Nairobi — The Kenyan National Assembly has blocked justice and reparations for victims of human rights violations by failing to consider the findings of a 2013 report by the country’s Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), a coalition of human rights organizations said today. The groups – International Center for Transitional Justice, Human Rights Watch, Kenya Human Rights Commission, The National Victims and Survivors Network, Grace Agenda, Center for Memory and Development, and Wangu Kanja Foundation -said that hundreds of victims are still waiting for justice, medical and psychological help, compensation, and other redress from the government.
Kenya’s transitional justice process started after the contested 2007 presidential elections sparked mass violence, resulting in the deaths of at least 1,133 people, destruction of homes and properties, sexual and gender-based crimes, and forcible displacement of thousands of people. Two transitional justice mechanisms were created: a truth, justice, and reconciliation process, which led to the creation of the commission, and ultimately, proceedings before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Both processes have failed to ensure justice and redress for victims of serious crimes, and impunity and suffering prevail.
“We cannot talk of justice and healing when some Kenyans continue to languish in the pain of past injustices,” said Agatha Ndonga, head of the International Center for Transitional Justice in Kenya. “The Kenyan state has a duty to ensure that all Kenyans who have suffered harm, as laid out in the TJRC report, are duly compensated to restore their dignity.”
The TJRC’s mandate was to examine a wide range of abuses and injustices since independence up to the 2007-2008 political violence period. It made a wide range of recommendations aimed at accountability and reconciliation to heal historical injustices in Kenya. It proposed various forms of reparations for victims and a reparations policy framework, and recommended that the National Assembly develop guidelines to carry them out. The commission presented its final report to President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 21, 2013. Under Kenya’s 2008 Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Act (TJR Act), implementation of the recommendations was to begin immediately after the National Assembly considered the report. However, the National Assembly has, for more than six years now, failed to adopt the TJRC Report and put in place a mechanism to undertake implementation of its recommendations, said the seven organizations.
Kenya’s National Assembly has also made legislative changes that undermine the effectiveness of the transitional justice process. In December 2013, in a move widely criticized by Kenyans as an attempt to undermine truth telling, justice, and reparations for victims, the National Assembly amended the 2008 TJR Act, giving themselves the authority to determine if, when, and how the recommendations would be carried out. The amendment also removed timelines for carrying out the recommendations. Since then, the National Assembly has effectively stalled adoption of the report, the organizations said.
Kenyan authorities have taken some positive steps to address the needs of some victims of past atrocities. However, some of these initiatives have failed because they are haphazard, failed to consult and verify victims claims of abuses, were limited in scope, excluded certain victims, or are undermined by allegations of corruption. For example, although the Kenyan government provided monetary compensation, housing, and land to some people who were displaced or lost property during the 2007-2008 political violence, survivors of rape and other sexual violence have largely been excluded and very little has been done to address their specific medical or other needs.
“Political wars were played out on our bodies, but we have been completely forgotten by the government,” said Jaqueline Mutere, a sexual violence survivor from the 2007 elections violence and member of the National Victims and Survivors Network. “We demand justice and Compensation, including for our children, who were born from the rapes.”
While Kenyan courts have issued judgments in favor of the victims in the Nyayo House torture cases and awarded damages to victims, the government has failed to honor a large number of the payments ordered by the courts, and there are no effective mechanisms to compel the state to pay. Even when damages are paid, there are concerns that the amounts awarded are insufficient compared to the harm suffered by victims. As a result, victims remain at the mercy of the good will of the government to receive what is their right under Kenyan and international law, the groups said.
Kenyan courts have also been slow in addressing harm suffered by victims. At least three constitutional petitions seeking state recognition and reparation for victims of the 2007-2008 elections violence have been pending in court since 2011. These include cases filed by victims of elections-related sexual violence, displacement, and police shootings/extra-judicial killings. Victims in these cases have experienced excessive delays in the justice process due to factors including huge backlogs of cases and frequent transfer of judges.
“For a long time, Kenyan authorities have been speaking from both sides of the mouth; they say they want to address past injustices, but refuse to pay victims their court-awarded damages or courts do not finalize cases,” said Wachira Waheire, a Nyayo House torture survivor and member of the National Victims and Survivors Network. “This has caused great frustration for victims.”
In March 2015, President Kenyatta acknowledged the human rights violations documented by the TJRC, offered an official apology to all victims of past injustices in Kenya, and established a Restorative Justice Fund to offer reparations to victims, as recommended by the commission. Although the move was criticized as disingenuous and as an attempt to cover up years of ineffective investigations and to prevent prosecutions of senior politicians named in the TJRC report, it raised the hopes of victims that reparations would be forthcoming. But in another blow to victims, the money has not been paid because a draft reparation policy and draft regulations prepared by the Attorney General’s office in 2017 have not yet been adopted.
Two current initiatives expand opportunities for Kenyan authorities to provide redress and right past wrongs against victims. A private member’s bill, Kenya Reparations Bill 2017, was introduced in parliament by Gladys Shollei to provide for recognition and reparations for victims of human rights violations in Kenya, including victims of the 2007-2008 election violence. The bill specifically mentions the need to include survivors of sexual violence. Parliament should adopt this bill, and the government should immediately carry out its provisions.
Another process, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), meant to address persistent causes of disunity in Kenya, can open discussions about implementing many of the TJRC’s recommendations. However, ultimately, the BBI cannot be a substitute for the broader process and a more victim-centered outcome of the TJRC.
“Victims of historical injustices have waited for years for Kenyan authorities to do what is right, and it is imperative for Kenyan authorities to carefully plan and deliver reparations for victims to alleviate their suffering,” said Agnes Odhiambo, senior Africa women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “As government authorities continue to develop other initiatives to reconcile Kenyans and build a shared prosperity, they should prioritize adoption and implementation of the TJRC report.”
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.