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You failed us on truth report, violence victims tell Uhuru Kenyatta

Journalists for Justice / 01 March 2017

 

Victims of atrocity crimes have accused President Uhuru Kenyatta of failing to act to prevent violence and insecurity affecting six regions in the country.

They accused him of failing to use his power to protect lives and deliver justice in regions that already ravaged by drought and facing the threat of famine.

“We believe that failure to implement the recommendations of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation (that contain measures towards creation of a more stable and cohesive nation) has contributed to the current breakdown of law and order, and rising wave of violence across a country already ravished by widespread famine,” said the victims network in a statement.

Wachira Waheire, the coordinator of the National Victims Network, said in a statement released on the ninth anniversary of the signing of the National Accord and Reconciliation agreement, that the country was polarized along ethnic and political lines as it was in the run-up to the 2007 General Election.

Baringo, Marakwet, Turkana, Samburu, Laikipia,  Mt Elgon and Trans Nzoia in North Rift; Kilgoris, Molo and  Kuresoi in the South Rift; Migori and Kisumu Town in Nyanza; Athi River in Machakos, Tana River in Coast and Mandera, Wajir and Isiolo in North Eastern have been ravaged by a combination of drought and violence in the recent past.

The victims reminded Mr Kenyatta that two years had passed since he announced a Ksh10 billion Restorative Justice Fund, which had not yet been used to assist them. “Given the strength your government enjoys in Parliament and given that you have effectively used it to pass government agenda, why have you failed to invoke the same leverage in pursuing the adoption and full implementation of the TJRC report?” the victims asked in their statement. They expressed fear that failure to implement the TJRC a roadmap to a more cohesive and stable nation that respects the rights of all did not augur well for the stability of the nation as it approaches the August 2017 elections.

The victims also asked Kenyatta to order fast tracking the operationalization of the Restorative Justice Fund and to invoke his powers to effectively contain the insecurity to protect citizens’ lives and property.

They also urged the President to personally intervene in an effort to resolve the public health crisis, by removing and replacing the current Ministry of Health Secretary and the Principal Secretary as a first step towards effective resolution of the stalemate around the strike.

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By Terry Jeff Odhiambo

Gambia stands as a testament to the glacial progress Africa is making in the sphere of human rights. With the country on the mend and efforts under way to bring former President Yahya Jammeh to justice, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights could scarcely have found a better host country to hold its 30th anniversary.

The celebrations in Banjul, between November 1 and 4, 2017, come at a time of hope and restoration for the Gambia after the end of Jammeh’s 22-year dictatorial regime. Jammeh’s government was notorious for its disregard of international human rights norms despite ironically hosting the ACHPR. Arbitrary arrests, threats, enforced disappearances and torture were commonplace. There is still plenty of room for improvement. Attorney General Abubacarr Tambadou, who is also Justice Minister, told the opening of the 35th Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR that notwithstanding the various strides made by nations in the application of human rights instruments, the full enjoyment of basic rights and freedoms since the adoption of the African Charter, continues to face challenges. The Justice minister reiterated that the new government of Gambia had reaffirmed its commitment to protecting human rights and to living up to its position as the human rights capital of Africa. As recently as September 2017 the Gambia, signed five international treaties on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, including the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which seeks to abolish abolition the death penalty. In the coming months, Gambia is committed to ratifying more human rights treaties, including the Convention against Torture, and adopting a new republican constitution within the shortest time possible and developing a system of justice that can look into past atrocities and sustain its democracy. The NGOs Forum, which is usually held on the margins of the ACHPR Ordinary Sessions, is a platform for fostering collaboration between civil society organisations on the one hand and the ACHPR on the other, with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.

Human rights abuses in Africa are a sad reality. The tableau of human suffering on the continent is scar on humanity’s conscience. From South Sudan[1], to the Central African Republic[2] to Egypt[3] and Ethiopia[4], abuses are increasingly being witnessed more than ever before. As one of the bulwarks against this depressing trend, the work of the ACHPR since its inception calls for evaluation. The promise by states and governments to guarantee human dignity and rights – through almost universal endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ever-increasing ratification of international human rights treaties – seems to have had little impact on the daily lives of millions of people in the region.

The sad reality is that the human rights situation in various African countries continues to deteriorate on the ACHPR’s watch. There has been an escalation of threats to the enjoyment of human rights on the continent, ranging from arbitrary arrests, infringement of freedom of association and assembly, police brutality and threats to human rights defenders. 

Since the inception of the ACHPR, seven states have never reported on the situation of human rights to the commission. The states -- Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and South Sudan -- continue to witness some of gravest human rights violations on the continent. Twenty other states have three or more pending state reports -- including Gambia, while 16 other states have one or two pending state reports. Only nine states, namely Kenya, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger and South Africa are up to date with their state reporting obligations. The Democratic Republic of Congo[5], Rwanda[6] and Niger[7] are set to report during the 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR. State reporting procedure is a stock taking that serves as a forum for constructive dialogue and enables the Commission to monitor implementation of the African Charter and identify challenges impeding the realisation of the objects of the African Charter.

Some of the critiques that the Commission has received over time include the failure to implement its findings, such as decisions on: individual communications, concluding observations on State reports, country and thematic resolutions, and recommendations made in relation to missions to countries. 

The 61st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR will see the swearing in of new commissioners and the exit of those whose terms have ended. The ACHPR is composed of 11 Commissioners, who are “chosen from amongst African personalities of the highest reputation, known for their high morality, integrity, impartiality and competence in matters of human and peoples’ rights; particular consideration being given to persons having legal experience” (African Charter, Article 31).[8] They are elected by the African Union Assembly from experts nominated by States parties to the Charter. The Commissioners serve in their personal capacity and are elected for a six-year renewable term.

The upcoming 30th Anniversary celebrations are an opportunity to reaffirm the values and enduring principles enshrined in the African Charter mobilize people around the continent, and take stock of human rights today in Africa. 

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