Wednesday, 03 August 2005
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights' strategic plan for the period 2004/9 guides its work. The plan's objectives are: Reduction of systemic human rights violations, leadership in framing and informing human rights discourse, increased opportunities for realization of economic and social rights , establishment of comprehensive human rights educations systems and establishment of institutional capacity to deliver effectively on human rights. (3-AUG-05)
The following summary of successes is based on the operational plan for 2004/5
1. The national Commission's advocacy accelerated Kenya?s ratification of the International Criminal Court Statute
The national commission consistently with other actors advocated for ratification of the statute establishing the International Criminal Court. In October 2004 the national commission hosted a national workshop to create awareness on the importance of the court. The government ratified this instrument in March 2005. Since then the National commission has continued to advocate against the so called article 98 agreement which the United States Government has continued to pressure the Kenyan Government to agree to. Such an agreement would bar Kenya from sending American citizens in its custody and accused of international war crimes to the international criminal court for trial.
After meetings with a cross section of legislators, a motion urging the government not to sign the agreement with the United States was filed in parliament. The commission is glad that the government has indicated it is not keen to sign the agreement with the United States.
The National commission facilitated a workshop during which stake holders reviewed the draft international crimes bill, which the attorney general has drafted to domesticate the international Criminal court.
The national commission ahs also actively participated in formulation of the proposed United Nations Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities
2. Motivating reformists through national human rights awards
In February 2005 the national commission issued eleven awards to persons and institutions in the public, private and voluntary sectors for their contribution to human rights and good governance. This included the late Geoffrey Griffin the founder member of the Starehe boys centre for education of the poor through the centre, Hon. John Michuki, then minister for transport won the waziri award for the human rights friendly reforms his ministry had implemented in the public transport sector, Dr. Thiakunu whistle blowing on deaths of dozens of prisoners at Meru prison, Lang?ata women prison for its efforts in ensuring humane treatment of prisoners among others. The award earmarked for human rights friendly police station was not issued since not a single nomination was received.
3. The capacity of Government officials on human rights is being increased
The concept and principles of human rights have remained largely unknown within the civil service. To many civil servants human rights are about protests and demonstrations by NGO activists. The national commission has launched a programme to raise awareness and capacity on human rights within the civil service. In the period under review, 266 high- ranking civil servants from various ministries were trained.
A particular area of focus in these trainings is the human rights based approach to development- the idea that development must lead to fulfillment of human rights and that human rights must be respected in the development process. A number of ministries have made commitments to set up human rights desks and infuse the rights based approach in the curriculum of their learning institutions as well as in their policy documents such as strategic plans.
4. The promotion and protection of economic and social rights has been enhanced
The promotion and protection of economic and social rights in Kenya has remained weak. In early July 2005, the commission held a pioneering public enquiry on allegations of violations of economic and social rights arising from large scale salt mining activities in Magarirni Division on Malindi District. The inquiry was initiated after the commission received consistent reports that the activities of salt mining companies had led to forceful evictions of indigenous land owners, health hazards, violations of workers rights and environmental degradation. The commission will recommend and monitor the enforcement of measures to address the diverse violations.
The commission has also launched a report assessing the extent of realization of economic and social rights in Kenya; the focus was on right to health , environment and water.
5. The linkage between corruption and human rights has been strengthened
The national commission is successfully profiling corruption as a key human rights issue. Corruption takes away public resources from social good. Corruption means fewer anti- retroviral drugs, fewer resources to fight insecurity, and fewer bursaries for gifted children from poor families. During the reporting period the National commission has used the media and other forums to speak out against corruption.
In partnership with Basic Rights campaign, the commission held a colloquium on social economic rights fro community based oganisations during which the following issues were discussed: rights based approach to development; the roles of legislature and the judiciary in realizing social economic rights; National Human Rights institutions and civil society experiences in budgets and policy frameworks as tools for monitoring realization of economic and socio-cultural rights; policy monitoring; budget tracking and corporate and social responsibility.
6. The case of truth Commission has been kept alive in the public limelight
The government has yet to establish a Truth. Justice and Reconciliation Commission. The National Commission believes that the country must deal with its past and that the only way to do this is to establish a Truth Commission. During the year the National Commission has kept the debate on the establishment of the Truth commission alive through a number of activities. Establishment of a truth commission would investigate the unexplained politically linked killings.
7. Infusion of human right principles into legislation
The national commission reviewed the coffee Act for human rights violations. The review aimed at pointing out the unconstitutional clauses in the Act particularly those inconsistent with human rights standards as provided for by Kenya?s Constitution and Kenya?s obligations under international human rights conventions and treaties. The review of the Coffee act has since triggered a debate on possible human rights violations against coffee growers, particularly the farmers? right to property.
Other legislation reviewed include, the sexual offences bill, the witness protection bill, the suppression of terrorism bill, the international crimes bill and the community service order act and the prisons act.
8. Monitoring law enforcement institutions, thereby reducing opportunities for human rights violations
The national commission has kept the prisons service on its toes in visits to over 20 prisons in Kenya. The visits generated important data for the preparation on the special report on prison reforms. The visits also provided an opportunity for assessing commitment to reforms by individual prison stations. The knowledge of prison authorities that the commission could visit the prisons at any time without notice serves as a detergent from possible excesses against the inmates.
The visits also exposed the Police Departments reluctance to open up to reforms. How ever in some occasions the commission managed to secure the release of people who had unlawfully been arrested.
9. Monitoring human rights violations
The commission undertakes urgent missions to monitor and investigate conflicts in different parts of the country. The presence of the commission in the trouble spots ahs a reassuring presence to victims of violations and can also have a deterrent effect on subsequent violations.
10. Provision of legal advice and other support concerning human rights violations
Between August 2004 and June 2005, the commission attended to 2,042 walk-in petitioners and 768 mail-related petitions. Majority cases were labour cases. The commission completed a review of old files to determine how best to accelerate them. The learning gained from a visit to Uganda Human Rights Commission has significantly improved the data management system.
11. Increased visibility, credibility and accessibility of the commission.
The reputation that the national commission has earned in the period under review has largely been supported by the expertise, the commitment, the consistency, the diligence, realistic methodologies and strategies the National Commission has employed in some of its activities.
The national commission designed a communication strategy to enable it to stand out as a national establishment mandated to promote and protect human rights. The overall goal of the strategy is to ensure that all the internal and external communications facilitate the achievement of the National Commission?s wider vision of a country characterized by a strong and vibrant human rights culture founded on equality and social justice for all.
12. The National Commission has been recognized internationally, through accreditation to the International Coordinating Committee on National Human Rights Institutions.
In April 2005 the Kenya National Human Rights received accreditation to the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, which is housed by the United National High Commissioner for Human rights, Geneva. The national Commission has also secured the location of the Secretariat of African national human rights institutions in Nairobi.
13. The national commission is striving to be a transparent, accountable and efficient public institution.
On an annual basis the National Commission prepares a costed work plan through a participatory process that involves staff at all levels, partners and stakeholders. In addition the commission prepares an annual report, which together with its audited accounts, is widely disseminated.
1. Inadequate finances and lack of adequate financial independence
The national commission uses the government grant to recruit and pay staff and meet other operational costs, while relying on donors for programme costs. The inadequacy of the government grant has meant that the commission can not hire adequate staff or open offices in rural areas.
A related challenge is that the commission does not have control over its money. The grant it receives comes through the ministry of Justice and Constitutional affairs. This threatens the independence of the commission since the ministry is potentially one of the institutions the commission may be called upon to investigate.
2. Inadequate staff capacity
At the end of the reporting period, the commission had a staff of 23 against an establishment of 156. This seriously impacts on the capacity of the commission to deliver effectively and leads to harmful work overloads.
3. Poor Cooperation by government agencies
For the national commission to be effective, it requires full cooperation by Government departments. Though there has been a marked improvement in particular government ministries, cooperation is still less than optimal. Access to key government officials in some ministries is still difficult with letters going unanswered and requests for meetings ignored.
4. Poorly Coordinated Actions and Lack of understanding of Human Rights in Government.
Responsibility for human rights actions cuts through all government agencies, yet there is poor coordination within various departments making follow-up difficult. With the exception of a few, many government departments still assume that human rights are only about prisons and police issues. Efforts to engage senior public officials to sensitise them to the breadth of human rights have not been very successful. It still remains challenging how to plan for challenging how to plan for programmes that are also controlled by other agencies.
5. Managing public expectations
Member of the public have very high expectations of the commission considering the powers the commission has. Their demands are often times not easy to meet in a short span of time. Members of public expect to receive immediate remedy upon lodging a complaint.
6. Poor Accessibility to the Commission
To commission has one office in Nairobi. It is thus largely inaccessible to those in rural areas. When petitions are lodged through the mail, it takes along time to reach. Plans are underway to open a regional office in North Eastern Province by December 2005.
7. Poor linkages with Parliament
To be effective the National commission needs strong linkages with parliament, which is a key institution in influencing policy, legislation and public accountability. The commission?s linkages with parliament have been weak.