asked the Supreme Court to nullify the election, arguing it was voided by Odinga’s withdrawal.
As in the August vote, the repeat elections were marred by violent protests, killings, and beatings in key opposition strongholds along the coast, and the western and eastern parts of Kenya. Police appear to have, again, used excessive force on protesters in opposition strongholds, resulting in a number of deaths and injuries.
While the full extent of the violence is still unclear, credible sources indicate the casualties appear to be in the dozens. A Kenyan human rights body announced on Wednesday that police killed 13 people before, during, and after the October 26 vote. The Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) documented violations, and said police responded to riots using indiscriminate force, especially in opposition strongholds.
So far, Kenyan police have grossly underestimated the scale of the abuses this year. On Thursday, they publicly acknowledged that 19 people were killed around the two votes; but Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International found that during the August poll, police killed at least 33 people, possibly as many as 50, and injured hundreds more in some parts of Nairobi alone.
But with the possibility of more protests looming, the best thing Kenyan authorities can do is take reports of abuses seriously. That means giving clear instructions to police to respect the law and investigating all alleged killings, injuries, and unlawful use of force by officers during both votes and hold those responsible for abuses to account. These are crucial steps, not only for the victims of police violence, but also to ensure Kenyans can exercise their right to express their political views and grievances.
Risk of Sexual Violence Around Kenya’s Repeat Election
Human Rights Watch research confirms that, once again, there was sexual violence against women and girls during the most recent post-election violence in Kenya. I interviewed over 50 victims and witnesses in Mathare, Kisumu, Bungoma, and Dandora. They told me about rape, gang rape, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, and beatings on their genitals, including by members of security forces and militia groups and civilians.
Read the full dispatch here