Human Rights Developments
In the early part of 1995, the human rights situation notably deteriorated as the government launched a crackdown against human rights activists, opposition politicians, and internally displaced persons. The escalation of human rights abuses came in the wake of new commitments of foreign aid, pledged without strong human rights conditions, at the December 1994 consultative group meeting of Kenya's donors.
In February, two independent organizations, the Center for Law and Research International (Clarion) and the Mwangaza Trust, were banned by the government. The Mwangaza Trust was notified on January 18 that it had engaged in activities "which require it to be registered under the Societies and NGO Act," although the letter did not specify what these activities were. Another banning involved the magazine Inooro, which has been published by the Catholic Church for many years. On February 23, the magazine was declared "a prohibited publication" under Section 52 of the Penal Code.
The office of the Legal Advice Center (LAC), a nongovernmental organization, was violently attacked by unknown assailants in March. On February 1, the office of Finance, an independent magazine, was firebombed. A well-established pattern of attacks on government critics by unidentified assailants raised concerns that both were targeted for their work to publicize and stem government abuses.
The government continued to hold a monopoly on all broadcast media and refused to grant licenses for private broadcasting. Journalists came under attack for writing articles critical of the government. In January, two Daily Nation reporters_Alex Cege and Julius Mokaya_were dismissed in circumstances suggesting government pressures. On January 16, two other Daily Nation journalists were detained after investigating allegations that the Kiambu district commissioner was involved in drug trading. On April 28, government officials stormed the premises of the printer Colourprint Ltd., which prints some of the independent publications, and dismantled its printing machines. In April, Finance magazine editor, Njehu Gatabaki, and the director of Colourprint Ltd, were charged with sedition for publishing and printing an article that quoted an alleged guerrilla leader. The speaker of parliament prohibited newspapers from reporting the findings of a committee report on government embezzlement, known as the Goldenberg scandal.
International journalists were not exempt from government censorship. On February 17, the government canceled a license and seized three reels of film belonging to a British Channel 4 television crew that had come to film a documentary on tourism and travel. In April, President Moi threatened to expel the Nairobi correspondents of international journals Time, Newsweek, and the Washington Post for writing articles that highlighted the government's human rights abuses.
The political opposition parties_the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-Kenya (FORD-Kenya), FORD-Asili, and the Democratic Party (DP)_remained divided largely on ethnic or regional lines. Throughout the year, opposition members faced harassment from the government. Frequently, licenses to hold meetings in their constituencies were denied to opposition politicians, and a number of peaceful gatherings were forcibly broken up by police.
In February, the government announced that two guerrilla groups, the February Eighteen Resistance Army (FERA) and the Kenya Patriotic Front, from Uganda, were plotting to overthrow the government by force. The government called for the alleged leader, John Odongo, a refugee in Uganda, to be forcibly repatriated. The refusal by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to assist in repatriating Mr. Odongo resulted in a threat by President Moi to expel the estimated 230,000 refugees (most from Somalia and Sudan) in camps on Kenyan territory.
In early May, top members of the Kenyan opposition announced the formation of a new political party, Safina (which means Ark in Kiswahili). President Moi and several ruling party officials immediately spoke out against its registration. As a result, Safina's application for registration under the Societies Act has been stalled since June 20. On June 23, in an effort to prevent Safina's registration, the attorney general published a bill which, if enacted into law, would severely restrict the formation and registration of new opposition parties and the functioning of those already existing.
One founding member of Safina, conservationist Richard Leakey, a Kenyan of English origin, was denounced by President Moi as a racist colonialist. Shortly after, one hundred armed Maasai stormed the Leakey home demanding the departure of "the colonialist." In August, Mr. Leakey and several Safina members were attacked with whips and clubs by ruling party youth wingers and severely beaten.
The government continued to use the judiciary to silence critics and to punish political opponents. No progress was made during 1995 by the legal reform task force formed by the attorney general in 1993 to amend or repeal repressive legislation. In January, President Moi stated that none of the government's policies could be "interfered" with by the courts.
The trial of prominent opposition figure Koigi wa Wamwere, a former MP and founder of a human rights organization, on charges of armed robbery, concluded in October. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment and a flogging for attempted robbery, in a trial that did not conform to international standards.
Although the large-scale violence that characterized the ethnic persecution in the early 1990s diminished, the government continued its potentially disastrous policy of targeting certain ethnic groups. Since 1991, the government has been responsible for unleashing terror to provoke the massive displacement of people of Kikuyu, Luo, and Luhya origin. The campaign against certain ethnic groups from the Rift Valley Province caused at least 1,500 deaths and some 300,000 to be displaced. These attacks have pitted Kalenjin and Maasai, the ethnic groups of the president and his ruling elite, against those ethnic groups identified with the political opposition_Kikuyu, Luo, and Luhya. Large-scale attacks have decreased since the 1992 election, but persecution against the displaced continued in 1995. There were regular reports of acts of violence and intimidation against those who attempted to return to their land.
In March, the government repealed emergency regulations established in September 1993, under the Preservation of Public Security Act, which had given the government extraordinary powers to enforce law and order and to limit access to outsiders in some of the areas where the worst violence had occurred. The regulations had restricted the ability of journalists and human rights workers to document events in the area.
A joint Kenyan government and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project to resettle the estimated 300,000 driven from their land by the "ethnic" violence was failing. Since the program began almost two years ago, there has been little reintegration. The government has consistently manipulated and undermined the UNDP program, obstructing genuine resettlement efforts. In December 1994, government officials forcibly dispersed a camp at Maela, where approximately 30,000 displaced people, predominantly of the Kikuyu ethnic group, had sought refuge since October 1993. Without notice, government officials razed the camp and forcibly transported some 2,000 of the residents to Central Province; there they proceeded to question them about their ethnicity and ancestral background. It forcibly moved some of the victims for the second time in January 1995.
The forced removal of certain ethnic groups from the Rift Valley Province appeared to play a part in the growing calls by Kalenjin and Maasai politicians for the introduction of majimboism, a federal system based on ethnicity that would give political and economic power in the Rift Valley Province only to members of those pastoral groups originally on the land before colonialism, such as the Kalenjin and Maasai.
The Right to Monitor
The attacks against the LAC and Finance magazine in early 1995 served as an informal warning to organizations and publications critical of government policies. In March, the Law Society of Kenya, the Legal Advice Center, and the Kenya Human Rights Commission issued a joint statement in which they noted that they too were targets of intimidation meant to silence critics and feared that their lives were in danger. In April, President Moi attacked international human rights organizations for reporting on Kenya, accusing them of adopting double standards. In July, two days before donors met to discuss Kenya's human rights record, the government announced the creation of a government Human Rights Committee.
The Role of the International Community
In December 1994, at the consultative group meeting, Kenya's bilateral and multilateral donors expressed satisfaction with Kenya's economic and human rights record. The December 1994 donor statement announcing renewed aid noted "the positive developments over the past year with respect to the democratization process, ethnic tensions and human rights issues," despite strong evidence to the contrary. As a result, US$800 million in new commitments were pledged, reversing the 1991 decision to withhold aid on human rights and economic grounds. However, the deterioration in the situation in early 1995 indicated that this rosy assessment was premature.
Donor concern at the escalation of human rights abuses resulted in an unscheduled donor meeting that was held in Paris on July 24. The closing statement of the July consultative meeting stated that: "Most bilateral donors expressed concern about the overall direction of political events since the end of 1994," and highlighted issues such as freedom of the press, freedom of association, and independence of the judiciary. However, the donors stopped short of a suspension of aid.
The European Union
However, other European countries were less willing to link aid to human rights improvements. The United Kingdom, in particular, was responsible for blocking European Union efforts to condition aid to Kenya. Britain, with aid payments of _31 million (about $49.6 million) for 1995 ranks among Kenya's leading bilateral donors. Up to _2 billion ($3.2 billion) is invested in Kenya. Following the July donor meeting, Britain's overseas minister, Baroness Lynda Chalker, publicly criticized Kenya's human rights record and warned that normal bilateral aid flows would not resume until Kenya's political climate improved. While the statement appeared to be a reversal of British policy, the British Embassy in Kenya rebutted that presumption and insisted that Baroness Chalker had been misquoted and misinterpreted.
Throughout 1995, the embassy in Nairobi issued several press releases and statements on a variety of human rights issues in Kenya, including backsliding on constitutional reform, attacks on judicial independence, "ethnic" violence, good governance, and restrictions on freedom of expression and association. In January, the embassy expressed its dismay at a recent outbreak of ethnic violence at Mai Mahiu, and two further statements protested the forced dispersals of the internally displaced by the government. A statement by Ambassador Aurelia Brazil publicly lamenting the government's decision to prohibit private broadcast media was criticized as a violation of sovereignty by ruling party officials. In February, the ambassador was held up by police for one hour at a police station when she tried to enter Naivasha for a lunch meeting, on the grounds that she was trying to visit a camp for the internally displaced. In August, Congressman Harry Johnston met with President Moi and raised concern over harassment of the political opposition. The embassy simultaneously released a press release criticizing the harassment of the opposition.
The Work of Human Rights Watch/Africa
In anticipation of the donor meeting in July, Human Rights Watch/Africa wrote letters to Kenya's major donors, detailing the recent human rights violations, and participated in a briefing for the U.S. delegation to the donor meeting. Human Rights Watch/Africa also issued a report entitled Kenya: Old Habits Die Hard. The report highlighted the abuses which had taken place since the last donor meeting in December 1994.