By Irũngũ Houghton,
Coming days after the establishment of a Transition Committee overseeing the handover of power by August 23, the 76-page Jubilee Government human rights scorecard elicited mixed reactions. Are human rights and fundamental freedoms any better since UhuRuto were elected in 2013? What legacy must the next government build on?
Published by the Nubian Rights Forum, People’s Health Movement, White Ribbon Alliance, Umande Trust, Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, Pamoja Trust, HIVOS, Wangu Kanja Foundation, Defenders Coalition and Amnesty International Kenya, “Missed Opportunities: A Scorecard on the Jubilee Administration (2013-2022)” took five months to research and publish.
In an indication of their openness to independent criticism, the government took up their right of reply and admirably responded to an earlier draft. The scorecard assigns 10 red cards, 12 yellow cards and an overall score of 46 per cent across the two terms of the Jubilee administration. Jubilee scores highest in healthcare provision, the recognition of inter-sex persons and media freedom. It scores lowest in failure to stop extra-judicial killings, disappearances, unsafe abortions, food security and forced evictions.
The scorecard also notes that the right to digital privacy was a major concern and enacting the Data Protection Act is a major step forward.
The scorecard notes that while human rights organisations required to monitor and advocate full realisation of fundamental freedoms and human rights, all governments are also constitutionally obligated to realise and fulfil the same. Creating the environment for safety, dignity and inclusion for all human beings is not optional, it is an obligation all party manifestos must embrace.
The scorecard provides actionable deliverables for the first 100, 180 and 365 days of the next national administration. They include implementing neglected laws, auditing, and release of suspects unlawfully in custody, new anti-corruption measures and budgetary priorities.
Simplistic reactions to the scorecard declaring Jubilee a disaster or the report is a mere exercise in naming and shaming an outgoing administration, are unhelpful. The report is more important. Statecraft is intention, effort and most importantly, impact. Rather than a litany of missed opportunities, both policymakers and human rights defenders must appreciate the complexity and identify pathways towards effective rights implementation.
The question “but has Jubilee made a difference in ten years?”, intrigued me. Under the ICC thunderstorm, actions to curb unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, grand corruption, identity-based discrimination, and violence was limited. Some 500 police officers interviewed by IPOA in 2012 revealed 50 per cent had participated in or witnessed police misconduct. Yet, in a significant judgement also that year, six AP officers were sentenced to death for killing seven taxi drivers for the first time.
The intimidation and harassment of 8,000 NGOs during the first term shifted to a more enabling environment in the second despite the non-operationalisation of the PBO Act. Persistent threats to close Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps were not acted on. The new Refugee Act (2021) elevates Kenya as a sanctuary nation with the opportunity for refugees to integrate and earn their own livelihoods. Stateless communities like the Makonde, Shona and the Nubians gained citizenship.
Underfunding independent oversight institutions, deliberate recruitment delays and cold wars with the Executive however remains a perennial concern. So too, has been online and offline hate speech and incitement.
Governments, like individuals, are not failures, nor do they fail. It is their actions that fail. We are not our histories, but we are, the choices we make today. Despite the trend of police violence, the current collaboration between human rights organisations and the police service, as well as the latter’s professionalism in this current electoral environment must be applauded.
With 4 million undecided voters, the scorecard offers voters a rights-based lens to listen to the deputy presidential and presidential debates this week and make the right choices on August 9.
First published in the Saturday Standard 16th July, 2022. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard.
The Irũngũ Houghton is Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director and writes in his personal capacity. Email: [email protected]