Kenya Human Rights

As Kenya approaches elections in 2012, the country is still dealing with the aftermath of political violence after the 2007 presidential election, which resulted in more than 1,000 deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. In 2010, Kenyans peacefully enacted a new constitution that reformed government structures and strengthened human rights protections and the government began important police and judicial reforms. However, Kenya has still not overcome its culture of impunity. Its failure to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable led to the International Criminal Court indictment of 6 Kenyans who are now facing judgment in the Hague.

Kenya is in a period of transition with a coalition government formed in response to widespread political and ethnic violence following the disputed 2007 presidential elections. In August 2010, Kenyans voted overwhelmingly for a new constitution which better recognizes and protects human rights, including — for the first time — economic, cultural and social rights. The constitution changes Kenyas political and governance structure, entrenching checks and balances by clearly defining the roles and powers of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. It also introduces a devolution structure to ensure that public resources are equitably distributed across regions. However, the new constitution does not outlaw the death penalty or provide protections based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and imposes restrictions on reproductive rights.

The new constitution provides an opportunity for much-needed legal and institutional reforms, especially of the police and judiciary, that enhance human rights, but implementation has been slow. Exposure of serious police human rights abuses, including extrajudicial executions of criminal suspects, led to police reforms and the removal from office of the police commissioner. Yet impunity remains a serious problem. No perpetrators of the post-election violence have been brought to justice, and the national tribunal agreed to as a condition of the post-election political settlement has yet to be established. As a result, in March 2011 the International Criminal Court summoned six prominent Kenyans to the Hague to answer charges of organizing the post-election violence.

Residents of informal settlements or slums lack adequate housing and access to vital social services like electricity, clean water and sanitation. Much of Nairobi's Deep Sea slum burned down in March 2011 because fire engines could not reach the area. Residents, particularly women, suffer from insecurity and are vulnerable to violence due insufficient sanitation facilities and a lack of police protection. Slum dwellers are also subject to forced evictions; in July 2010 police shot dead an elderly man protesting the demolishing of homes and market stalls in Kabete.

Kenya's violations of the human rights of Somali refugees and asylum-seekers are putting thousands of lives at risk. Somalis fleeing violence in their homeland fail to find refuge in overcrowded and dangerous refugee camps, where they live in “open prisons” due to restrictions on their movements. Somali refugees and asylum-seekers in Kenya are vulnerable to official mistreatment and forcible return to Somalia, where they face the risk of grave human rights abuses.

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