Grand corruption and abuse of office killing bottom-up dream

Irungu Houghton, Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director. He writes in his own capacity. 

Coming less than a fortnight from International Human Rights Day, the release of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights “State of Human Rights” Report is essential reading for all citizens and policymakers.

The well-researched 24-page report details significant human rights violations and omissions that have taken place during the first year of the 47+1 administrations.

It also offers corrective actions that can be taken to lift the lives of millions above the constitutional bar. The report is timely. Our Constitution officially became a teenager this year. In under two weeks, Kenya will celebrate 60 years since the late Field-Marshal Muthoni wa Kirima and others delivered our independence.

206 states will soon celebrate 75 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The government agency’s report is distressing reading. It indicates the nation is experiencing eating disorders, bullying, depression, and poor grades challenges many teenagers grapple with currently.

Read against the Amnesty International Kenya July 2023 Scorecard on the Jubilee administration, the report also suggests Kenya Kwanza has not transformed the shortfalls they criticised in their predecessor and may have, created some demons of its own. Course correction is urgently needed to realise the right to education and food and freedom from discrimination and violence. A rushed transition to the competency-based public school curriculum saw 160,000 learners drop out of school.

Despite commendable attempts to revitalise agriculture through fertiliser subsidies and other incentives, 2.8 million people still face acute food insecurity across a quarter of the counties. Most Kenyans remain apprehensive of Genetically Modified Organisms without public participation or clear bio-safety guarantees.

Why did the July El Nino early warning by the Kenya Meteorological Department not trigger better disaster management preparedness? The relentless floods have been allowed to destroy properties, displace 56,000 and kill 52 people.

The Sh25 billion promised by national and county governments seems to have drowned as well. Outrageously, this figure is just higher than the Sh20 billion ministries found to spend on foreign and domestic travel this year.

Since the active whipping up of public hatred against sexual minorities in March, the Commission has documented 98 cases of harassment, death threats and physical attacks with 65 cases of forced evictions or Kenyans being forced to temporarily relocate for their safety.

The report echoes recent Maraga Task Force findings that police reforms have stalled or worse still, reversed. Corruption is at an all-time high and no police commander has been held accountable for the violent maandamano policing. Let’s see if Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki will kick-start policy dialogue on the future of Kenyan policing as recommended by the former CJ.

The KNCHR report also has positive findings. It lauds the new Mental Health (Amendment) Act, the Primary Healthcare Act, the Social Health Insurance Act, Digital Health Act, and the Facility Improvement Financing Act while cautioning on the dangers of annual payments locking out the economically challenged.

Police investigators, anti-terrorism units and prosecutors have also secured 23 anti-terrorism convictions and restricted the geographical coverage of radicalised extremists.

Grand corruption and abuse of office remain the biggest threat to the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) and a second term. Without transparency and accountability in the agriculture and oil sector among others, the President’s agenda will be still born.

Mortgaged by those in government and their cartels, everyday Kenyans will find their lives becoming increasingly unbearable while those they elected flaunt opulence and lifestyles.

Constitutional fidelity, keeping civic space open and protecting our journalists as the President was reminded in the European Parliament this week, distinguishes us from other countries in the region.

On 9th November, the President asserted to Parliament that “citizen freedoms and fundamental rights lie at the heart of enterprise and democracy”. Acting on the KNCHR report would be a clear sign his government means it.

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