The State of Kenya's Human Rights

Regarding Kenya's human rights situation, many say that the country is improving in many areas. And in important areas, Kenya has always done better than many other African countries, and in some respects (media and education) it’s even leading the way. Still, it’s record is far from spotless.

As a traveler or tourist, you will see little to nothing of human rights problems in Kenya. It’s certainly no reason to skip a trip to Kenya – hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists visit Kenya each year with no problems whatsoever. This article is mainly provided here for those with a broad interest in the country.

Kenyan military in Nairobi

Abuse By Police And Security Forces

One of the largest problems with Kenya's human rights is the abusive force seen among the police and security forces. One organization that investigates human rights abuses in Kenya is the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) is. In 2004, they had 34 cases of illegal killing by security forces, with almost half involving torture. In that same year, more than 300 incidents of torture were reported (not causing death).

It also happens that law enforcement officers extort bribes from local citizens to avoid being arrested, for either real or fabricated offenses. Officers who commit these crimes are rarely punished or prosecuted for them.

Position Of Women In Kenya

Assaults and violence against women is another area where Kenya human rights record fairs poorly. A Kenya Demographic and Health Survey reported that more than half of all women in Kenya had been subjected to some form of domestic violence after the age of 15. Social traditions that place women in a second-rate position after men are partly to blame. Many abuses are ignored, even by police. Women are not comfortable talking about anything sexual, which leads many crimes to go unreported anyway.

Besides issues of violence, women are still faced with discrimination in the workplace and economy. The constitution has established equality between men and women, a fact that is only slowly emerging in the real world.

Tribal Discrimination

Discrimination and favoritism based on tribes are fairly widespread, and has been difficult to overcome due to long-standing tribal loyalties. It's considered somewhat traditional and even appropriate to favor those of your own tribe. There are more than 40 tribes in Kenya, with the largest being the Kikuyu who make up 22% of the population. Many of the much smaller tribes become marginalized because of tribal favoritism.

The Media And The Internet

Though there have been members of the media are sometimes harassed, Kenya generally allows for unrestricted freedom of speech. Criticism of the government is still a somewhat sensitive topic. Still, the Kenyan media are known to be critical and aren’t afraid to speak out, and as such they’ve set an example for other newspapers in Africa.

Internet access is not restricted, and while most Kenyans do not have internet access at home, each village or town has a cheap public internet access point that’s used by many locals. This way, Kenyans who want to have free access to information that may not be reported directly in Kenya.

Positive Developments: Access To Education

Access to education is one area where Kenya's human rights excels. In 2003, the tuition fees for primary education (representing 8 years of schooling) were dropped and attendance became mandatory.

With nation-wide access to free education, the enrollment of students skyrocketed with more than a million new children attending school. An unfortunate side-effect of this positive legislation is that the school system was unable to accommodate the extra students. Many schools are now over-crowded and lacking in staff and supplies.

Freedom Of Movement, Religion And Association Are Respected

There are a number of Kenyan human rights that are generally not infringed upon. Freedom of movement and travel, religion, and association are all constitutionally protected and usually not at issue.

There are sporadic reports of intimidation and government interference in these areas, but they are not the norm. NGOs (non-government organizations) are also given access to the country, and allowed to investigate human rights abuses without restriction.

View from a Kenyan prison cell

Kenya Human Rights Commission

The Kenya Human Rights Commissions (KHRC) was founded in 1992, during the presidency of Danial arap Moi. Corruption and governmental abuses were at their highest then, and the KHRC had an original mission to monitor, document and make public the repeated rights violations that took place through the country.

Their focus was on the most basic civil rights, and in 1999 they broadened their outlook to work on improving social and economic rights as well. Today they continue to publicize and put the spotlight on human rights abuses in Kenya, as well as lobby the government for changes and provide advocacy for abuse victims. Recently, the KHRC reached out further into the rural areas of Kenya to educate even the smallest communities about their rights.

Related Pages:

Dealing With The Kenya Police
Kenya's Legal System
Understanding The Kenya Government
Corruption In Kenya: The Facts
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