Freedom of expression
Despite concerns that the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill would lead to unjustified restrictions on freedom of expression, the Bill became law in January. In July another new media-related law repealed provisions in the January law that granted the government power to control media broadcast content. It also provided for an independent statutory body with the power to regulate the media.
Several journalists were intimidated and threatened by state officials over stories critical of government practice.
- In January, Francis Kainda Nyaruri, a freelance journalist based in south-western Kenya, was killed by unidentified assailants. The local press reported that his killing was thought to be linked to articles he had written about alleged corruption and other malpractices by the local police. Two suspects were reportedly arrested but no prosecution followed. Witnesses to the killing were threatened, reportedly by police.
Right to adequate housing
In September, Parliament adopted the report of the Task Force on the Mau Forest Complex, appointed by the government in 2008. The report recommends, among other things, the eviction of thousands of families who live in the forest complex. Subsequently, the government formed a unit to co-ordinate the rehabilitation of the forest, but had not issued a comprehensive plan on the recommended evictions that would avoid forced evictions as witnessed in the removal of thousands of people from parts of the forest between 2004 and 2006. The first phase of planned forest evictions in the Mau forest scheduled by the government for the coming years was carried out in November. It involved the eviction of 2,850 households comprising some 20,345 people, according to the authorities. Most evictees said they were denied adequate notice and had no alternative housing. Most ended up in temporary and makeshift displacement camps without proper access to emergency shelter and other services.
In July, almost 3,000 people were forcibly evicted from their homes in Githogoro Village, Nairobi. Police told residents that they had 72 hours to dismantle their homes before government bulldozers would move in. The evictions were ostensibly carried out as part of government plans to build a new road, the Northern Bypass.
At the end of the year, hundreds of families living in informal settlements close to the Nairobi River were still living under the immediate threat of forced eviction following a 2008 government announcement calling on residents to leave. There were no plans to ensure that any evictions would respect appropriate legal protections and other safeguards.
The government failed to fulfil its 2006 pledge to release national guidelines on evictions. It also failed to stop forced evictions until the guidelines were in place.
Some 2 million people – half of Nairobi's population – continued to live in slums and informal settlements, crammed into 5 per cent of the city's residential area. Residents suffered not only squalid conditions and lack of basic services, but also discrimination, insecurity and marginalization. Despite a national housing policy adopted in 2005 that promised the progressive realization of the right to housing, the government continued to fail to provide accessible, affordable housing. An ongoing slum upgrading process remained slow and under-resourced. Slum residents complained of being inadequately consulted about the programme's implementation.
In August, the President commuted to life imprisonment the death sentences of more than 4,000 prisoners. He stated that an "extended stay on death row causes undue mental anguish and suffering, psychological trauma, anxiety, while it may as well constitute inhuman treatment". He ordered a government study on whether the death penalty had any impact on the fight against crime. It was unclear whether this study was undertaken and no findings were published.
Courts continued to impose the death penalty; no executions were reported.