Kenya: Recent Documents, Part 2, 08/02/'95

Kenya: Recent Documents, Part 2

Human Rights Watch/Africa
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Human Rights Watch calls for future aid to be conditioned on rights improvements

On July 24, Kenya's donors will meet in Paris to deliberate Kenya's human rights and economic record. "Kenya: Old Habits Die Hard," released today by the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch/Africa notes that since the last donor meeting in December 1994 there has been a notable deterioration in the human rights situation in Kenya. President Daniel arap Moi has intensified the crackdown against human rights activists, opposition politicians and internally displaced persons. Human Rights Watch calls on all the donor countries to link all non-humanitarian aid to improvements in the human rights situation.

The escalation of human rights abuses followed new commitments of foreign aid, pledged without strong human rights conditions, at the last consultative group meeting of Kenya's donors in December 1994. For the first time since 1991, donors did not express strong concern about continuing human rights abuses. Despite strong evidence to the contrary the donor statement noted "the positive developments over the past year with respect to the democratization process, ethnic tensions and human rights issues."

This resumption of aid, without human rights cautions, seems to have emboldened the government. President Moi perceived the aid commitments of 1994 as tacit consent from the international community to revert to past practices of repression. President Moi's attacks on his critics have become more pronounced: there have been forced relocations of victims of government-sponsored ethnic violence; bannings and attacks on organizations and publications critical of the government; and arrests of opposition politicians. President Moi has warned that any criticism of the government will be considered treason. These tactics attacking the independent press and non-governmental community are reminiscent of the period before 1991.

The report highlights the fact that the government's continued persecution of certain ethnic groups is a potentially disastrous policy. Human Rights Watch/Africa has documented this politically motivated ethnic violence since 1991, and estimates that it has caused at least 1,500 deaths and displaced some 300,000 in Kenya's Rift Valley Province. Although large-scale attacks have decreased, acts of harassment and intimidation continue against those who attempt to return to their land. These reports of threats or actual violence have deterred the bulk of the displaced from returning to their homes. Most remain in church compounds or abandoned buildings, often in destitute and overcrowded conditions. 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 is failing. Since the program began almost two years ago, there has been little reintegration. The government has manipulated and undermined its implementing partner, UNDP, forestalling genuine resettlement efforts. In December 1994, government officials forcibly dispersed approximately 2,000 displaced persons.

Human Rights Watch is concerned that the forced removal of certain ethnic groups from the Rift Valley Province contributes to the growing calls by high ranking government officials for the introduction of majimboism, a federal system based on ethnicity. Such a political system would essentially force those ethnic groups which largely support the political opposition out of the Rift Valley Province, which has the largest number of parliamentary seats and is the base of Kenya's agricultural economy.

In February 1995, two independent organizations, the Center for Law and Research International (Clarion) and the Mwangaza Trust were banned by the government. Clarion, a research group was notified that it had violated the terms of the Nongovernmental Organizations (NGO) Act by "hurting the image of the government" following the release of a report on government corruption. Mwangaza Trust, launched in September 1994, was formed for the purpose of promoting "educational, research and sound economic management of legal and cultural policies in Kenya" was notified 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 in February involved the magazine Inooro, which has been published by the Catholic Church for many years. The church has been publicly critical of the government's handling of corruption and ethnic violence.

Opposition politicians continue to face harassment from the government. Politically-motivated criminal charges are constantly being brought against opposition members. In early May, top members of the Kenyan opposition announced the formation of a new political party, Safina. Safina's application for registration under the Societies Act has been pending since June 20, 1995. However, President Moi and several ruling party politicians have spoken out against its registration. On June 23, the Attorney- General published a bill, which, if enacted into law, will severely restrict the formation, registration and functioning of both new and existing opposition parties. 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."

Another disturbing development has been a series of attacks against the Legal Advice Center (LAC) by unknown assailants. In February and March, the office's premises were firebombed and two security guards were shot and injured. The attackers have all escaped. Although there is no current indication of who is responsible for the attacks against LAC, the well-established pattern of attacks on government critics by unidentified assailants raises concerns that the LAC is being targeted for its efforts to stem government abuses. Another similar attack took place in February, when the office of the outspoken magazine Finance was firebombed. Finance has been repeatedly targeted by the government in the past including the jailing of its editor, the impounding of the magazine and violent attacks on its offices.

Human Rights Watch concludes that the international community has used the wrong benchmarks to measure the government's tolerance of political pluralism. The report notes that donors appear willing to countenance harassment and intimidation of government critics as long as the government continues to liberalize the economy and retain a multi-party system in name. However, this approach is short- sighted. Long-term economic and political stability cannot be ensured without government accountability and respect for the rule of law.

The human rights situation in Kenya continues to warrant sustained international attention. Multi- partyism has not been accompanied by the requisite institutional and legal reform essential to genuine democratization. In response to international and domestic criticism, the government periodically suspends its harassment of critics or adopts different methods. Given the deteriorating human rights situation, renewed international attention could improve government practices once again. Without renewed human rights conditionality on the part of all Kenya's donors in 1995, it is likely that the human rights situation will continue to worsen.

At the July 24 meeting, donors will have an opportunity to revisit the December 1994 decision which praised the government's human rights record and made new aid pledges without human rights conditions. At a minimum, donors should require that the Kenyan government:

Cease its policy of ethnic persecution and provide additional and adequate security in order to enable those displaced by its policy of ethnic persecution to return to their land. Continuing and past attacks of ethnic violence should be thoroughly investigated and charges brought where there is evidence against individuals alleged to be directly responsible for killing and destruction of property. In all cases, the criminal law must be applied without regard for ethnic group, political party, or other status.

Return those forcibly displaced in December 1994 to the areas they were taken from. Police and ruling party officials responsible for brutality and harassment of the displaced must be disciplined for their actions. Where legitimate reasons for relocation exist, adequate alternative sites should be provided in advance.

Conduct all action on resettlement of the displaced in full cooperation and consultation with the government's implementing partner, UNDP, and local relief and church organizations.

Cease the harassment of opposition politicians and allow free political activity for all opposition parties.

Cease the intimidation of the independent press.

Lift the banning orders against Clarion, Mwangaza Trust and Inooro and permit them to operate.

Institute the requisite institutional and legal reform essential to genuine democratization by repealing repressive legislation and permitting judicial independence.

Human Rights Watch calls on Kenya's donors to restore human rights conditions to all non-humanitarian aid to Kenya. It is essential that the closing statement of the donor meeting contains strong and unequivocal condemnation of the recent abuses.

Copies of this report are available from Human Rights Watch, Publications Department, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6105 for $3.60 (domestic shipping) and $4.50 (international shipping.


From: "APIC"
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 1995 15:53:58 +0000
Subject: Kenya: Recent Documents, Part 2