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Political rights and civil liberties seriously undermined

By Cyrus Ombati | January 17th 2018
President Uhuru Kenyatta

Democratic rights are increasingly not respected in Kenya, a report by the US-based non-governmental organization Freedom House says.

The report says Kenya is a multiparty democracy that holds regular elections, but its political rights and civil liberties are seriously undermined by pervasive corruption and cronyism, police brutality, and ethnic rivalries that are exploited by political leaders.

It cites the 2017 elections says Kenya’s Supreme Court initially won broad praise for annulling the results of what it deemed to be a flawed presidential election.

However, it adds, the period before the court-mandated rerun was marred by a lack of substantive reforms, incidents of political violence, and a boycott by the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga.

“These factors undermined the credibility of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, in which he claimed 98 percent of the vote amid low turnout,” the report says.

It adds leaders in several other countries clung to power, often at the expense of their citizens’ basic rights.

The report dubbed- Freedom in the World 2018: Democracy in Crisis- gives Kenya an aggregate freedom score of 48 out of 100 points.
This is a drop from 51 points that were scored in 2016. The report also places Kenya among 58 countries described as “partly free”.

Kenya scored four out of seven points in freedom rating, political rights and civil liberties with seven being the least free.

It says press freedom in Kenya is partly free.

The report says political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017, extending a period characterized by emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States’ withdrawal from its leadership role in the global struggle for human freedom.

The challenges within democratic states have fueled the rise of populist leaders who appeal to anti-immigrant sentiment and given short shrift to fundamental civil and political liberties.

It adds democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—came under attack around the world.

Seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains. This marked the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

The United States retreated from its traditional role as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy amid an accelerating decline in American political rights and civil liberties, it adds.

Over the period since the 12-year global slide began in 2006, 113 countries have seen a net decline, and only 62 have experienced a net improvement.

In 2016, the report says, Kenya struggled to cope with the threat of terrorism emanating from neighboring Somalia; counterterrorism efforts often feature abusive and discriminatory tactics targeting the Muslim and ethnic Somali communities.

The group says there was a decline in democratic rights in Tanzania.

The government of President John Magufuli—who took office in 2015 as a member of the only ruling party the country has ever known—stepped up repression of dissent, detaining opposition politicians, shuttering media outlets, and arresting citizens for posting critical views on social media.

And in Uganda, 73-year-old president Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, sought to remove the presidential age limit of 75, which would permit him to run again in 2021.

“Museveni had just won reelection the previous year in a process that featured police violence, internet shutdowns, and treason charges against his main challenger.”






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