Defending human rights is a personal call that requires commitment and determination to achieve. Whereas resources are vital in facilitating human rights work, we do not need money to speak out against human rights violations taking place in our sight. Some of the actions are as simple as asking the violator to stop what they are doing and letting them know the repercussions of what they are doing.
According to the UN, “There is no strict definition of human rights defenders because they can be anyone who acts at any moment for any human rights. A human rights defender can be a man, a woman, a lawyer, a student, an NGO’s employee, a doctor or any person from any profession, of all ages, nationalities, religions, etc. A person can also be considered as a human rights defender whether she promotes and protects human rights her whole life, occasionally, or only once”
Due to the advancement of the digital age, HRDs use different advocacy efforts in advancing the human rights course. A group of young HRDs from Kisumu Peer Educators network have resorted in using sports, art and media production in undertaking their human rights work. We did an interview with the Chief Creative Officer, Leakey Ochieng.
For how long have you worked as a human rights defender using art?
My name is Leakey Ochieng, a 28 years old Human Rights Defender, LGBTIQ activist, Artist and Documentary producer. Currently working with Kisumu Peer Educators as Chief Creative Officer. I have been an LGBTIQ activist and HRD for the past six years. I have been doing this through Artistic work and media production through documentation of LGBTIQ stories within western region of Kenya.
Why use sports, media and art in creating awareness on human rights?
The main purpose for using arts and Media as one of the tool is mainly because it depicts the real life stories of persons or the real life happening within our community. The targeted audience can easily relate to the stories through catchy graphics and motion pictures as they are interactive and easy to consume. At Kisumu Peer Educators, our main art and media work is based on real life stories of LGBTIQ persons. The work is done in an effort of creating awareness and to sensitize members of the public on the need to embrace sexual and gender diversity within our society. The work also encourages the community to end the high rate of violations that are attributed by the burden of stigma and discrimination towards SGM persons due to harsh cultural and religious beliefs.
What advice would you give other HRDs on innovative ways to address human rights?
First I would love to give out my gratitude for the good work that is being done by HRDs across the country on the thirst of protecting fundamental values of Human rights that is entitled to every human being, not forgetting young HRDs who have also contributed greatly to the protection of human rights.
My advice to fellow HRDs is for us to archive the work we do. There is need for us to use inclusiveness approach to our work as this will create a platform of bringing everybody on board. Providing a platform creates an enabling environment for dialogue as well as understanding were the gaps exist and create solutions to these problems.
Which recommendations do you have to CSOs on ways to create employment opportunities for young people as agents of change?
I believe the future of this nation is on the hands of the youths. I would urge the CSOs to create a platform of employment to the youths in different sectors and not only that but as well as to push or lobby for the policies that can be used to create employment opportunity to our youths.
“Nothing for US without US ,“ Ends Leakey
13 September 2018
Amnesty International, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and Independent Medico-Legal Unit and Mathare Social Justice Centre have provisionally welcomed the announcement of far reaching reforms to increase police accountability, discipline and effectiveness by harmonizing policing operations. Placing the Administrative, Regular Police Service units and other security agencies under one command structure will go a long way to creating public accountability and the efficient deployment of personnel and resources in the public interest. The above reforms should ensure centralized investigation, detention and service delivery.
“Holding all police and security officers operating in the same area under a central chain of command accelerates their accountability to the Constitution. Article 238(2) b provides for national security to be pursued within the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The police power to use force and firearms comes with obligations and responsibilities that must not be abused,” says Peter Kiama, Executive Director, Independent Medico-Legal Unit.
The organisations also welcome the promise of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate unlawful police killings in Mombasa county.“This declaration is in line with the proposed reforms. It sends a clear message to all Police Officers and Security agents that they will be held personally responsible for acts of police brutality, abductions and extra-judicial killings in future. The taskforce must also review incidents and cases from all over the country with a view of investigating and prosecuting and investigating all unlawful actions by the Police and security agencies,” says Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director Irũngũ Houghton.
Kenya urgently needs radical police reforms that hold individual officers and their commanders accountable for past unlawful deaths, police brutality, torture and forced disappearances. Eliminating extra-judicial executions and excessive use of force is a pre-condition for restoring public confidence, police morale and creating safety for all Kenyans. The Director of Public Prosecutions must investigate every case and prosecute those found culpable in fair trials. The Attorney General must also now initiate legislation to explicitly criminalize extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances in line with international human rights standards.
“The reforms must also ensure that police oversight mechanisms work as provided for in the constitution. The National Police Service, Independent Police Oversight Authority, Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, National Police Service Commission, Director for Public Prosecutions, Internal Affairs Unit must be sufficiently resourced, be independent and must work with human rights organizations to ensure accountability”, says Kamau Ngugi, Executive Director, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders.
The organisations reiterates that lawful and effective policing and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms are two sides of the same coin. The new reforms must not undermine the positive approaches of most Administration Police Officers to mediate between community members and protect them. Protecting the right of police officers to life, adequate conditions and effective equipment is also critical. Police officers are a vital part of the Kenyan society. They too deserve all the rights and protection accorded by the constitution.
For more information, please call Francis on + 254721443397 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Intolerance towards LGBTI individuals and organisations is exacerbated by laws which make same sex activity illegal. This creates an unsafe environment for LGBTI individuals to live openly in regard to their sexual identity and orientation, and hinders their access to health, safety and other public services. Despite Kenya being one of the more progressive countries in East Africa regarding LGBQ awareness and rights, the nation still prohibits LGBQ persons. From 2010 to 2014, Kenya prosecuted 595 people for their sexuality, and LGBTI organization, based in Nairobi, have been working to reverse strict laws prohibiting gay relationships. More so, ITGNC HRDs together with their constituents face a number of challenges and issues in their work. Their work is never safe even where they have to set up an office due to fear of victimization by either the landlord or the community around. Security is not guaranteed when they are training their members especially now that they have to do it in their office compound. The sensation about it all turns to be a security threat to them. They have to be mindful of socialization issues and places.
NCHRD-K in partnership with GALCK developed a SOGIE guide and a training manual for the SOGIE community in 2017. The guide provides practical step- by step ways to ensure safety and security of LGBTI persons and SOGIE HRDs/ HROs that recognize and work to defend SOGIE as human rights in Kenya. It presents key concepts of safety, protection and security. It looks at risks and threats, and how LGBQ persons and SOGIE HRDs can respond to them and also provide information and explanation on what contributes to security risks and threats.
With all this in mind there is great need to sensitize ITGNC HRDs on the guide in order to enhance their ability to protect themselves in their often dangerous working conditions as well as contribute to enhanced efficiency in their efforts to protect those whose rights have been violated. NCHRD- K also feels there is need to conduct an extensive security needs mapping on ITGNC HRDs while sensitizing them as well on the Safety and Protection guide in order to enable them have a wider reach into the community.
It is for these and other reasons that NCHRD-K convened one-day dialogues with ITGNC HRDs to better understand the security concerns they face in the course of their human rights work and strategies in place to mitigate against those concerns for the purposes of developing a security guide and training manual for the ITGNC community.
To carry out a needs assessment security mapping amongst ITGNC HRDs from Nairobi, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western and Coast regions in order to better understand the security concerns they face in the course of their human rights work and strategies in place to mitigate against those concerns.
The identification of safety and protection measures amongst ITGNC HRDs working on SOGIE issues.
The development of sustainable safety and protection measures informed by ITGNC HRDS security needs to ensure the safe conduct of their human rights work.
 In East Africa, Threats to LGBTQ Rights Intensify, Source; http://www.passblue.com/2017/12/12/in-east-africa-threats-to-lgbtq-rights-intensify/ , last accessed 21st July 2018
In a democracy, the authority of the government derives solely from the consent of the governed and is realised by holding free and fair elections. But from 1969, Kenya was a de facto one-party state and in June 1982, the National Assembly of Kenya passed Article 2A of the Constitution of Kenya, officially declaring Kenya a de jure one-party state. This saw the consolidation of power within the ruling party, and opposition leaders and citizens at large were unable to speak freely, assemble, or move around the country to offer alternative voices, speak their criticisms of the government openly and bring alternative policies and candidates to voters. State-sponsored repression that included arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, prolonged trials arising from trumped-up charges, torture and other human rights violations were meted out on citizens, the academic community, journalists and politicians who expressed dissenting opinions or were perceived to be doing so by state agents.
Between 1982 and 1992, political leaders and human rights defenders (HRDs) in Kenya came together, amid serious repression, to champion multi-partyism, demanding democratic elections that would meet the threshold of being competitive, periodic, inclusive and definitive, and would thus give power back to citizens who would enjoy broad freedom to criticise the government, publish their criticisms and present alternative views. These efforts were met with resistance and those at the forefront experienced arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, enforced disappearance, threats and harassment.
The efforts of the reformers, as they were popularly known, won the support of foreign missions, primarily from western states, and bilateral and multilateral donors, which demanded that the Kenyan government should embrace democracy with all its tenets of good governance, accountability and transparency as well as respect for human rights as a condition for aid. Faced with protests, boycotts and international pressure, the government caved in, albeit reluctantly, to the demands for political pluralism, which was restored in 1992 with the repeal of Article 2A.
It should be recalled that the repeal of Article 2A to allow for multiparty politics was not complemented by other legal and institutional reforms to enable a thriving democracy. This was compounded by state efforts to scuttle the conduct of free and fair elections by persistent state-orchestrated inter-ethnic hatred that translated into political and ethnic clashes that took place in 1992 and in every election period since the introduction of multiparty democracy in Kenya.
The climax of simmering ethnic tensions was the eruption of violence following the 2007 general elections that plunged Kenya into political, economic and humanitarian crisis. The conflict saw serious human rights violations committed in a context where over 600,000 Kenyans were internally displaced and close to 2,000 people were killed. The stalemate between rival presidential candidates Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki was resolved in February 2008 following the negotiation and signing of the National Peace Accord and the subsequent enactment of the National Peace Accord and Reconciliation Act. Among the agenda items this laid out was the need for a new constitution, which was drafted and promulgated after a referendum in 2010.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) and HRDs in Kenya once again played a critical role in the documentation of human rights violations, championing justice for the victims and accountability for perpetrators. The documentation of human rights violations by HRDs was particularly critical in laying the foundation for the investigation of the 2007 election violations by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and subsequent prosecution of six individuals believed to have been most responsible. The role of CSOs and HRDs in documenting violations has ever since put them in the crosshairs of the political elite, who have targeted individual HRDs with threats, harassment and intimidation, and have aimed negative rhetoric at CSOs with the aim of denting their credibility in society. There is also an attack on the media and journalists, despite the constitutional protection of media freedom and media independence.
Faced with a state increasingly intolerant of the demands made by critical media and CSOs for accountability, integrity and good governance, CSOs have developed survival measures that have included collaboration and joint actions. Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, for example, was created after the events of 2007 as a collective of CSOs committed to accountability and justice for victims of post-electoral violence. The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya (NCHRD-K) was also established as a platform for HRDs to respond to the risks they and their organisations face and work towards expanded space for civic engagement.
During the election period, NCHRD-K was preoccupied with the safety of HRDs and election monitors, as their work has increasingly been criminalised. The instigation of early warning systems and training for networks of HRDs and CSOs were among measures put in place to mitigate personal risks against HRDs and CSO personnel.
The reality of state repression against CSOs and HRDs in Kenya is well documented. Attempts by CSOs to challenge the validity of the candidatures of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto to stand as president and running mate in 2013, while they were under investigation and indeed indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity, as prohibited by chapter 6 of the constitution on leadership and integrity, were unsuccessful. The High Court ruled against the petitioners – the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists – and ordered that they bear the costs of the suit, amounting to over 100 million Kenyan shillings (approx. US$1 million), despite the case being a matter of public interest. Further, organisations deemed critical of the government, including the Africa Centre for Open Governance, were negatively profiled, branded as supporters of the opposition and accused of advancing the agenda of their western masters. This negative rhetoric has been propagated for years and has created a volatile environment for HRDs and CSOs to operate in.
The relationship between the state and CSOs has soured and the state has implemented measures that have steadily shrunk civic space. Numerous attempts were made to amend the 2013 Public Benefits Organizations (PBO) Act before its operationalisation to include provisions that were repressive to the work of CSOs. These were coupled with ongoing targeting of individuals and organisations, malicious prosecutions, deregistration of CSOs and eventual transfer of government responsibility for civil society from the Ministry of Devolution and Planning to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
This repressive environment set the stage for the 2017 elections, which again saw CSOs and HRDs take up their role as election and human rights monitors. Election monitors were deployed across Kenya by CSOs and CSO networks, including the Election Observation Group, Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu and NCHRD-K. Strategies that had been perfected over the years were put in place to document and report on human rights violations and electoral malpractices effectively.
Previous elections had set a precedent for the reprisals to be faced by HRDs and CSOs. It was therefore necessary to enhance the capacity of election monitors for effective monitoring and documentation as well as able management of their physical and digital security to ensure individual response to risks. In an effort to localise protection measures NCHRD-K created linkages between election monitors from various institutions, connecting them with each other and with service providers – doctors, lawyers and counsellors – at the county level. NCHRD-K also focused on establishing strong working relationships between HRDs and relevant state institutions concerned with election management to facilitate an efficient flow of information for timely reporting, remedy and urgent response.
In addition, NCHRD-K developed a secure mobile app, Mtetezi (Defender), to allow for effective and efficient communication. The app also has a panic button to trigger urgent response by NCHRD-K and its partners. Despite all these measures, monitors, observers, journalists and HRDs still faced threats and intimidation, arrests, negative profiling, physical attacks and the limitation of the freedom of association during the election period.
Despite these challenges and security concerns CSOs and HRDs do not relent in their struggle for democracy, accountability and good governance. CSOs and HRDs need to have a multifaceted approach to ensuring their safety and security. This should involve network formation and collaboration at county, national, regional and international levels to act as a deterrent as well as to mitigate against and respond to risks to HRDs. This will require buy-in from HRDs, CSOs and even selected state institutions – locally and from across the globe – which should come together to stand in solidarity with Kenyan HRDs and CSOs, in order to profile their situation and amplify their voices in the global arena.
Intolerance towards LGB/ITGNC individuals and organizations is exacerbated by laws which make same sex activity illegal. This creates an unsafe environment for LGB/ITGNC individuals to live openly in regard to their sexual identity and orientation, and hinders their access to health, safety and other public services. Despite Kenya being one of the more progressive countries in East Africa regarding LGB/ITGNC awareness and rights, the nation still prohibits the group. From 2010 to 2014, Kenya prosecuted 595 people for their sexuality, and LGBTI organization, based in Nairobi, have been working to reverse strict laws prohibiting gay relationships. More so, ITGNC HRDs together with their constituents face a number of challenges and issues in their work. Their work is never safe even where they have to set up an office due to fear of victimization by either the landlord or the community around. Security is not guaranteed when they are training their members especially now that they have to do it in their office compound. The sensation about it all turns to be a security threat to them. They have to be mindful of socialization issues and places.
NCHRD-K in partnership with GALCK developed a SOGIE guide and a training manual for the SOGIE community in 2017. The guide provides practical step- by step ways to ensure safety and security of LGBTI persons and SOGIE HRDs/ HROs that recognize and work to defend SOGIE as human rights in Kenya. It presents key concepts of safety, protection and security. It looks at risks and threats, and how SOGIE persons and SOGIE HRDs can respond to them and also provide information and explanation on what contributes to security risks and threats.
With all this in mind their is great need to sensitize SOGIE HRDs on the guide in order to enhance their ability to protect themselves in their often dangerous working conditions as well as contribute to enhanced efficiency in their efforts to protect those whose rights have been violated. NCHRD- K has also noted their is need of having a conversational circle amongst SOGIE HRDs and the mainstream CSO HRDs in order to enhance the voicing of SOGIE HRDs to articulate their issues better while enabling the mainstream CSO HRDs voice SOGIE issues effectively.
It is for these and other reasons that NCHRD-K convenes a one-day dialogue with HRDs and CSOs working on SOGIE issues. The activities are designed to address the legal and political side of human rights work as well as the individual and emotional aspect of it that mostly becomes relevant in situations of intimidation, persecution and detention. This is confounded in the conviction that only a comprehensive strategy will effectively enhance HRDs’ capacity to execute their work more efficiently which will translate into improved ability of self-protection.
To convene a conversational circle amongst SOGIE HRDs and the mainstream CSO HRDs in order to enhance the voicing of LGBQ HRDs to articulate their issues better while enabling the mainstream CSO HRDs voice SOGIE issues effectively.
A working framework on safety and protection measures amongst SOGIE HRDs and mainstream HROs working on/ supporting SOGIE issues.