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The promised constitutional reform process, which could have brought greater democratization in Kenya, remained stalled as the government of President Daniel arap Moi continued to block progress. This left in place a deeply flawed political system with power concentrated in the presidency, insufficient checks on the executive branch, a lack of accountability for government officials, and the barring of independent parliamentary candidates in a political party environment fraught with infighting and divisions. The political crisis was paralleled by a marked deterioration in the economic situation, caused in large part by state mismanagement and corruption. The standard of living for the average Kenyan continued to drop, and the year was characterized by electricity rationing and water shortages in the capital Nairobi and other cities.

The modalities of the constitutional reform process remained unresolved. In the face of an opposition boycott, the ruling party controlled parliament pushed through President Moi's plan to control the outcome. A parliamentary committee of twenty-seven was created, composed of fourteen ruling party parliamentarians with the remaining thirteen from the combined opposition, to draft the constitutional reforms. In opposition to this, a civil society initiative, the Ufungamano group, led by the religious sector including the Catholic Church, the ProtestantNational Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), the Muslim Supreme Council of Kenya, and the Hindu Council of Kenya, appointed a set of commissioners to carry out a more broad-based consultative process. As of October 2000, neither set of commissioners had embarked on the task of gathering citizens' views on the substance of a new constitution.

Although the Ufungamano initiative slowed down President Moi's attempts to push through a new constitution of his own choice, there was no resolution by year's end. All sides were aware that the stakes were high. The outcome of this issue, which promised to grow in urgency with the national election's approach by 2002, would serve as a critical juncture in Kenya's history. The existing constitutional provisions did not permit President Moi to seek another term in office and if unchanged would bring to an end his tenure of over two decades.

High-ranking government and ruling party officials continued to use the state machinery to obstruct freedom of association and assembly for the opposition. Though many more political opposition gatherings were able to take place, police officers continued to interfere with and violently disperse participants in violation of the laws relating to public meetings. The use of state-sponsored and protected gangs to break up meetings and rallies of government critics continued. In October, President Moi banned countrywide rallies called by Muungano wa Mageuzi (Peoples Movement for Change), a coalition group of opposition and civil society organizations.

Complaints of police harassment, use of excessive force, torture, and deaths in custody were frequent. In October, a 127-page internal police report titled, "Report of the Committee on the State of Crime in Kenya 1997 to 1998," was leaked to the press. The report, the result of a two-year study conducted by a five-person police team to study problems in the police force, concluded that the police force was unable to address crime due to poor management, corruption, a break down in discipline and a disregard for rules.

The situation was no better in the prisons. The impunity of state agents was highlighted in August with the brutal clubbing to death by prison warders of six prisoners who were apprehended as they attempted to escape. The public outcry forced the government to announce that it would carry out an investigation into "dereliction of duty" by the prison authorities. The legal community continued to complain of corruption and political control in the judiciary, which has always been used by the government for political ends.

A wide array of independent and outspoken newspapers were able to publish relatively freely. But the biggest gains for freedom of expression in Kenya were made by the coming on line of several newly licensed independent television and FM radio stations (some of which had pending applications dating as far back as 1992). The growth of the independent broadcast sector resulted in a notable expansion in the airing of differing opinions, particularly on radio. These licences were, however, restricted principally to broadcasting in urban areas and rural broadcasting remained as restricted as before. Nor was this free expression without danger. The minister of home affairs threatened retaliation against the hard-hitting political satire group Reddykulus which appeared on the Nation TV station.

Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons remained unable to return after being driven from their homes in state-sponsored attacks since 1991 directed against members of ethnic groups perceived to support the political opposition. The authorities continued during the year to fail to provide adequate security to those who sought to return to their homes under assurances of safety, nor were land titles restored to those who were wrongfully deprived. Nor had the government held those responsible for the violence accountable. In 1999, a presidential Commission on the Ethnic Clashes wound up after eleven months of hearing evidence, including from Human Rights Watch, about the violence between 1991 and 1998. As of October 2000, the commission's findings had still not been released, though the completed report had been submitted to the president over a year before.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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