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Kenya's three human rights agencies in clash over mandates

By WAHOME THUKU | September 29th 2014

A supremacy fight has emerged among three national commissions over their conflicting roles and constitutional mandates.

The tussle has pitted the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), National Gender and Equity Commission (NGEC) and Commission on Administration of Justice (CAJ) against each other and the Government.

The conflict played out openly last Friday, when senior officials of the commissions exchanged words before storming out of a meeting in Naivasha called to iron out their differences.

The technical working group meeting had been constituted by Attorney General Githu Muigai in a bid to resolve the crisis. The group comprises chairpersons and chief executives of the commissions and other officials.

The meeting aborted after a KNCHR official claimed there was a plot by the Government to merge the commissions. The three commissions are established under Article 59 of the Constitution.

The Constitution primarily establishes only the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission (KNHREC) as a single entity to promote and protect human rights as well as gender equality and equity. The Constitution however allowed Parliament to pass laws restructuring the KNHREC into two or more separate commissions.

That is how, in 2011, Parliament enacted the laws splitting KNHREC into the three commissions - KNCHR headed by Kagwiria Mbogori, NGEC chaired by Winfred Lichuma and CAJ, commonly known as Office of the Ombudsman and headed by Otiende Amollo.


The conflict has been highlighted by donor agencies that are at a loss on which one to fund owing to the duplication of their mandates and usurping of roles.

“We are all human rights institutions but we need clear-cut lines on where our mandates lie,” said one of the officials who attended the Naivasha meeting. He added: “Right now, donor partners are having a hard time deciding which of our activities to fund because we all seem to be doing the same thing using different methodologies.”

Another source of conflict is a proposal to merge all the commissions. This has led to bad blood between some of the commissioners and officials of the Devolution ministry under Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru.

The ministry is working on modalities to streamline and rationalise all such institutions to improve service delivery.

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Editorial Cartoon 29.09.2014
Editorial Cartoon 29.09.2014
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