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Human Rights Developments

In October 1991, President Daniel arap Moi announced that he would crush the opposition "like rats." He was compelled to change his strategy in November of that year when the consultative group of bilateral donors suspended aid to Kenya pending economic and political reforms. Moi and the ruling Kenya African National Union (kanu) immediately announced the introduction of a multi-party system in Kenya. The transition to democracy was quickly imperiled by growing ethnic violence, fueled by the government. The Moi government has long contended that political pluralism in Kenya would degenerate into tribal conflict, and many fear that the government is seeking to fulfill that prophesy.

In December 1991, the Kenyan Parliament repealed Section 2(A) of the Constitution which prohibited opposition parties. In 1992, the government permitted greater freedom of expression and association. The government also released some political prisoners who were convicted despite the lack of any tangible evidence and discrepancies in the prosecution's case. In February, George Anyona, a former member of Parliament and multi-party advocate who was sentenced to a seven-year prison term in July 1991 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, was freed on bail. His co-defendants, Edward Akong'o, Esaiah Ngotho Kariuki and Augustus Kathangu Njeru, were also freed. On June 24, the government released four government critics charged with treason, but refused to release the other four defendants-Koigi wa Wamwere, RumbaKinuthia, Mirugi Kariuki and Godfrey Kuria Kariuki. All eight defendants had been accused of being members of the Kenya Patriotic Front, an underground organization that allegedly seeks the overthrow of the Kenyan government, and have been severely mistreated in custody.

Serious human rights abuses continued throughout 1992, including torture and mistreatment of prisoners, excessive use of force by police, government involvement in inflaming ethnic conflict, harassment of and attacks on opposition activists, and prosecution of independent journalists. In addition, much of the repressive institutional structure used by the Moi government remains in place, such as the laws on treason and sedition; the Preservation of Public Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without charge or trial; the law allowing the banning of any publication in the interests of "public safety and public order"; and powers to manipulate the justice system, such as pressing trumped-up criminal charges against government critics and applying illicit pressure on judges in politically sensitive cases. Until these pillars of Moi's rule are dismantled, respect for human rights will remain subject to the whims of the authorities.

One of the most disturbing developments in Kenya in 1992 was a serious escalation of rural violence and its spread into areas formerly free of ethnic conflict, notably the Rift Valley and Western Provinces. The conflict stemmed directly from the Moi government's abuse of its powers of patronage to reward selectively members of certain ethnic groups, particularly Moi's own Kalenjin, and the government's manipulation of ethnic tensions since the advent of multipartyism.

There is no accurate estimate of the number of people killed in ethnic clashes during 1992, but it is clear that scores and perhaps hundreds have died. Many thousands of others have been left homeless, after their homes were burned and belongings looted. Despite clear evidence that pro-government Kalenjin were responsible for many attacks, the authorities have done little to protect civilians, and have preferred to blame the violence on the opposition.

The level of discontent with the government's apparent involvement in the ethnic clashes led to unprecedented criticism of the government by the Catholic bishops. In March, they issued a pastoral letter accusing the government of instigating the ethnic conflict in the western areas. The letter stated that the security forces' attitude "seems to imply that orders from above were given in order to inflict injuries only on particular ethnic groups."

On September 17, the Parliament's Select Committee on Ethnic Clashes released a report concluding that the violence was politically motivated and often incited by provincial officials. It called for criminal investigations of all politicians who had made inflammatory statements during the violence, and alleged that close Moi associates Nicholas Biwott and Ezekiel Barng'etuny were involved in organizing and financing the fighting. The parliamentary report confirmed many of the findings of an earlier report issued in late spring by a committee established by theopposition parties and the church. However, the government denied those charges and threatened criminal sanctions against the report's signatories. On October 14, the Parliament voted to reject the Committee's report. (Kennedy Kiliku, the former Assistant Health Minister who chaired the Committee, quit the ruling party on November 8.)

Excessive force by the Kenyan police continued to be a major problem during 1992. In one incident, the well known Kenyan environmentalist and Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (ford) activist Wangari Maathai and three other women were beaten unconscious by riot police on March 3. They had joined a demonstration by about 50 women who were conducting a hunger strike in Nairobi's Uhuru (Independence) Park demanding the release of 52 political prisoners. Many of the protesters were mothers of the prisoners. After a crowd of demonstrators assembled in the park, the riot police attacked the women with batons and teargas. The police action led to two days of protests, with rioting and looting.

Excessive force was also used on March 20 in Kisumu, on March 22 in Kitale in Western Province, and on April 27 in Limuru. In each of these cases, police fired at a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, killing at least three. In April, when ford called a general strike to push for the release of political prisoners and secure elections, riot police clashed with groups of young people who set up roadblocks and stoned state-owned buses and cars; at least three people were shot and some 160 were arrested. The government considered the strike to be illegal. Violence continued in October and November, with attacks by police and kanu supporters against opposition activists, including the police beating of opposition leader Paul Muite in late October. The Kenyan police continue to act with impunity-harassing, beating and killing-without any known investigation or prosecution.

The principal political struggle has revolved around the impending elections. Moi's bid for re-election was helped by the disarray within the main opposition party, ford. At the time of the September 4 ford conference, the party split into two factions: "ford-Kenya," headed by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Paul Muite, and "ford-Asili" (Original Ford), led by Kenneth Matiba and Martin Shikuku. Both factions submitted requests to register as ford, and in late September they were permitted to register separately.

Some eight other opposition parties have been allowed to register. The most prominent is the Democratic Party (dp), formed in January, a predominantly Kikuyu party headed by Moi's former vice president (he resigned on Christmas), Mwai Kibaki. Only one party was denied registration, the Islamic Party of Kenya (ipk), based on a presidential directive that religious groups are not allowed to form political parties. In May, police arrested several imams, which served to boost support for the ipk. One of those arrested was Sheikh Balala, who was initially charged with treason but the charges were later withdrawn. The ipk has filed a suit against the government demanding that it be registered. ipksupporters have staged demonstrations calling for registration, leading to clashes with police.

The government placed numerous administrative and legal obstacles in the way of the opposition, leading to delays in registration and permits for rallies. On August 5, Parliament passed a bill to amend the constitution to prevent any party from winning the elections based on regional strength. The bill states that the presidential candidate must win a majority of votes nationwide as well as 25 percent of the votes in at least five of Kenya's eight provinces. In addition, the president is required to choose a government from his party rather than forming a coalition. If no one wins a majority, a run-off will be held between the two candidates who won the most votes; if there is still no majority, the incumbent continues as president. Because the opposition draws its support primarily from two provinces, this amendment greatly enhances kanu's prospects of forming the next government.

On October 28, Moi dissolved the Parliament, paving the way for elections, which were later scheduled for December 7. Moi had stated that his control over the date of elections would be his "secret weapon" against the opposition. However, on November 12, the High Court upheld an appeal by ford-Kenya for an extension of the deadline for the nomination of candidates. The elections were then postponed until December 29. Since this date falls in the midst of the Christmas holiday period, many Kenyans who live in the cities and travel back to the rural areas for the holidays will be compelled to return to the place they had registered to vote.

Attacks on the independent press continued during 1992, although the press operated with significantly fewer restrictions than before. A particular target of government repression was the news magazine Society. In January, copies of the magazine were impounded by police because the material was deemed to be offensive to the President. In April, five Society journalists were detained, and later charged with sedition related to information they had published on the suspicious death of former Foreign Minister Robert Ouko. In June, 10,000 copies of the magazine were seized, with no explanation. Also in June, the magazine was subjected to a suspicious arson attack.

Another magazine, Finance, also encountered problems with the authorities. In May, thousands of copies of the magazine were confiscated without explanation. In August, the publisher and editor-in-chief, Njehu Gatabaki, was charged with sedition in connection with articles that appeared in the May 31 issue suggesting that the government, and especially the president, are responsible for the country's economic and political problems. In early November, police impounded over 50,000 copies of the November 15 issue of Finance, apparently because it carried the headline "Impeach Moi."

Kenya has traditionally sought to exclude refugees, using a variety of abusive means to deter them from entering the country, and to expel them after arrival. In 1992, these measures failed to prevent the development of a refugee crisis. Over 300,000 Somali refugees are currently registered in Kenya, with significantnumbers of Ethiopians, Sudanese and others as well. Neither the Kenyan government nor the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (unhcr) has fulfilled its obligations toward the refugees to provide basic material assistance and physical and legal protection. Humanitarian conditions in the camps for Somalis became a public scandal in January after death rates climbed to appalling levels due to poor siting of the camps and inadequate relief supplies. Abuses against refugees continued virtually unchecked, including killing, rape and looting. The Kenyan government preferred to blame incidents on Somali "bandits," but there is compelling evidence of the involvement of Kenyan forces in certain incidents. In August, about 3,000 Sudanese boys were abducted by the Sudan People's Liberation Army from Kenyan territory.

Meanwhile, ethnic Somalis in Kenya continue to suffer persecution from the Kenyan authorities. In one incident in August, the police rounded up some 2,000 Somali and Ethiopian refugees in Nairobi and Mombasa, forced them at gunpoint into trucks, and relocated them to refugee camps. In the process, families were separated and children were abandoned.

The Right to Monitor

The Kenyan government continued to be hostile to visits by foreign human rights monitors. A delegation from the New York-based Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights was denied visas to visit Kenya in August. Also in August, a delegation from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (ndi), an organization funded by the U.S. Congress, was permitted to visit Kenya but prevented from meeting with independent or opposition organizations.

In July, the Kenyan Civil Liberties Union (kclu) was created in Nairobi by a group of pro-democracy activists, including Rev. Timothy Njoya, Kiraitu Murungi and Kathurma M'Inoti. The kclu intends to defend human rights in the courts and through public education.

On September 17, a new human rights group was launched without incident in Kenya, called the Kenyan Human Rights Commission. Two of its principal organizers are Makau wa Mutua and Maina Kiai, although Mutua is based at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, former human rights monitors who had been the focus of much international acclaim became subsumed in party politics.

U.S. Policy

During 1992, the Bush Administration continued to pressure the Kenyan government to organize free and fair elections and to enact political and economic reforms. To this end, the U.S. government withheld $28 million of a projected $47 million in economic aid to Kenya for fiscal year 1992. The remaining $19 million that was delivered was for agricultural development, population programs and small enterprise development.

In private dealings with the Kenyan government, U.S. officials reportedly sent a consistent message: U.S. assistance will be re-evaluated only after economic and political reforms are instituted.Administration officials, including Herman Cohen, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and especially the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Smith Hempstone, denounced the Moi regime's efforts to manipulate and obstruct the electoral process.

The major statement of U.S. policy toward Kenya came in Secretary Cohen's testimony on June 23 before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, in which he gave a forthright appraisal of the situation in Kenya. He praised the Kenyan government's progress since December 1991, but criticized continuing problems in its human rights record, including the harassment of opposition politicians and the press and instances of police violence. He labeled ethnic conflict "the most disquieting development," noting that "the security forces did little to stop the violence." Cohen also put pressure on the opposition to participate in elections, saying that a boycott would be "ill-advised."

On several occasions in 1992, Ambassador Hempstone issued strong public criticisms of the government's human rights practices and its manipulation of ethnic conflict. In March, for example, he announced: "Self-fulfilling prophesies of chaos, bloodshed and tribal warfare are not useful. The government because it is the government has the primary responsibility of restoring order and maintaining security." On October 15, he gave an address to the American Business Association of Kenya which went to the heart of widespread doubts about the Moi government's commitment to ensuring free and fair elections:

Perhaps we can be forgiven for being just a little skeptical when virtually nothing has been done to allow for an effective domestic monitoring system, when the opposition has been hampered in its efforts to hold meetings or open branch offices in many parts of the country, when the registration process has been terminated before one million young people without ID cards have had a chance to register, when we read in the press that teachers, civil servants, the army and the police have been admonished to vote for kanu... or else, when opposition access to the media is limited, when kanu and the government have not been delinked, when dialogue among the political parties has been honored in the breach rather than in the observance. The spirit of fair-play and tolerance that is at the heart of the democratic process seems largely-if not entirely-absent.

Ambassador Hempstone went on to say that "second-class democracy" will not satisfy the U.S., and that elections that are "obviously flawed, blatantly rigged" will not be accepted as legitimate.

State Department officials in Washington also added their voice, although in more abbreviated terms. After the attack on the women protesters, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler stated that the U.S. administration was "deeply concerned" about the Kenyan government's abuse of basic democratic rights.Meanwhile, dialogue continued at senior governmental level. In April, Secretary of State James Baker told Kenya's Vice President George Saitoti that "after a promising start, multi-party democracy in Kenya is threatened by a growing climate of political intolerance, including serious violence." In October, Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger met with Kenyan Foreign Minister Wilson Ndolo Ayah and reportedly delivered a similar message.

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