KHRC accuses Kenya Kwanza of impunity, weakening institutions

KHRC Executive Director Davies Malombe. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has accused the government of deepening the culture of impunity and disregarding the rule of law and principles of good governance enshrined in the Constitution.

KHRC made the damning revelations in a report released yesterday, titled “2023: a year of deepening regression in governance and human rights,” that covers the period from September 2022 to December 2023.

The commission says that its observations through three of its reports last year have shown that the country has increasingly moved in the wrong direction, with the majority of Kenyans citing the high cost of living, unemployment, and poverty as the main challenges facing them.

It also criticised the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO), of focusing more on the ruling elite across the political divide and ignoring the critical issues affecting mwananchi.

The report highlights ten indicators of Kenya’s worsening situation with punitive taxation topping the list.

It cited the Finance Act, of 2023, as well as other policies that imposed new taxes, including the housing levy. The commission argues that the increased taxation has caused unprecedented inflation and made life hard for many Kenyans.

“These laws and policies violated the economic and social rights enshrined in the Constitution. Sadly, even in the face of widespread opposition to these taxes, Parliament did nothing to stop them, demonstrating disdain for the voices of the people,” reads the report.

KHRC expresses dismay that despite the courts finding some taxes in the Finance Act unconstitutional, the government was allowed to continue this illegality until January 10, 2024.

“This raised concerns about the potential state capture of the Judiciary, casting a dark shadow over the integrity of our legal system,” reads the statement from KHRC.

The commission also accuses the Kenya Kwanza regime of breaking its campaign promise of responsible fiscal management and resorting to “burdening the citizens with additional debt.”

KHRC says the debts have been a pipeline for oppressive policies by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other lenders.

On the appointment of persons with questionable integrity to state and public offices, the report traces the origin of this problem to the elections of August 2022, where politicians with questionable integrity were cleared to contest for the General Election.

“This regime deepened this further by having more culprits appointed into state and public offices, contrary to Chapter 6 of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity,” reads the report.

It says the oppressive atmosphere extended to threats by the Executive against the media for their coverage of the administration’s misgovernance, severely undermining freedom of expression.

The commission notes that attempts to organize demonstrations against the government and the private sector in Kenya became virtually impossible in 2023, with severe consequences for those who dared to try.

“Between April and August 2023, we witnessed egregious violations, including arbitrary arrests, violent disruptions, illegal detentions, injuries, and even fatalities during protests against the Finance Bill, 2023, and the escalating cost of living.”

“The oppressive atmosphere extended to threats by the Executive against the media for their coverage of the administration's misgovernance, severely undermining freedom of expression,” reads the report.

The report also found that President William Ruto's regime did not honour its pledge of ending state capture but "doubled down" on it leading to the unfortunate control of Parliament and county assemblies.

The report also states that the Kenya Kwanza regime has denied constitutional commissions and independent offices the resources they need to function optimally and appointed compliant state officers like judges and commissioners to those critical positions.

"As a result, it has become untenable to oversee the Executive," reads the report.

The report says Kenya’s health system is in crisis, with the government's promised “universal health care” falling far short of expectations. It adds that the transformation of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) into the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) was merely a cosmetic change that did not translate into tangible improvements in service delivery.

"As 2023 draws to a close, the NHIF still owes private hospitals significant sums of money, running into billions of shillings," reads the report.

The commission says these hospitals, relied upon by millions of Kenyans and covered by government insurance, refuse to provide treatment until the outstanding bills are settled.

“There is no indication that the government intends to address this substantial debt promptly, resulting in the continued denial of critical healthcare to millions of Kenyans.”

Other indicators of the country’s deterioration include State capture and weakening of independent institutions, the violation of human rights and freedoms, the interference with devolution, the failure to implement the Constitution, and the lack of accountability and transparency.