• ‘Civil society needs a compelling counter-narrative’

    Ahead of the publication of the 2018 State of Civil Society Report on the theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’, we are interviewing civil society activists and leaders about their work to promote democratic practices and principles, the challenges they encounter and the victories they score in doing so. CIVICUS speaks to Lynnette Micheni from PAWA254, an organisation that fosters social accountability and active citizenship among young people, mainly through arts and media.

    1.Your organisation, PAWA254, defines itself as a movement of young, socially conscious artists and activists. How do you connect art and activism in your work?

    We use art, pop culture and media as an empowerment tool. We believe in artistic expression as a means for social change and the deepening of democracy, and we harness it to advocate for the rights and responsibilities of Kenyans, and against social and political vices, including corruption and abuse of power. As a result of our work, we have seen ‘artivists’ multiply, and a movement of active, freethinking youth emerge in our country.

    We work with a variety of arts and media, including photography, film, spoken word, poetry graffiti, cartoons, blogging and writivism, which has opened such great spaces for accountability in Kenya.

    Our programs are two pronged: some focus on the economic development of emerging creatives and activists and others on social accountability, all the while leveraging the arts, pop culture and media.

    The former entails developing the capacity of emerging artists and facilitating the integration of artistic expression for livelihoods development through the provision of a state-of-the-art co- working space consisting of creative suites, professional equipment, skills transfer and networking opportunities. PAWA convenes key annual events such as the PAWA Festival, an annual street festival that showcases East Africa’s visual and performing arts and disseminates the Kenya Photography Awards.

    Our social accountability programs entail using art and pop culture as a form of civic engagement through dance, poetry, graffiti, theatre, music, film and photography to spark civic participation by focusing attention on emerging social concerns in the country and to prompt action in the process. Key current interventions include Off-The-Record, a weekly space where participants can express their thoughts on issues affecting society strictly off the record, with no fear of censorship or repercussions; #JengaHustle, an initiative aimed at advancing policies regarding employment and decent jobs for youth; #EmergingVoices, an intergenerational leadership development project aimed at empowering emerging social justice organisers and #ARealManIs, a transformative masculinity project aimed at leveraging media in mobilising young men’s fight against gender-based violence.

    2. Does artivism, and activism in general, face any challenges in Kenya?

    Indeed. Civil society is currently fighting a battle for its legitimacy, and it’s not winning. From every podium, including national television, the government is pushing a narrative discrediting civil society. Last year, two prominent human rights civil society organisations (CSOs) were shut down over their alleged non-compliance with regulations, including tax and employment laws, and for operating without a licence. There have been attempts to de-register other organisations as well.

    The prevailing narrative is that activists and CSOs are donor-funded disrupters. The idea is also being disseminated that people do it for the money. If you mobilise, you are asked: ‘how much have you been paid?’ – like there is no other driver than money. Ideas or visions of change don’t count. They will say that critical civil society activists and organisations are ‘Soros people’ - implying they are being funded by the Open Society Foundations and are therefore puppets of foreign interests. It is very difficult to counter this narrative when it is constantly being propagated on national television.

    It is also a challenge that there is a growing apathy amongst young people who are very well aware of their constitutional rights, resulting in an overreliance on individual activists.

    3. What is being done in response to this?

    What needs to be done is put together and disseminate a compelling counter-narrative. We know this is difficult because the problem has deep roots. So, the first thing we need to do is understand why it is so easy for governments to target civil society, in Kenya and elsewhere.

    We first heard about ‘fake news’ a couple of years ago, and it was all happening far away, in the USA. But the trend has progressed very fast, and in the context of presidential elections last year we suffered an epidemic of fake news. It was all over social media, which is a major source of information for Kenyan citizens, and it distorted the political conversation, and maybe the outcomes of the elections as well. Young people, the group that most uses social media, were particularly misled by fake news stories aimed at stirring conflict and dividing civil society.

    The abundance of fake news can be very disconcerting for young people that have little experience with interpreting data and are ill-equipped to tell the difference between legitimate and fake information. How do you sustain online movements while avoiding the infiltration of narratives based on fake news? How do you manage to bring online movements offline and keep them going in a context in which the political discussion is distorted to such extent?

    Young people are also particularly vulnerable to empty electoral promises of jobs and other benefits. Lots of promises are made at election times but no policies are ever enacted to fulfil them afterward. And people keep believing every time. The problem is that we have a whole generation of people who form their opinions based on headlines, and also build their activism on the basis of headlines – and under the headlines, there is usually no real content.

    The government is aware that evidence-based activism is lacking, and they do have smart and better prepared people, so they sometimes invite civil society to the table and pair them with a government technician, even on live television. Civil society activists are not always in a position to prepare adequately to respond. So it is difficult to connect and sustain civil society struggles, and instead it is so easy for the government to co-opt civil society actors.

    This is why we work to empower people, and young people in particular, to seek facts, to interpret them and understand their implications, to make decisions based on them, and to use them to monitor the government, hold it accountable and ensure it responds to citizens’ needs. We believe that arts, pop culture and media remain a viable tool to engage with the youth and are keen to continue investing in them.

    Civic space in Kenya is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with PAWA254 through itswebsite orFacebook page, or follow@Pawa254 and@LynnetteMicheni on Twitter.

  • As the climate crisis intensifies, so does the crackdown on environmental activism, finds new report

    New research brief from the CIVICUS Monitor examines the crackdown of environmental activism and profiles important victories civil society has scored in the fight for climate justice.

    • Environmental protests are being criminalised and met with repression on all continents
    • State authorities and private companies are common perpetrators of violations to civic freedoms
    • Despite the risks and restrictions, activist groups continue to score important victories to advance climate justice.

    As world leaders meet in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Negotiations (COP26), peaceful environmental activists are being threatened, silenced and criminalised around the world. The host of this year's meeting is one of many countries where activists are regularly facing rights violations.

    New research from the CIVICUS Monitor looks at the common tactics and restrictions being used by governments and private companies to suppress environmental movements. The research brief “Defenders of our planet: Resilience in the face of restrictions” focuses on three worrying trends: Bans and restrictions on protests; Judicial harassment and legal persecution; and the use of violence, including targeted killings.

    As the climate crisis intensifies, activists and civil society groups continue to mobilise to hold policymakers and corporate leaders to account. From Brazil to South Africa, activists are putting their lives on the line to protect lands and to halt the activities of high-polluting industries. The most severe rights abuses are often experienced by civil society groups that are standing up to the logging, mining and energy giants who are exploiting natural resources and fueling global warming.

    As people take to the streets, governments have been instituting bans that criminalise environmental protests. Recently governments have used COVID-19 as a pretext to disrupt and break up demonstrations. Data from the CIVICUS Monitor indicates that the detention of protesters and the use of excessive force by authorities are becoming more prevalent.

    In Cambodia in May 2021, three environmental defenders were sentenced to 18 to 20 months in prison for planning a protest  against the filling of a lake in the capital. While in Finland this past June, over 100 activists were arrested for participating in a protest calling for the government to take urgent action on climate change. From authoritarian countries to  mature democracies, the research also profiles those who have been put behind bars for peacefully protesting.

    “Silencing activists and denying them of their fundamental civic rights is another tactic being used by leaders to evade and delay action on climate change” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Research Lead for the CIVICUS Monitor. “Criminalising nonviolent protests has become a troubling indicator that governments are not committed to saving the planet .”

    The report shows that many of the measures being deployed by governments to restrict rights are not compatible with international law. Examples of courts and legislative bodies reversing attempts to criminalise nonviolent climate protests are few and far between.

    Despite the increased risks and restrictions facing environmental campaigners, the report also shows that a wide range of campaigns have scored important victories, including the closure of mines and numerous hazardous construction projects. Equally significant has been the rise of climate litigation by activist groups. Ironically, as authorities take activists to court for exercising their fundamental right to protest, activist groups have successfully filed lawsuits against governments and companies in over 25 countries for failing to act on climate change.


  • CIVICUS Calls For Calm and Respect of Voters’ Rights in Kenya Elections

    As Kenyans go to the polls tomorrow to vote in general elections, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS calls on the authorities, leaders of political parties and communities to adhere to democratic principles and respect the will of all Kenyans.

    Kenya has a history of violence during election seasons and fear of a recurrence has dominated the period of political campaigns. Kenyan authorities and leaders of political parties have a responsibility to ensure a peaceful and transparent election, which will enhance Kenya’s democratic credentials.

    Human rights violations committed over the last few months have raised security concerns and increased calls for all involved in the vote to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the 2007-2008 elections in which over 1,000 people were killed and more than 500,000 internally displaced.  

    Last week, Chris Msando, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) head of Information, Communication and Technology, was found dead after being missing for three days.  Msando had played a key role in the development of a new electronic ballot and voter registration system and complained of death threats shortly before he was killed. 

    Since Msando oversaw the new electronic system regarded as key to eliminating vote rigging and ensuring the credibility of the elections, his killing raises serious concerns over threats of violence related to electoral malpractices. Prior to the adoption of the new system, Kenya’s High Court nullified a contract awarded to Dubai-based Al-Ghurair Printing and Publishing, a company with alleged links to President Uhuru Kenyatta.  Following the court’s 9 July ruling, President Kenyatta and his Jubilee Coalition questioned the independence of the judiciary and accused it of supporting the political opposition.  

    The election campaign period has also been dominated by an exchange of accusations between President Uhuru Kenyatta and main opposition leader, Raila Odinga.  The President accused Odinga of trying to divide Kenya and provoke violence and Odinga, in turn, accused the President of planning to rig the vote. While the 2013 elections were largely peaceful, violence erupted following the 2007 elections after political figures encouraged supporters to protest election results.  

    “Kenya’s politics is largely based on ethnic affiliations and the views of political figures are taken seriously.  It will be very important for leaders to avoid using language that may incite the population and instigate violence during and after tomorrow’s elections.   Said David Kode, CIVICUS’ Head of Advocacy and Campaigns.

    There has been violence among rival parties’ supporters during the nominations of candidates for positions of president, legislators and local councillors.  Human rights defenders and journalists have also been attacked, intimidated and vilified as they sought to access voter registration stations and polling booths and report on political campaigns. On 18 June 2017, Walter Menya of the Nation newspaper was arrested and held at an undisclosed location for two days before being released without charge. Some communities have heightened tensions by accusing activists and journalists of anti-nationalist agendas for making representations at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 polls. 

    CIVICUS calls on the Kenyan authorities, politicians and leaders to act in a responsible manner and respect the will of the electorate during and after the elections. 

    Kenya’s civic space is rated as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe. It is currently on the Monitor’s Watch List of countries where there are serious and ongoing threats to civic space.

    Watch our interview with activist and poet Sitawa Namwalie talking about about her hopes and fears for 2017 Kenyan Elections. 


    For more information, please contact:

    Grant Clark

    Senior Media Advisor



    T: +27 63 567 9719


    David Kode

    Head of Advocacy and Campaigns



  • CIVICUS calls for urgent investigation into death of woman human rights defender in Kenya

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS, has called on authorities in Kenya to urgently investigate the death of a woman rights defender.

    The body of activist Caroline Mwatha Ochieng was discovered almost a week after she had been reported missing on 6 February 2019.

  • CIVICUS stands with indigenous peoples and calls for a new social contract

    Global civil society society alliance, CIVICUS, stands in solidarity with  indigenous peoples in celebrating the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, which this year is calling for a new social contract that puts the voices, needs and concerns of indigenous peoples at the forefront. 

    Since 1994, the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples marks an opportunity to celebrate Indigenous Peoples, and provide an opportunity to raise awareness on critical issues relevant to indigenous peoples.

    Across the world, indigenous peoples marginalised and excluded by governments from participating in public affairs. They routinely face evictions from their lands without compensation, and are currently impacted by the harshest consequences of climate change. Moreover, human rights defenders seeking to protect and promote the human rights of indigenous peoples continue to be killed, intimidated, and harassed for defending their indigenous land and natural resources, and for advocating for the rights of indigenous communities.  

    On 20 April 2021, Liliana Pena Chocue was killed by unidentified individuals in Colombia. In February 2021, two other indigenous rights defenders. Yenes Ríos Bonsano and Herasmo García Grau were killed in Peru. All three were members of Indigenous patrol and forest control groups.

    Across the world, indigenous peoples communities have had their lands appropriated for development projects without their consent. These include the Himba community in Namibia, Biafra Indigenous People of Nigeria, Basarwa in Botswana, Benet and Batwa in Uganda, Ogiek and Endorois in Kenya, to name just a few. 

    The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples gives indigenous peoples the right “to maintain, protect and have access to their ancestral lands, religious and cultural sites. 

    CIVICUS stands in solidarity with indigenous communities across the world that continue to experience human rights violations from state and non-state actors. In this regard CIVICUS supports the demands of Sengwer indigenous people of Kenya to regain their ancestral lands at Embobut. CIVICUS stands with Batwa indigenous peoples in the Great Lakes region, the Baka and Bagyelis in Cameroon who remain vulnerable, marginalised, and landless with no compensation following the eviction from their ancestral lands by their governments.

    “In this period of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, focusing on Sustainable Development, and specifically, its pledge of “leave no one behind”, every stakeholder must ensure that indigenous peoples are not left behind in every process of development, including promoting and protecting their rights, if SDGs are to be effectively achieved,” said Paul Mulindwa CIVICUS’ Advocacy and Campaign’s Lead for Africa.

    As we celebrate the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, CIVICUS calls on state and non-state actors to 

    1. Carry out independent investigations into the killings of all indigenous rights activists this year and hold the culprits to account. 
    2. Ensure that the rights and identities of indigenous peoples are recognised and respected at all times 
    3. Ensure that the benefits from commercial or development projects done in their ancestral lands are shared with affected communities 
    4. Empower indigenous peoples and their future generations to break the social, legal, political, and economic barriers that have kept their communities from the benefits of development and transformation taking place in Africa
    5. Guarantee effective consultations with Indigenous Peoples to obtain their free, prior and informed consent for decisions that affect them.
    6. Ensure effective participation and inclusion of indigenous peoples in public spheres.
    7. Promote and protect the land rights of indigenous peoples by ensuring clear land tenure systems that promotes communal ownership.
  • CIVICUS warns of grave dangers to civil society activists in Kenya

    Johannesburg. 18 May 2010. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation warns that the operating environment for civil society in Kenya remains fraught with danger. As the spotlight is focused on impunity in Kenya by the international community including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and special representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), civil society activists are facing grave risks.

    Groups advocating for ending impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations and those that have documented the violations are particularly threatened. On 4 May 2010, a meeting organised by Bunge la Mwannanchi on the post election violence in Kenya was dispersed and four of its activists were detained and later released without charges. In April this year, Kenneth Kirimi, a member of the civil society group, Release Political Prisoners, was arbitrarily detained and severely tortured by security operatives requiring him to need medical treatment. He was questioned with regard to his work on collecting information about extra-judicial killings and sharing of information with the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston.

  • CIVICUS warns of grave dangers to civil society activists in Kenya

    Johannesburg. 18 May 2010. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation warns that the operating environment for civil society in Kenya remains fraught with danger. As the spotlight is focused on impunity in Kenya by the international community including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and special representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), civil society activists are facing grave risks.

    Groups advocating for ending impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations and those that have documented the violations are particularly threatened. On 4 May 2010, a meeting organised by Bunge la Mwannanchi on the post election violence in Kenya was dispersed and four of its activists were detained and later released without charges. In April this year, Kenneth Kirimi, a member of the civil society group, Release Political Prisoners, was arbitrarily detained and severely tortured by security operatives requiring him to need medical treatment. He was questioned with regard to his work on collecting information about extra-judicial killings and sharing of information with the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston.

  • COP26 : « Nous attendons des obligations plus strictes en vertu du principe de responsabilité commune et différenciée »

    Charles WanguhuÀ la veille de la 26ème Conférence des parties des Nations unies sur le changement climatique (COP26), qui se tiendra à Glasgow, au Royaume-Uni, du 31 octobre au 12 novembre 2021, CIVICUS a interrogé des militants, des dirigeants et des experts de la société civile sur les défis environnementaux auxquels ils sont confrontés dans leur contexte, les actions qu’ils entreprennent pour y faire face et leurs attentes pour le sommet à venir.

    CIVICUS s’entretient avecCharles Wanguhu, activiste social et coordinateur de la Plateforme de la société civile pour le pétrole et le gaz kényans, un forum où les organisations de la société civile (OSC) participantes partagent des informations, planifient et élaborent ensemble des stratégies pour un plaidoyer commun, s’engagent auprès des agences gouvernementales, des entreprises et des médias, et informent et sensibilisent le public.

    Quel est le problème environnemental de votre pays sur lequel vous travaillez ?

    La Plateforme de la société civile pour le pétrole et le gaz kényans est une organisation à but non lucratif qui œuvre pour la durabilité du secteur pétrolier et gazier au Kenya, et pour des transitions énergétiques justes. Avec la découverte de pétrole dans le comté de Turkana au Kenya, notre travail s’est orienté vers le plaidoyer en faveur de cadres politiques et juridiques garantissant la justice environnementale et la prise en compte du climat dans l’exploitation pétrolière. Nous effectuons ce travail en examinant les politiques et les réglementations et en renforçant les capacités afin que les communautés locales puissent participer efficacement aux processus d’évaluation de l’impact environnemental et social (ESIA) pour sauvegarder leur environnement.

    Nous sommes également directement impliqués dans l’examen des ESIA, en plaidant toujours pour l’inclusion des considérations relatives au changement climatique et à la protection de l’environnement au niveau du projet. Par exemple, alors que le projet pétrolier de Turkana se dirigeait vers la phase de production, nous avons participé aux forums de consultation des parties prenantes du projet, où nous avons soulevé la nécessité que l’ESIA du projet intègre des évaluations de l’impact sur le changement climatique. Nous avons également plaidé pour la transparence du secteur par la divulgation des accords et des licences pétrolières, afin que les citoyens puissent comprendre les obligations des compagnies pétrolières en matière d’environnement et de changement climatique, ce qui entraînera une plus grande responsabilité de la part de l’État et de ces compagnies.

    Avez-vous été confronté à des réactions négatives face au travail que vous faites ?

    Le rétrécissement de l’espace civique reste un défi dans l’environnement dans lequel nous travaillons. Les groupes de la société civile sont confrontés à des réactions négatives de la part du gouvernement lorsqu’ils abordent les questions d’actualité. Les restrictions prennent souvent la forme d’un refus d’autorisation d’organiser des manifestations ou des réunions liées à des projets qui les intéressent. Dans certains cas, des organismes gouvernementaux tels que le Conseil de coordination des organisations non gouvernementales et l’Autorité fiscale du Kenya ont été utilisés pour cibler les OSC.

    Nous sommes également confrontés à des restrictions de la part des entreprises, telles que l’exclusion délibérée des OSC des événements de participation publique. Ceux de nos membres qui ont soulevé des préoccupations ou se sont exprimés sur des questions liées à l’extraction des ressources pétrolières et gazières ont constaté qu’ils ne sont plus invités à participer ou autorisés à faire des commentaires lors des audiences publiques.

    Quel lien entretenez-vous avec le mouvement international pour le climat ?

    Nous développons un programme panafricain pour une transition juste qui impliquera une collaboration avec d’autres groupes régionaux et internationaux, afin de garantir que la transition énergétique mondiale soit juste pour l’Afrique et reflète les impacts de la crise climatique sur le continent.

    Quels sont vos espoirs pour la COP26, et dans quelle mesure pensez-vous que ces processus internationaux soient utiles ?

    L’inclusion des considérations relatives au changement climatique au niveau des projets a déjà un fondement juridique au Kenya grâce à la Convention-cadre des Nations unies sur les changements climatiques, à l’Accord de Paris et à la loi sur le changement climatique adoptée au Kenya en 2016. Le retard dans la mise en œuvre de la loi a été un défi, mais nous avons connaissance de plusieurs projets de réglementation qui sont en cours d’examen pour une éventuelle promulgation.

    En ce qui concerne la transition énergétique équitable, nous attendons l’imposition d’obligations plus fortes, conformes au principe de responsabilité commune mais différenciée, qui reconnaît que les différents pays ont des responsabilités et des capacités différentes pour faire face aux problèmes transfrontaliers tels que le changement climatique. Cela permettrait de s’assurer que l’Afrique n’est pas laissée pour compte dans la transition ou, pire, que la transition ne se fait pas à ses dépens.

    Les processus internationaux ont été utiles dans la mesure où ils ont en partie facilité l’intégration dans le droit national de cadres juridiques et politiques sur le changement climatique, mais nous attendons certainement plus d’engagement de la part des États.

    Quel changement souhaiteriez-vous voir se produire pour contribuer à résoudre la crise climatique ?

    Nous aimerions voir une mise en œuvre accélérée des cadres et obligations juridiques en matière de changement climatique, tant au niveau local qu’international. En outre, nous aimerions que les pays développés du Nord s’engagent à respecter leurs promesses de financement du climat faites dans le cadre de l’Accord de Paris. Cela contribuera grandement à financer des transitions énergétiques justes en Afrique.

    L’espace civique auKenya est classé« obstrué »par leCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contactez la Plateforme de la société civile pour le pétrole et le gaz kényans via sonsite web et suivez@KCSPOG et@CharlesWanguhu sur Twitter.

  • COP26 : « Nous devons donner aux communautés et aux femmes les moyens de gérer les ressources climatiques »

    Nyangori OhenjoÀ la veille de la 26ème Conférence des Parties des Nations Unies sur le changement climatique (COP26), qui se tiendra à Glasgow, au Royaume-Uni, du 31 octobre au 12 novembre 2021, CIVICUS a interrogé des militants, des dirigeants et des experts de la société civile sur les défis environnementaux auxquels ils sont confrontés dans leur contexte, les actions qu’ils entreprennent pour y faire face et leurs attentes pour le sommet à venir.

    CIVICUS s’entretient avec Nyang’ori Ohenjo, directeur général du Minority Rights Development Centre (CEMIRIDE), une organisation de la société civile kenyane qui milite pour la reconnaissance des minorités et des peuples autochtones dans les processus politiques, juridiques et sociaux et s’efforce de donner aux communautés les moyens d’assurer des moyens de subsistance durables.

    Quel est le problème climatique dans votre pays qui est au centre de votre travail ?

    Nous nous concentrons sur l’aggravation des effets du changement climatique, notamment sur les groupes les plus vulnérables tels que les populations autochtones. Malgré un grand nombre de programmes climatiques, le Kenya n’atteint pas les objectifs souhaités. Par exemple, le nord du pays connaît une augmentation des sécheresses, avec les conséquences désastreuses habituelles, et le président a déjà déclaré catastrophe nationale la sécheresse de cette année.

    La principale difficulté réside dans le fait que les cadres politiques ne tiennent pas compte des circonstances des communautés autochtones, qui comprennent les communautés pastorales, les habitants des forêts et les communautés de pêcheurs. Cela rend ces communautés et leurs systèmes économiques vulnérables et ne fournit pas de solutions pour renforcer leur résilience. Les programmes et les politiques ignorent souvent les éléments culturels.

    Les éleveurs, par exemple, diversifient leurs troupeaux en termes de sexe, d’âge et d’espèces pour répartir les risques et maximiser les pâturages disponibles. La taille du troupeau est équilibrée avec la taille de la famille, et la composition du troupeau cherche à répondre aux besoins de la famille. Parfois, les troupeaux sont divisés comme une stratégie de survie, surtout en période de sécheresse, et pour permettre une utilisation innovante des ressources disponibles. Grâce à des systèmes de soutien mutuel, les éleveurs veillent les uns sur les autres afin de pouvoir se remettre rapidement des catastrophes. Chaque groupe pastoral a une façon différente de soutenir ses membres, par exemple en leur permettant de gagner de l’argent et de diversifier leurs moyens de subsistance. Cependant, l’aide alimentaire et les allocations sont devenues la norme politique en temps de crise, comme durant la sécheresse actuelle, ce qui n’a de sens économique pour personne, et surtout pas pour les communautés pastorales.

    Les 50 années d’une approche axée principalement sur l’aide alimentaire n’ont pas permis d’apporter une solution durable, d’où la nécessité d’un véritable changement de politique pour passer d’une réponse réactive aux catastrophes à une préparation proactive. Cela signifie qu’il faut disposer de ressources de base, y compris d’argent liquide si nécessaire, avant qu’une crise ne survienne, pour aider les communautés à traverser les périodes difficiles, tout en se concentrant sur les investissements et le développement à long terme afin d’accroître la résilience des communautés pour absorber les chocs futurs.

    Quel lien entretenez-vous avec le mouvement international pour le climat ?

    Nous établissons des liens par le biais de notre travail avec de nombreux réseaux mondiaux de la société civile, dont CIVICUS, et avec des organisations kenyanes de défense du développement, des organisations de base et des groupes réclamant une action en faveur du climat, ainsi qu’avec des institutions universitaires, des organes des Nations unies et des institutions régionales et internationales de défense des droits humains. L’objectif principal de ces liens est de faire en sorte que les voix des communautés autochtones du Kenya soient entendues au sein du mouvement de lutte contre le changement climatique et puissent influencer les discussions internationales.

    La participation des peuples autochtones au mouvement international pour le climat, et le fait que les peuples autochtones fassent partie d’une conversation qui, en tenant compte de la dimension de genre, reconnaît leurs droits et valorise leurs connaissances traditionnelles, ainsi que leurs pratiques innovantes en matière de résilience climatique, sont essentiels pour concevoir et mettre en œuvre des politiques et des actions climatiques efficaces.

    Au niveau national, par le biais de la Direction du changement climatique, un département du ministère kenyan de l’Environnement et des Forêts, et de la Plateforme multisectorielle pour une agriculture intelligente face au climat, le CEMIRIDE a été impliqué dans le processus d’établissement de la position du gouvernement kenyan pour la COP26 et au sein de la Plateforme des communautés locales et des peuples autochtones (Plateforme CLPA).

    Comment les communautés autochtones interagissent-elles avec le gouvernement kenyan ?

    L’initiative relative aux situations d’urgence liées à la sécheresse, qui prend fin en 2022, a permis d’élaborer une politique climatique, mais a peu progressé dans la résolution du problème de la sécheresse. Il existe également le Plan d’action national sur le changement climatique (2018-2022), qui prévoit la participation et l’inclusion effectives des communautés autochtones marginalisées, mais là encore, les progrès sont très limités pour ce qui est de garantir une participation structurée et significative de ces communautés à la mise en œuvre et au suivi du Plan d’action national.

    Le gouvernement met également en œuvre le projet Kenya Climate-Smart Agriculture, dont l’un des éléments clés est l’atténuation du changement climatique. Cependant, sa mise en œuvre manque de mécanismes structurés d’engagement avec les communautés autochtones, qui ont donc une présence et une capacité minimales pour contribuer à sa conception et à sa mise en œuvre.


    Dans quelle mesure espérez-vous que la COP26 fera des progrès sur ces questions et quelle est, selon vous, l’utilité de ces processus internationaux ?

    Les processus internationaux tels que la COP26 sont importants pour donner une visibilité aux peuples autochtones dans les négociations sur le changement climatique. S’il a fallu du temps aux gouvernements, et notamment à ceux d’Afrique, pour reconnaître le rôle des peuples autochtones et la nécessité de faire entendre leur voix à la table des décisions internationales sur le changement climatique, ils ont désormais compris que les peuples autochtones peuvent réellement influencer l’orientation de ces processus. Plus précisément, la Plateforme CLPA a été créée pour promouvoir l’échange d’expériences et de bonnes pratiques, renforcer les capacités de participation des parties prenantes à tous les processus liés à la Convention-cadre des Nations Unies sur les changements climatiques, et exploiter les divers systèmes de connaissances et leurs innovations pour la conception et la mise en œuvre des politiques et actions climatiques.

    Le CEMIRIDE espère que la voix des peuples autochtones occupera le devant de la scène et que les gouvernements s’engageront à mettre en œuvre des solutions locales pour lesquelles ils seront tenus responsables, plutôt que de faire de grandes promesses mondiales qui ne sont jamais tenues et pour lesquelles personne ne leur demande de rendre des comptes. En particulier, nous attendons des gouvernements qu’ils s’engagent à soutenir et à faciliter la mise en œuvre d’un cadre national pour l’engagement des communautés autochtones dans l’action contre le changement climatique.

    Quel changement voudriez-vous voir - dans le monde ou dans votre communauté - qui aiderait à résoudre la crise climatique ?

    Nous voulons voir une réelle dévolution de pouvoir aux communautés, et en particulier aux femmes, dans la gestion des ressources climatiques. Les peuples autochtones sont des collectifs uniques, non seulement en raison des impacts que le changement climatique a sur eux, mais aussi en raison du rôle qu’ils jouent pour assurer le succès des mesures d’intervention, et des perspectives et expériences qu’ils apportent grâce à leurs connaissances autochtones et locales. Personne ne connaît mieux une communauté que les personnes qui y vivent et dépendent de ses ressources.

    Les communautés autochtones marginalisées ont depuis longtemps développé des connaissances et une expertise spécifique pour préserver et conserver les environnements naturels dont elles tirent leurs moyens de subsistance et autour desquels elles ont développé leurs systèmes et structures sociaux, culturels et religieux. Leur gestion directe des ressources climatiques leur permettra donc d’influencer positivement le développement, l’examen, l’adoption et la mise en œuvre des politiques et des réglementations concernant le changement climatique, en se concentrant spécifiquement sur l’amélioration de leur résilience face aux impacts du changement climatique.

    L’espace civique auKenya est classé « obstrué »par leCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contactez le Minority Rights Development Centre via sonsite web et suivez@CEMIRIDE_KE sur Twitter. 

  • COP26: ‘We hope for stricter obligations under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility’

    Charles WanguhuIn the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will take place in Glasgow, UK between 31 October and 12 November 2021, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the environmental challenges they face in their contexts, the actions they are undertaking to tackle them and their expectations for the upcoming summit.

    CIVICUS speaks with Charles Wanguhu, a social activist and coordinator of the Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, a forum in which participating civil society organisations (CSOs) share information, plan and strategise together to conduct joint advocacy, engage with government agencies, companies and the media, and inform and sensitise the public.

    What's the key environmental issue in your country that you're working on?

    The Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas is a not-for-profit members’ organisation working towards a sustainable oil and gas sector in Kenya and just energy transitions. With the discovery of oil in Kenya’s Turkana County, our work includes advocating for policy and legal frameworks that ensure environmental justice and climate considerations in developing Kenya’s oil. We do this through policy and regulation reviews and by building the capacity of local communities to participate effectively in environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) processes to ensure that their environment is safeguarded. 

    We also directly participate in the review of ESIAs, in which we agitate for climate change considerations and environmental protection at the project level. For instance, as Kenya’s Turkana Oil Project is expected to proceed to the production phase, we have participated in the project’s stakeholder consultation forums, where we have raised the need for the project’s ESIA to incorporate climate change impact assessments. We have also been advocating for transparency in the sector through disclosure of petroleum agreements and licences to enable the public to understand the environmental and climate change obligations of oil companies, allowing for increased accountability by the state and these companies.

    Have you faced backlash for the work you do?

    Shrinking civic space remains a challenge in our operating environment. Civil society groups face backlash from government when they speak out about topical issues. These restrictions mostly take the form of refusal of permits for protests or for holding meetings related to projects of concern. In some instances, government agencies such as the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordination Board and Kenya’s revenue authority have been used to target CSOs.

    We also face restrictions from corporate entities, including the deliberate exclusion of CSOs from public participation events. Our members who have expressed concerns or are seen to be vocal about issues related to the extraction of oil and gas resources have found themselves not invited to participate or not allowed to give comments at public hearings.

    How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?

    We are developing a pan-African just transition programme that will involve working with other regional and international groups to ensure that the global energy transition is just for Africa and is reflective of the impacts of the climate crisis on Africa.

    What hopes, if any, do you have for COP26, and how useful generally do you find such international processes?

    Inclusion of climate change considerations at the project level already has a legal hook in Kenya through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement and Kenya’s Climate Change Act of 2016. The delayed implementation of the Act has been a challenge, but we are aware of various draft regulations on climate change that are currently under review for eventual enactment.

    Regarding just energy transition, we are hoping for stricter obligations complying with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, which acknowledges that diverse countries have different responsibilities and capacities to address cross-border issues such as climate change. This would ensure that Africa is not left behind in the transition, or even worse, that the transition does not happen at Africa’s expense.

    International processes have been useful to the extent that they have partly facilitated the domestication of climate change legal and policy frameworks, but we certainly hope for an increased commitment by states.

    What one change would you like to see to help address the climate crisis?

    We would like to see an increase in the speed of the implementation of climate change legal frameworks and obligations both locally and internationally. Further, we would like to see the developed countries of the global north commit to and meet their pledges on climate finance made under the Paris Agreement. This will come in handy to finance just energy transitions in Africa.

    Civic space inKenyais rated ‘obstructedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas through itswebsite, and follow@KCSPOG and@CharlesWanguhu on Twitter.

  • COP26: ‘We need a power shift to communities, especially to women, in managing climate resources’

    Nyangori OhenjoIn the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will take place in Glasgow, UK between 31 October and 12 November 2021, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the environmental challenges they face in their contexts, the actions they are undertaking to tackle them and their expectations for the upcoming summit.

    CIVICUS speaks with Nyang'ori Ohenjo, Chief Executive Officer at Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), a Kenyan civil society organisation that advocates for the recognition of minorities and Indigenous peoples in political, legal and social processes and works to empower communities to obtain sustainable livelihoods.

    What's the key climate issue in your country that you’re working on?

    We focus on the worsening effects of climate change, especially on the most vulnerable, such as Indigenous peoples. Despite a myriad of climate programmes, Kenya is not achieving the desired goals. For instance, increased droughts are currently being experienced in the north of the country, with the usual dire consequences, and the president has already declared this year’s drought a national disaster.

    The overarching challenge is that policy frameworks do not connect with the agenda of Indigenous communities, including pastoralists, forest dwellers and fisher communities, which leaves them and their mainstay economic systems vulnerable and does not bring solutions that enhance their resilience. Programmes and policies often ignore cultural elements.

    Pastoralists, for instance, diversify herds in sex, age and species to spread risks and maximise available pastures. Herd size is balanced against family size, and herd composition is aimed at responding to family needs. Herds are sometimes split as a coping strategy, particularly in times of drought, and to allow an innovative use of available resources. Through mutual support systems, pastoralists take care of each other so they can recover quickly from disaster. Each pastoralist group has a different way of supporting its members, including by finding various ways of earning cash and diversifying livelihoods. However, food aid and handouts have become the policy norm in times of crisis such as the current drought, which makes no economic sense for anyone, least of all the pastoralists.

    Fifty years of a food aid-approach has not provided a sustainable solution, hence the need for a serious policy shift from disaster response, which is reactive, to preparedness, which is proactive. This means putting basic resources in place before crisis hits, including cash if necessary, to get communities through tough times while focusing on long-term investment and development to build communities’ resilience to absorb future shocks.

    How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?

    We engage through various partnerships with numerous global civil society networks, notably CIVICUS, and Kenyan development organisations, grassroots organisations and groups demanding climate action, as well as with academic institutions, United Nations’ agencies and regional and international human rights institutions. The main objective of these engagements is to ensure that the voices of the Indigenous communities of Kenya are heard within the climate change movement and able to influence the international conversations.

    The participation of Indigenous peoples in the international climate movement, and Indigenous peoples being part of a conversation that, in a gender-responsive manner, recognises their rights and values their traditional knowledge as well as their innovative practices for climate resilience, are critical in designing and implementing responsive climate policy and action.

    At the national level, through the Climate Change Directorate, a department of the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the Climate Smart Agriculture Multistakeholder Platform, CEMIRIDE has taken part in the process of shaping the Kenyan government’s position towards COP26 and within the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP).

    How are Indigenous communities engaging with the Kenyan government?

    The Ending Drought Emergencies initiative, which ends in 2022, showed success in climate policy development but made little progress in addressing the problem of drought. There is also the National Climate Change Action Plan (2018-2022), which provides for effective engagement and inclusion of marginalised Indigenous communities, but again, has resulted in very little progress in actually ensuring the structured engagement and involvement of these communities in the implementation and monitoring of the National Action Plan.

    The government is also implementing the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project, of which climate mitigation is a key component. Its implementation, however, also lacks structured engagement with Indigenous communities, who therefore have very minimal presence and input into its design and rollout.

    What hopes, if any, do you have for COP26 to make progress on these issues, and how useful generally do you find such international processes?

    International processes like COP26 are important for creating visibility for Indigenous peoples in climate change conversations. While it took a long time for governments, especially in Africa, to recognise the role and need for the voice of Indigenous peoples at the international climate change decision-making table, it is now appreciated that Indigenous peoples can actually influence the direction of these processes. Specifically, the LCIPP was established to promote the exchange of experiences and best practices, build capacity for stakeholder engagement in all process related to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and harness the power of diverse knowledge systems and innovations in designing and implementing climate policy and action.

    CEMIRIDE hopes that the voices of Indigenous peoples will take centre stage and that governments will commit to local solutions that they can be held accountable for rather than make broad global promises that are never fulfilled and they can never be held accountable for. We especially hope that governments will commit to supporting and facilitating the operationalisation of an Indigenous communities’ national engagement framework on climate change actions.

    What one change would you like to see – in the world or in your community – to help address the climate crisis?

    We wish to see a real power shift to communities, and especially to women, in managing climate resources. Indigenous peoples are a unique constituency not only because of the impacts that climate change is having on them but also because of the role they play in ensuring the success of intervention measures and because of the perspectives and experiences they bring on board through their Indigenous and local knowledge. No one knows their community better than the people who live in it and depend on its resources.

    Marginalised Indigenous communities have long developed distinct knowledge and expertise to preserve and conserve the natural environments from which they obtain their livelihoods, and around which have developed their social, cultural, and religious systems and structures. Their direct management of climate resources, therefore, will enable them to positively influence the development, revision, adoption, and implementation of policy and regulations addressing climate change, with a specific emphasis on improving their resilience to climate change impacts.

    Civic space inKenyais rated ‘obstructedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Centre for Minority Rights Development through itswebsite, and follow@CEMIRIDE_KE on Twitter. 

  • Could the annulment of Kenya’s election set a precedent for African civil society?

    By David Kode

    The ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court strengthens the independence of the judiciary and places this institution as a key player and arbiter in future elections and on issues that affect peace and security in Kenya. Future rulings on elections – either in favour of or against a political party or coalition – can be received as the final outcome and prevent conflict.


  • Country recommendations on civic space for Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    All UN member states have their human rights records reviewed every 4.5 years. CIVICUS makes four joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Armenia, Laos, Kenya and Kuwait, which are up for review in January 2020.

    The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Armenia – CIVICUS highlights unwarranted restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and the use of violence, intimidation and harassment to disperse peaceful protests particularly in 2018 and 2016. We express concerns over the targeting of human rights defenders particularly those working on environmental and LGBTI rights. We highlight concerns over restrictions on freedom of expression and the targeting of journalists who covered protests.   

    Kenya -   In this submission, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, CIVICUS, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders–Kenya (NCHRD-K), express deep concern over the government’s continued unjustified restriction of peaceful protests, as seen in the unlawful interpretation of existing laws by security agents to restrict the right to peaceful assembly and the increasingly worrying trend of security agents violently disrupting peaceful protests. We further examine undue limitations on the freedom of expression, as highlighted by the high number of incidences of harassment, attacks and extrajudicial killings of journalists as well as clauses that are inimical to the freedom of expression in new legislation such as the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act 2018.  

    Kuwait - Since its 2nd Universal Periodic Review, ISHR, Gulf Centre, MENA Rights Group and CIVICUS found that Kuwait did not implement any of the 13 recommendations related to civic space. Instead, restrictive legislation such as the 1979 Public Gatherings Act, the 1970 National Security Law, the 2015 Cybercrime Law and the 2006 Press and Publications Law, continue to place undue restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Furthermore, HRDs face unwarranted restrictions, with women HRDs and activists from the stateless Bedoon minority facing heightened threats. Legal and policy limitations placed on the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression put HRDs at a continuous risk of detention, defamation, citizenship revocation and other forms of reprisals as a direct result of their work. 

    Laos – The submission by CIVICUS, the Manushya Foundation and FORUM-ASIA highlights how the Lao PDR government - which is a one-party state - dominates all aspects of political life and maintains strict controls on civic space. We examine how the extensive restrictions and surveillance of civil society and the absolute controls of the media including TV, radio and printed publications. We also highlight the ongoing failure to investigate the fate and whereabouts of human rights defender Sombath Somphone which has created a chilling effect and the continued criminalisation of government critics. Read press release

    See other country reports submitted by CIVICUS and partners to the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

  • HAÏTI : « Si la mission a du succès, les autorités n’auront pas à se tourner à nouveau vers la communauté internationale pour maintenir la paix »

    Rosy Auguste DucénaCIVICUS échange avec l’avocate haïtienne Rosy Auguste Ducéna sur la situation en Haïti et les perspectives d’une mission internationale nouvellement déployée.

    Rosy est responsable de programmes du Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), une organisation de la société civile qui œuvre pour l’instauration d’un État de droit en Haïti.

    Suite à la démission du premier ministre de facto Ariel Henry en avril, un Conseil présidentiel de transition a été nommé pour tenter d’entamer le processus de rétablissement de la paix dans un pays assiégé par les gangs. En proie à des divisions internes, il a fallu attendre le mois de juin pour que le conseil nomme un nouveau premier ministre, l’universitaire et praticien du développement Garry Conille. Le même mois, le premier contingent de la Mission multinationale de soutien à la sécurité des Nations unies, dirigée par le Kenya et longtemps retardée, a commencé à arriver. Compte tenu de la longue histoire d’échecs des interventions internationales en Haïti, la société civile est sceptique et exige que la mission soit fortement axée sur les droits humains.

    Qu’est-ce qui a changé depuis la démission du premier ministre de facto Ariel Henry ?

    Après l’avoir soutenu tout au long de son gouvernement, la communauté internationale a finalement retiré son soutien à Henry, qui a démissionné dans la honte. Il était un prédateur des droits humains et nous étions donc heureux de le voir partir, même si ce n’était pas de la manière dont nous l’aurions souhaité.

    Un Conseil présidentiel de transition a été mis sur pied avec la participation de la communauté internationale via la Communauté caribéenne (CARICOM), l’organisation régionale. Il compte en son sein des personnalités issues de secteurs qui n’inspirent pas confiance à la population haïtienne. La seule femme qui fait partie du Conseil a un rôle d’observateur et tous les candidats au poste de premier ministre auditionnés étaient des hommes.

    Un mois après l’installation de ce conseil, avec le peuple haïtien dévasté par l’insécurité et les bandes armées, un premier ministre a enfin été élu : Garry Conille, lui aussi soutenu par la communauté internationale. La prochaine étape logique est la mise en place d’un gouvernement de transition.

    Qu’attend la société civile du nouveau premier ministre ?

    Nous attendons du nouveau Premier ministre qu’il tienne sa première promesse : celle d’établir un gouvernement dans lequel les femmes n’auront pas un rôle symbolique mais occuperont des postes de pouvoir. Et nous espérons que des femmes ayant un agenda de lutte pour les droits des femmes dans le contexte de la transition seront choisies. Il est important de respecter le quota minimal de 30% de femmes dans les organes de décision – sans pour autant s’y arrêter, puisque plus de la moitié de la population haïtienne sont des femmes –, mais il est également important que les femmes qui occupent ces postes s’impliquent dans la lutte contre les violences sexuelles et sexistes, les discriminations et les injustices sociales subies par les femmes.

    Nous espérons aussi que les décisions qui seront prises par ce gouvernement à venir tiendront compte des priorités de la population : combattre l’insécurité, lutter contre l’impunité dont ont toujours bénéficié les bandits armés et mettre les victimes de l’insécurité au cœur des décisions, ainsi qu’organiser les élections.

    Et, sachant que cette transition a une obligation de résultat, tout doit être mis en œuvre pour que la feuille de route du Conseil et du premier ministre soit réalisée.

    Quelle est la situation en matière de sécurité et de droits humains ?

    La situation des droits humains sur le terrain est très préoccupante : les vols, assassinats, viols, viols collectifs, massacres, attaques armées et enlèvements contre rançon, et les incendies des maisons et des véhicules de la population sont monnaie courante.

    Deux grandes coalitions de gangs armés qui jadis se battaient entre elles, le « G-9 an Fanmi e Alye » dirigé par Jimmy Chérizier, alias Barbecue, et le « G-Pèp », dirigé par Gabriel Jean Pierre, alias Ti Gabriel ou Gabo, se sont regroupées autour d’une fédération et s’attaquent à la population civile pour asseoir leur pouvoir.

    Les conséquences sur la vie et la sécurité de la population haïtienne sont énormes : les bandits armés contrôlent la circulation des biens et des services ainsi que les approvisionnements en carburant et en médicaments et sèment la terreur. Certaines zones se sont complètement vidées de leur population. Des victimes de l’insécurité vivent dans des camps d’accueil surpeuplés, dans la promiscuité et exposés à toutes sortes d’exactions et de maladies contagieuses.

    Les écoles ne fonctionnent pas toutes. Des milliers d’enfants en âge d’être scolarisés et de jeunes qui devaient fréquenter l’université viennent de perdre une année académique. Des hôpitaux et centres de santé ont dû fermer leurs portes en raison de l’insécurité. Des alertes à la crise alimentaire aigüe ont été lancées : en Haïti, nous vivons une crise humanitaire sans précédent. Et, si aucune mesure n’est prise, elle s’aggravera.

    Dans un pays appauvri, où le système éducatif n’était déjà pas inclusif et où les droits sociaux ont toujours été considérés comme des produits à se procurer, le fossé de l’accès à l’éducation et à des soins de santé de qualité se creuse. Les femmes, les enfants et les personnes vivant avec une déficience physique, sensorielle ou même cognitive, ont été les premiers touchés par les conséquences néfastes du chaos instauré par les bandits armés, avec la complicité de l’institution policière et des autorités au pouvoir dirigé par Henry.

    Dans ce contexte de violation massive et continue des droits humains, le Conseil présidentiel de transition n’a pas encore prouvé qu’il comprend la nécessité d’agir vite.

    Comment la nouvelle mission internationale a-t-elle été créée et en quoi diffère-t-elle de ses prédécesseurs ?

    Le 6 octobre 2022, Henry avait sollicité l’envoi d’une « force robuste » en vue, selon ses dires, « de combattre l’insécurité, rétablir la paix et de réaliser les élections ». Près d’une année plus tard, le 2 octobre 2023, le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies a adopté une résolution autorisant le déploiement d’une force baptisée Mission Multinationale d’Appui à la Sécurité, après que le Kenya eut accepté d’en assurer le leadership.

    La mission a mis du temps à se mettre en place. Elle est en train de commencer, mais nous restons sceptiques.

    Elle sera la onzième mission depuis 1993. Toutes ses prédécesseuses ont été impliquées dans la commission de violations des droits humains à l’encontre de la population haïtienne : exécutions sommaires, bastonnades et atteintes à l’intégrité physique et psychique, marchandage sexuel, viols sur et sur femmes. Et la seule sanction à laquelle s’exposaient les auteurs de ces violations était le rapatriement.

    L’Organisations des Nations Unis a apporté le choléra, dont la propagation a causé la mort de plus de 10.000 personnes, et n’a accepté ses responsabilités que du bout des lèvres. Les promesses de dédommagement n’ont jamais été tenues.

    Les résultats des différentes missions en Haïti, qui ont coûté des millions de dollars, sont maigres. Les institutions policières et judiciaires, ainsi que l’organe électoral qu’on leur a toujours demandé de renforcer, n’ont jamais été aussi dysfonctionnels. Le calcul coût-bénéfice et leur implication dans les violations des droits humains suggèrent qu’elles sont contre-productives.

    Il faut toutefois reconnaitre que la population, fatiguée de l’insécurité qui lui vole sa vie et son humanité et ayant perdu confiance dans le système pénal haïtien, place ses espoirs dans cette force internationale. Actuellement, la police ne traque pas les bandits notoires, les tribunaux ne les jugent pas, même par contumace, alors que plusieurs centaines de victimes de massacres, accompagnées par le RNDDH, ont porté plainte contre leurs agresseurs. Les rares fois où ils sont emprisonnés, ils s’évadent ou passent des années en détention, sans que les faits qui leur sont reprochés ne soient jamais élucidés et sans que les victimes ne reçoivent justice.

    Comment la mission internationale doit-elle agir pour contribuer à une paix durable ?

    Avec six autres organisations de la société civile haïtienne, nous avons réfléchi à cette question et formulé des recommandations. Celles-ci portent notamment sur la définition des objectifs de la mission et la prise en compte des préoccupations des organisations de défense des droits humains dans l’élaboration du cadre réglementaire et du plan stratégique de sécurité de la mission.

    La résolution étant restée muette ou ayant utilisé des termes sibyllins sur certaines questions importantes, nous insistons sur la nécessité d’aborder les obligations des relatives à la gestion des eaux, aux normes déontologiques et de transparence, ainsi qu’aux mécanismes de monitoring et de suivi des comportements des agents.

    Nous recommandons également l’établissement de mécanismes de prévention des actes de violations des droits humains et la mise en place d’un mécanisme de plaintes pour les éventuelles victimes. Il est essentiel que les pays pourvoyeurs d’ s’engagent à tout mettre en œuvre pour que les exactions soient punies et que les garanties judiciaires des victimes soient protégées et respectées.

    Plus que toute autre chose, nous espérons que la mission mènera ses opérations sur le terrain avec la participation des policiers.ères haïtiens, qui y gagneront en formation et en tactiques de lutte contre les bandes armées, afin qu’au départ de cette mission, les autorités haïtiennes n’aient pas à se tourner à nouveau vers la communauté internationale pour maintenir la paix et la sécurité.

    L’espace civique en Haïti est classé « réprimé » par leCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contactez le RNDDH sur sonsite web ou sa pageFacebook, suivez@RnddhAyiti et@AugusteRosy sur Twitter, et contactez Rosy Auguste Ducéna sur son compte d’Instagram ou sa pageFacebook.


  • HAITI: ‘If the mission succeeds, the authorities won’t have to turn again to the international community to maintain peace’

    Rosy Auguste DucénaCIVICUS speaks with Haitian lawyer Rosy Auguste Ducéna about the situation in Haiti and the prospects for a newly deployed international mission.

    Rosy is Head of Programmes at the National Human Rights Defence Network (RNDDH), a civil society organisation working to support the establishment of the rule of law in Haiti.

    Following the resignation of de facto prime minister Ariel Henry in April, a Transitional Presidential Council was appointed to try to start the process of restoring peace in gang-besieged Haiti. Riven by internal divisions, it took until June for the council to appoint a new prime minister, academic and development practitioner Garry Conille. In the same month, the first contingent of a long-delayed Kenya-led United Nations Multinational Security Support Mission began to arrive. Given the long history of failed international interventions in Haiti, civil society is sceptical, and demands that the mission has a strong human rights focus.

    What has changed since the resignation of de facto prime minister Ariel Henry?

    After supporting him throughout his government, the international community finally withdrew its support for Henry, who resigned in disgrace. He was a human rights predator, so we are glad to see him go, even if it wasn’t in the way we would have liked.

    A Transitional Presidential Council was set up with the involvement of the international community through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the regional organisation. It’s made up of people who don’t inspire confidence among Haitian people. The only woman on the Council has an observer role, and all the candidates for prime minister it interviewed were men.

    A month after the council was established, with Haitian people ravaged by insecurity and armed gangs, a prime minister was finally chosen: Garry Conille, backed by the international community. The next logical step is to set up a transitional government.

    What does civil society expect from the new prime minister?

    We expect the new prime minister to keep his first promise: to form a government where women don’t play a symbolic role but are in positions of power. And we hope women will be chosen with an agenda to fight for women’s rights in the context of the transition. It’s important to respect the minimum 30 per cent quota of women in decision-making bodies – without this being the ceiling, since over half of Haiti’s population is female – but it’s also important that the women who occupy these positions be involved in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence, discrimination and the social injustices suffered by women.

    We hope the new government’s decisions will take people’s priorities into account’: fighting against insecurity and against the impunity that benefits armed bandits, putting the victims of insecurity at the centre of decision-making and organising elections.

    And since this transition must produce results, everything must be done to ensure the roadmap drawn up by the Council and prime minister is implemented.

    What’s the security and human rights situation like?

    The human rights situation on the ground is very concerning: robberies, murders, rapes, gang rapes, massacres, armed attacks, kidnappings for ransom and the burning of people’s homes and vehicles are commonplace.

    Two large coalitions of armed gangs, formerly at war with each other – G-9 an Fanmi e Alye, led by Jimmy Chérizier, alias Barbecue, and G-Pèp, led by Gabriel Jean Pierre, alias Ti Gabriel or Gabo – have joined forces and are attacking civilians as they seek to consolidate their power.

    The consequences for the lives and security of Haitian people are enormous: armed bandits control the movement of goods and services, including fuel and medical supplies, and sow terror. Some areas have been completely emptied of their population. The victims of insecurity are living in overcrowded camps, in promiscuity, exposed to all kinds of abuse and contagious diseases.

    Not all schools are functioning. Thousands of school-age children and young people who should be attending university have lost an academic year. Hospitals and health centres have been forced to close due to insecurity. Warnings of an acute food crisis have been issued. Haiti is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. And if nothing is done about it, it will only get worse.

    In an impoverished country where the education system was already not inclusive and social rights have always been seen as commodities to be bought, the gap in access to education and quality healthcare is widening. Women, children and people with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities have been the first to suffer the harmful consequences of the chaos created by armed bandits, with the complicity of the police and Henry’s government.

    Against this backdrop of massive and continuing human rights violations, the Transitional Presidential Council has yet to demonstrate that it understands the need to act quickly.

    How was the new international mission set up and how does it differ from its predecessors?

    On 6 October 2022, Henry called for a ‘robust force’ to be sent, in his words, ‘to combat insecurity, restore peace and conduct elections’. Almost a year later, on 2 October 2023, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution authorising the deployment of a force called the Multinational Security Support Mission, after Kenya agreed to take the lead.

    Setting up the mission has taken a long time. It is now up and running, but we remain sceptical.

    This will be the 11th mission since 1993. All its predecessors have been implicated in human rights violations against the Haitian people, including summary executions, beatings and attacks on physical and mental integrity, sexual trafficking and rape of minors and women. The only punishment for these violations has been repatriation.

    The United Nations brought cholera, the spread of which caused the deaths of over 10,000 people, and paid only lip service to its responsibility. Promises of reparations have never been fulfilled.

    The results of the various missions to Haiti, which have cost millions of dollars, have been meagre. The police and judicial institutions, and the electoral body they were supposed to strengthen, have never been more dysfunctional. The cost-benefit calculation of these missions and their involvement in human rights abuses suggest they are counterproductive.

    However, it must be acknowledged that many people, tired of the insecurity that robs them of their lives and their humanity, and having lost confidence in the Haitian criminal justice system, are pinning their hopes on this international force. At present, the police don’t pursue notorious bandits and the courts don’t try them, even in absentia, despite the fact that several hundred victims of massacres, supported by RNDDH, have filed complaints against their attackers. On the rare occasions they are arrested, they escape or spend years in prison without charges against them ever being cleared up and without their victims receiving justice.

    How can the international mission contribute to sustainable peace?

    Alongside six other Haitian civil society organisations, we have reflected on this question and come up with several recommendations. These include defining the mission’s objectives and ensuring the concerns of human rights organisations are taken into account in the development of the mission’s legal framework and strategic security plan.

    As the United Nations’ resolution is silent or says little on some important issues, we stress the need to address the obligations of security agents in relation to water management, ethical standards and transparency, as well as mechanisms for monitoring and following up on their conduct.

    We also recommend the establishment of mechanisms to prevent human rights abuses and a means for victims to have complaints heard. It is essential that countries that provide those coming to Haiti commit themselves to doing everything possible to ensure abuses are punished and the legal guarantees of victims are protected and respected.

    Above all, we hope the mission will carry out its operations on the ground with the participation of Haitian police officers, who will benefit from training in tactics to fight armed gangs, so when the mission leaves, Haitian authorities won’t have to turn again to the international community to maintain peace and security.

    Civic space in Haiti is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with RNDDH through itswebsite orFacebook page, follow@RnddhAyiti and@AugusteRosy on Twitter, and contact Rosy Auguste Ducéna on herInstagram account orFacebook page.

  • Human rights defenders securing the right to vote in Kenya

    Guest article by Kamau Ngugi and Yvonne Owino-Wamari, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders - Kenya

  • KENYA: ‘Holding police officers accountable for killings in a court of law will be the main deterrent’

    JosephKariukiCIVICUS speaks about police brutality in Kenya with Joseph Kariuki, Communications and Media Lead of International Justice Mission and editor of the Missing Voices project. Missing Voices Kenya is an initiative of a group of civil society organisations (CSOs) aimed at filling the evidence gap regarding police brutality, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. It layers victims’ testimony with consolidated quantitative data and tracks processes to hold those responsible legally accountable.

    What is Missing Voices Kenya trying to do?

    Missing Voices was launched in August 2018, by a coalition of partners working on police reform. The main aim of the project was to produce a database of police killings and enforced disappearances in Kenya. This was critical since efforts by most CSOs to share their individual statistics proved untenable because of the different numbers each organisation had. This created confusion and gave the government a window to deny what seemed to be a systematic trend of extrajudicial killings.

    Our production of verified data was in itself a big success, considering the efforts put into denying this reality. Missing Voices has so far released two annual reports, in 2019 and 2020, and has held campaigns both online and offline to advocate for the end of extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances in Kenya.

    Our website is meant to showcase victims’ stories and provide a platform for their families to agitate for justice. Every confirmed story is published on our website, including the name and photograph of the victim, along with any information that can help resolve their murder or discover someone’s whereabouts in case they are missing and still alive. We have seen cases being reopened right after they were published on our platform.

    In what ways has the COVID-19 pandemic and the enforced curfew worsened human rights in Kenya?

    The Missing Voices Kenya report ‘The Brutal Pandemic’ documented 157 cases of police killings and an additional 10 cases of enforced disappearances during 2020. Not all the cases were the result of COVID-19 containment measures, but some – around 23 – were the direct result of these.

    The measures put in place increased the prevalence of police brutality, which has been a systemic issue in Kenya for years. Most families, especially those living in poor neighbourhoods, bore the brunt of the measures after police officers were given orders to use force if necessary to ensure the 7pm curfew was enforced. Most families were caught unawares after public transport vehicles were ordered to carry half their maximum load, which meant there was a shortage of transport to get back home before the curfew.

    Why is police brutality targeted at young people in informal settlements, and what can be done about this?

    The fact that young people in poor neighbourhoods are the primary targets of police brutality can at least partly be explained by the high crime rates in such areas and the police strategy of using force to fight crime. This has worsened by the trend of arbitrary arrests of young men leaving their workplaces for home late at night. In informal settlements there seems to be a permanent curfew in place, since well before the pandemic.

    There are police squads that move around in unmarked cars arresting young men, many of whom have been killed. This has led to distrust between the public and the police. Lack of trust has hampered efforts to fight crime, because police depend heavily on the public for tips on criminal activity and perpetrators.

    This bad blood can be prevented if police officers stop looking at young men as suspects of crime and start moving around in marked cars. Poverty is still the leading cause of conflict between police and the public, so the government should put in place measures to empower and improve the opportunities for young people. And above all, the main deterrent will be if police officers are held accountable for killings in a court of law.

    What challenges has Missing Voices Kenya faced in ensuring accountability?

    The biggest challenge has taken the form of threats to victims or their families, which has deterred many from following up on their cases in court. Cases of police killings take a long time to investigate and even longer to process through the judicial system, which often leads to discouragement and apathy in the community.

    In response to this, in June 2021 the Missing Voices coalition ran a campaign on delayed justice, which highlighted cases that had taken a very long time to resolve but had eventually resulted in justice being served.

    Have there been other citizen responses to police brutality?

    A number of protests have been held against police brutality and we have also organised public dialogues in which we have shared the statistics we have collected and urged for an end to the violence. Our Brutal Pandemic report was handed to the Senate and another report was released in November 2021 making a number of recommendations. During the pandemic, our campaigns forced the government to condemn police brutality. It must be noted that before this the government had denied anything was wrong, so this kind of acknowledgment is a welcome first step.

    How can international civil society best support Kenyan civil society efforts to bring an end to these human rights abuses?

    More advocacy is needed for the government to accept that police brutality, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are systemic issues that need addressing. There is a need to empower local justice centres and survivor groups so that people can count on safe spaces and are enabled to speak up more about these issues. And there is need for bigger capacity to take witnesses into the witness protection programme, without which we are unlikely to make much additional progress.

    Civic space in Kenya is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Missing Voices through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@MissingVoicesKE and@kariukimwangi on Twitter.

  • KENYA: ‘People are discouraged from voting when they think that voices do not matter’

    Ken OgemboCIVICUS speaks about the recent presidential election in Kenya with Ken Ogembo, programme manager of Siasa Place.

    Siasa Place is a civil society organisation (CSO) founded in 2015 with the aim of promoting youth participation in politics. It educates people about the importance of voting and how the government can be held accountable.

    Did you observe an increase in civic space restrictions around the 9 August election?

    We observed several civic space restrictions during the election. The media did not provide fair coverage to all candidates, and the most popular candidates had a clear advantage because everything they did was widely covered and they got a lot of propaganda. Media are powerful tools that can be used to influence the views of people and in this case were used to promote some parties and bring down others. Social media was also used to spread misinformation that influenced many people’s voting decisions.

    Further, there was violence in some counties, which we believe was organised to spark fear. As a result, people no longer felt comfortable attending campaigns for some candidates because of fear they could be attacked. 

    There were also cases of candidates being attacked. Some female politicians were attacked and assaulted; unfortunately not much was done to protect them or follow up on their cases. William Ruto, announced as the winner of the election, was also attacked in Kisumu. His vehicles were destroyed but fortunately he was not hurt. 

    There was also a situation in Kakamega county between the two main coalitions, Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja: they were fighting over access to a stadium and a number of people got hurt in the process.

    However, I do not believe violence was serious or widespread to the point that we could say it was what marked the electoral process.

    Why was there such low voter turnout?

    There are a number of factors that could have possibly contributed to it, but I think it is first and foremost about people being demotivated from voting because they do not see any change happening as a result of elections. Government corruption is pervasive no matter who is in the government, and economic performance is consistently poor. Public services are of very low quality: there are not enough healthcare facilities, doctors are often going on strike, markets are dirty. Youth unemployment continues to be very high, and most people don’t think this will change, so many do not see any reason for voting.

    We also need to look at how candidates are nominated. Presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s party, Azimio la Umoja, did not conduct democratic internal processes in most of its strongholds and often nominated people who had long been in power and had performed dismally. People are discouraged from voting when they think their voices do not matter.

    I would also say it is also ignorance that drives young people away from the polls. They should understand that regardless of whether they get out to vote, a government will get elected and will rule over them. The fact that they did not vote takes away their moral authority to question those in power. Of course they still have a constitutional right to do so, but their questioning will lack substance and they will not have any alternative to offer.

    Through our engagement with young people, we have noticed they lack confidence in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IBEC), the institution that manages elections, which many consider unable to deliver free and fair elections. They view it as pointless to go out and vote if the IBEC can’t ensure their votes will count.

    This is probably a mistake, because there have been improvements in the electoral process, including by making it clear that the results received from voting stations are final. However, the IBEC still has a lot of work to do make people trust the electoral process.

    Finally, I think the government played a huge role by not providing any civic education. It only started doing the basics when it was already too late, as most people who didn’t vote had already made up their minds not to. And when the government did, the content was not of the right kind, in the sense that would make people understand why voting is important and how to play their role as citizens.

    Has civil society been able to play its role in the electoral process?

    Civil society’s role has been somewhat restricted. Many CSOs would need more support and resources to play their full range of roles during elections. During this election we saw many CSOs unable to provide civic education programmes because of lack of funding and government support.

    Our job as civil society is to advocate on people’s behalf, inform them about the process and raise awareness of their rights. But most of us were denied the right to do our work due to lack of resources. My organisation, Siasa Place, played a key role in the previous election because it received the required resources in time. But this year the support we needed came about two months before the elections, which is rather late for us to start doing our work at the community level. This affected our role, but we hope things will improve in the coming years. We need government and civil society to work together to inform people around elections so they know what they are doing.

    There were also cases of CSOs being instrumentalised by political parties to influence voters. That defeats the whole purpose of having an active civil society. We urge the concerned CSOs to remember their original goals and mission and refocus on them. We should be the voice of marginalised people and communities, not of political parties. It is our duty to hold political parties accountable, not root for them at elections.

    Given the very close result, do you think there could be a recount or even an election re-run?

    If the defeated candidate can convince the court that there have been irregularities so gross that they have affected the outcome, then the court could nullify the results. But if votes are recounted and the result comes out the same, there won’t be a need for a rerun.

    Civic space in Kenya is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Siasa Place through itswebsite or itsFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@siasaplace on Twitter. 

  • KENYA: ‘Protests against femicides encouraged survivors to seek justice’

    Wangechi_Wachira.pngCIVICUS speaks with Wangechi Wachira, Executive Director of the Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW), about recent protests demanding justice for femicide victims and policy changes to combat gender-based violence (GBV) in Kenya.

    Founded in 1999, CREAW is a national feminist women’s rights civil society organisation (CSO) dedicated to protecting and promoting women’s and girls’ rights and addressing systemic gender inequalities, oppression, exploitation and discrimination.

    Why did protest recently erupt in Kenya?

    On 27 January, thousands of women and men took the streets to protest against femicides. The protests were triggered by 14 cases in January alone, and their primary objective was to demand accountability from state agencies, particularly law enforcement and the judiciary, in prosecuting perpetrators of femicide and ensuring justice for the victims. The case of John Matara, accused of killing Starlet Wahu, highlighted the failures of the legal and judicial systems, because he had been previously reported for GBV multiple times but had remained free.

    Femicide Count reported 48 cases in January and February 2024, compared to 152 cases during 2023, which itself was the highest number in the past five years. Data from Africa Data Hub indicates that over 500 women were killed in acts of femicide from January 2016 to December 2023. It also acknowledges the number is likely much higher, with many killings of women not properly categorised as femicide.

    The protest also aimed to raise awareness about the issue, as many people, including those in public office, do not fully understand the severity of femicide as the most extreme form of GBV. A 2021 report by the United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that 56 per cent of all female homicides globally are committed by intimate partners or family members.

    Protesters sought to educate the public on victim-blaming, which empowers perpetrators and deters survivors from reporting abuse. By addressing the victim-blaming and shaming associated with GBV, the protests challenged societal norms and encouraged survivors to seek support and justice.

    What were protesters’ demands to the government?

    We urged the president to issue a declaration recognising GBV and femicides as a national crisis requiring an emergency response. Such a declaration must be accompanied by annual reports provided during the State of the Nation address, outlining measures taken to combat the problem.

    We also urge the government to establish a national public inquiry and official review of events or actions ordered by a government body for all femicide cases to track and ensure accountability.

    Given the lack of integrated official data, we also demand the government improves data collection on femicides and GBV, aligning it with international frameworks. This data is crucial for evidence-based policymaking and effective criminal justice responses.

    Additionally, we call for increased funding for GBV prevention programmes and demand an inclusive appointment process for all public positions, ensuring representation from grassroots feminist organisations and youth groups.

    How big a problem is GBV in Kenya, and what are its root causes?

    GBV is pervasive in Kenya, mirroring global trends. It exists in several forms, including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse. According to the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, over 40 per cent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner at some point in their lives. GBV also manifests in harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriages. Femicides are a frequent occurrence and appear to be on the rise.

    The roots of GBV are found in patriarchal underpinnings of our society, which promote harmful social and cultural practices often reinforced by religious beliefs. Power is concentrated in men’s hands and women have little to none. Such unequal dynamics cannot but foster violence.

    Economic factors such as poverty help perpetuate GBV by pushing women to stay in abusive relationships due to lack of financial independence. They also push families in famine-hit areas to marry off young girls for economic gain, and specifically to be able to acquire livestock in return.

    Conflict, crises and displacement leave women and girls especially vulnerable to violence. A recent example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw an 80 per cent increase in intimate partner violence in 2020.

    How does civil society work to address GBV in Kenya?

    Civil society plays key roles in addressing GBV. CREAW specifically has a workstream focused on ending violence against women and girls. Over the years, we have provided free legal aid and psychosocial support to over 20,857 GBV survivors. We are among the few CSOs that offer these services. We collaborate closely with state-sponsored legal aid programmes, such as the National Legal Aid Service, to ensure integrated, efficient and timely GBV service delivery. Our work is enhanced by strategic partnerships with various GBV working groups, Court User Committees, relevant health institutions, parts of criminal justice system and community dispute resolution mechanisms.

    CREAW actively engages with legislators and policymakers at both national and county levels to advocate for the development and implementation of regulatory frameworks on GBV. Our advocacy contributed to the passage of the 2006 Sexual Offences Act, 2013 Matrimonial Property Act, 2014 Marriage Act and the 2015 Protection Against Domestic Violence Act.

    The aim of the Sexual Offences Act is to set out what constitute sexual offences, provide ways to prevent illegal sexual acts and protect all people from them. The Matrimonial Property Act sought to provide clear rules for what belongs in a marriage’s matrimonial estate and provide a legal framework for the ownership, management and distribution of matrimonial property that would apply to all types of unions. This was a monumental achievement because it recognised rights women didn’t previously have, such as owning and buying land.

    The Marriage Act consolidated various laws on marriage, provided procedures for separation and divorce and regulated the custody and maintenance of children in the event of separation or divorce. The Protection Against Domestic Violence Act provides avenues for victims and survivors of violence to report their circumstances to relevant authorities, seek legal redress and receive justice.

    CREAW also supports the county governments of Kilifi and Meru, the Kenya Police Service and the Kenyan judiciary in strengthening their mechanisms for implementing existing GBV laws and policies.

    CREAW’s commitment to supporting survivors extends to financial inclusion. Since 2020, we have implemented a programme, the Jasiri Fund (‘bold’ in Swahili) that provides GBV survivors with quality financial services to mitigate the effects of GBV and enable economic empowerment. To date, the project has supported around 1,000 survivors with a total of US$400,000, leading to the establishment of at least 878 women-owned enterprises. The Jasiri Fund offers complementary support, including access to justice, psychosocial support, shelters, business grants and case management grants, accompanied by financial training and business development support. Its success led to its scaling up to cover more counties and support more survivors.

    We are also part of the National Gender Based Violence working group, coordinated by the National Gender and Equality Commission and the National Women’s Steering Committee, and of the National Council on the Administration of Justice Working Committee on GBV.

    CREAW served as a co-convener of the Kenya Chapter of the Africa Unite campaign against GBV. We are also members of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals Group. We contribute to various campaigns such as Gender is My Agenda and globally contribute to the Generation Equality Forum commitments.

    Civic space in Kenya is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with CREAW through itswebsite or itsFacebook orInstagram pages, and follow@CREAWKenya and@Wwangechi_leah on Twitter.

  • KENYA: ‘The denial of resources for civic education has been a massive blow for civil society’

    Paul OkumuCIVICUS speaks about the upcoming elections in Kenya with Paul Okumu, head of the Secretariat of the Africa Platform (AP). AP is a pan-African civil society platform based in Nairobi, Kenya, that works to strengthen state-society relations to achieve more effective and inclusive development.

    With elections still a few months away, is it clear who the contenders will be?

    Many are unaware that Kenya has only one election day in which all political positions are filled. But although the focus is on the presidential race, the forthcoming elections will bring in 349 members of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, including 290 elected from the constituencies, 47 women elected from the counties and 12 nominated representatives, plus 69 members of the Senate, 47 of whom are elected directly while the rest are elected to represent women, young people and other excluded groups.

    In addition, Kenyans will be electing 47 governors, the regional leaders directly responsible to county assemblies, that is, their respective regional parliaments. Kenyans will elect a further 1,450 county assembly members. So the election is a complex one.

    For the presidential race, some likely frontrunners are already emerging. The current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, is ineligible to stand for re-election after completing his second term; his deputy, William Ruto, is among the leading candidates alongside former prime minister Raila Odinga. It is worth noting that this is the fifth time Odinga is running for president, having lost his previous attempts and withdrawn once in 2017.

    By law candidacies for the presidency will be made official in mid-May, and there are currently almost 45 people who have submitted their names as possible candidates. The election body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, will have the final word on which candidates fulfil the legal criteria to run.

    The question many are likely to ask is why there are only two leading contenders. The answer is as complex as the country’s elections.

    In a bid to exercise a divide-and-rule strategy, the British colonial government divided Kenya into regional ethnic units, with people from one unit not allowed to travel to other units without the authority of the colonial government under a system known as Kipande (Identity) system. In addition, people in regions closest to where white people lived were given access to education much earlier so they could work for whites. As a result, these regions (mainly central, Rift Valley and Western) progressed much faster and became dominant in the period leading to and after independence. It helped that these regions are also the most agriculturally productive, which is part of the reason the whites chose them as their residence.

    There are about 43 ethnic groups in Kenya, but just five of them constitute over half of its population of about 50 million. Due to the combined effects of colonial boundaries, which the 2010 Constitution kept intact – a story for another day – and the numeric dominance of these few ethnic groups, the country’s politics, in a quite similar fashion to that in South Sudan, continue to revolve around five ethnic groups. Leading presidential candidates always emerge from these five. Currently, the two leading candidates represent a coalition of three and two of these largest ethnic groups.

    What will be at stake in the upcoming elections?

    The current president is seen to have spent his time investing in sections of the economy that benefited his vast family businesses. From infrastructure to hospitals to the dairy and transport sectors, most of the investments have been in areas that are perceived directly to add value or make it easy for the president’s family businesses to thrive. As a result, there is a perception that what is at stake is the protection of these investments, hence the current complex coalition supported by the president that has brought together people seen to be those who will preserve the status quo.

    But at a deeper level, the country is in a serious crisis. The economy has been in recession for over eight months now. Half of its recurrent budget is used on civil service salaries. The latest economic report by the government shows that for the first time in the country’s history, debt costs will surpass the recurrent expenditure, projected at Sh1.34 trillion (US$1.3 billion) for the coming year. The debt binge is mainly from Eurobond offerings, a package of Chinese loans and syndicated commercial loans taken in recent years. Distress levels are so high that the Central Bank has begun to ration foreign reserves, especially US dollars. Fuel prices have risen by nearly 53 per cent in the past one year, largely due to the fact that fuel has always been an easy target for taxation.

    And that is not all: European countries have always used Kenya as a trade gateway to the continent and have largely made it a multinational headquarters for European companies working across Africa. This has led to massive losses through tax evasion and avoidance and skewed double taxation agreements, and has killed countless small businesses that could not manage the massive resources and subsidies given by European development finance institutions or donor agencies (such as the CDC Group of the UK) to European corporations so they can win contracts and set up businesses in the country.

    But there is a bigger underlying fear among citizens. In 2017 the Supreme Court was forced to overturn the results of the presidential elections after it emerged that the government, through Ot Morpho, a French company fronted by the French government, had manipulated the vote counting and tallying, handing victory to the incumbent president. The subsequent repeat elections were boycotted by the opposition at the last minute on the grounds that the government had refused to make the changes demanded by the Supreme Court to ensure transparent vote counting. This massive collusion and rejection of changes proposed by the judiciary severely eroded confidence in the electoral system. It is believed to be the part of reason for the current low voter registration.

    What are the civic space conditions like in the run-up to the election?

    The executive and the political class had made attempts to water down the constitution significantly through a process known as Building Bridges Initiative, but they were stopped in their tracks by the courts, including the Supreme Court. This has preserved citizens’ freedoms and has strengthened confidence in the judiciary. Because of this there is still considerable freedom of assembly and expression.

    But the government has also tried to limit the work of civil society around the election. In July 2021, the Kenyan Foreign Affairs Ministry sent a confidential memo to all foreign missions and international civil society organisations (CSOs) that usually support civic education, instructing them not to put any resources, either directly or through local CSOs, into civic education and civic advocacy without the express authorisation of the government. To date, such authorisation has not been granted, and it’s not clear if partners have even requested it.

    Interestingly, foreign missions kept quiet and refused to divulge this information to local CSOs. It is not clear why the government took this drastic measure, but it is even more baffling why foreign missions have been so quick to obey it when a few years ago they defied a similar directive by the Russian government and funded civic education in that country. A possible reason lies in Kenya’s centrality, alongside Rwanda, for the politics of Africa and the economies of Europe, which these foreign countries are keen to preserve. 

    As a result of this decision, this year Kenya has had the lowest voter registration in its history and levels of civic awareness have plummeted. The denial of resources for civic education has been a massive blow for civil society, and with the elections under 90 days away, it is not yet clear what role civil society will play around them.

    The window for registration as election observers, usually played by the African Union, the Carter Foundation, the European Union and a coalition of civil society groups, is still open, and it is still possible that with alternative sources of funding, CSOs may still engage in some way.

    What is the potential for electoral violence?

    Violence is highly unlikely. Despite ethnic politics rooted in the colonial regionalisation arrangement, Kenyans are largely peaceful. Most of the post-election violence that Kenya has experienced has been mostly confined to power struggles among the five dominant ethnic groups and has never been about the entire country. Over the past five months, these five ethnic groups have formed two large coalitions, making violence unlikely.

    Of course, conflict between these two coalitions cannot be ruled out if one of them loses the elections, but if it occurs, this violence is unlikely to have an impact on the rest of the communities.

    Civic space in Kenya is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Africa Platform through itswebsite.

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