Amnesty International Report 1999 - Kenya
|Publication Date||1 January 1999|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1999 - Kenya, 1 January 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa096c.html [accessed 25 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Government critics were detained, ill-treated and otherwise harassed. Among them were human rights activists, pro-democracy campaigners and journalists. All were released after a short time, but some were charged with criminal offences. If convicted, they would be prisoners of conscience. There were many reports of torture and ill-treatment of people in police custody and in prison. Prison conditions were extremely harsh and life-threatening; scores of prisoners reportedly died of infectious diseases. Excessive force was used by police on peaceful protesters. At least 168 people were sentenced to death; more than 900 people were under sentence of death at the end of the year. No executions were carried out. Asylum-seekers were threatened with forcible return to countries where they would face serious human rights violations.
Ethnic clashes in Rift Valley Province escalated in the first half of the year (see Amnesty International Reports 1993 to 1998). At least 127 people were killed and thousands displaced. The clashes started in Laikipia District and spread to Nakuru District, areas where large numbers had voted against the government of President Daniel arap Moi in the December 1997 general election. For the first time, members of the Kikuyu community retaliated to attacks in an organized fashion, justifying this by claiming that the government security forces had failed to act. In June a judicial commission of inquiry was set up into the causes of the ethnic clashes that had affected the country since 1992. The commission was due to report to the President in December, but this was later extended to April 1999.
Discussions continued throughout the year about the process for constitutional reforms. In August a consultative structure was agreed which will include members of parliament (MPS), district representatives, churches and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It will look at all aspects of the judiciary, legislature and executive, and make recommendations on the functions and responsibilities of each. It will also consider different systems of governance in Kenya. The Constitutional Reform bill was enacted in December.
In August a bomb placed next to the US embassy exploded in central Nairobi killing 213 people and wounding more than 5,000. Two men were later arrested and charged in the USA with murder. It was not possible to establish how many others were in custody in Kenya at the end of the year in connection with the bombing.
In March, three human rights NGOs, including the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), were threatened with deregistration by President Moi. The threat followed their support for the National Convention Executive Council (NCEC), a loose alliance of political parties and NGOs that questioned the government's proposed process for constitutional reform. The NCEC's offices were searched by the police, documents removed and three staff members were held for several hours for questioning. In September, six Muslim NGOs were deregistered by the government without warning. The government cited "security" concerns in the wake of the US embassy bombing. A further 11 NGOs were threatened with deregistration. After substantial international and national pressure, the NGOs were allowed to challenge the bans in court. In October the High Court suspended the deregistrations pending appeal.
In July, three magazines had their licences rescinded after publishing stories about insecurity in the country. The newspapers were allowed to continue publishing after appealing to the High Court, which ruled that no infringements had been made to warrant the removal of licences.
Members of human rights and other non-governmental organizations, journalists, opposition politicians and other government critics continued to be harassed by the authorities. In May Njuguna Mutahi, publications officer of the KHRC, and a journalist were arrested and illegally held in incommunicado detention for four days before being charged with theft. They were then released on bail. It appeared that the charges were spurious; Njuguna Mutahi would be a prisoner of conscience if convicted. The case had not come to trial by the end of the year.
Many other government critics were detained for short periods or charged with criminal offences. Some of the charges were later dropped by the Attorney General. In January, for example, two members of the organization Release Political Prisoners were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly after a peaceful demonstration in Nairobi was violently broken up by the police. At a similar demonstration in February, seven men and women were charged with illegal assembly. Charges against them were later dropped. Also in February, three members of a human rights organization were detained while talking to inmates at Langata Women's Prison as part of a project. Their papers were confiscated and they were held for 24 hours before being released without charge. In October criminal charges against Juma Kiplenge, a human rights lawyer, were dropped after national and international pressure. The lay magistrate in charge of one of the cases brought against Juma Kiplenge had said that Juma Kiplenge would be convicted regardless of the evidence.
In January Professor Kivutha Kibwana, a leading member of the NCEC, was abducted by four armed men and threatened with death. Confidential documents belonging to the NCEC were stolen. It was believed that the abductors were from Kenya's Special Branch. After Professor Kibwana's release, the police refused to investigate the case.
In May a meeting held by opposition and ruling party MPS in Kwanza, Trans Nzoia district, to discuss insecurity in the North Rift Valley, was declared illegal. The police beat politicians, journalists and others to prevent the meeting from continuing. A meeting organized three weeks later, in direct response to the first meeting, was attacked by 30 armed men. Two people were wounded by arrows and scores of others injured after a grenade was apparently thrown into the crowd. According to reports, the police did not intervene, leading to claims that the attackers were acting with official collusion or acquiescence.
Journalists continued to be detained and threatened because of reports they had written. In July Magayu K. Magayu, editor of The Star newspaper, was remanded in custody over an article about ethnic killings in the Rift Valley. The same day Tony Gachoka, editor of the Post on Sunday, locked himself in his office to avoid being arrested by police. He claimed there was no warrant for his arrest. Imanene Imathiu, a correspondent for the Daily Nation, was treated in hospital for injuries sustained when he was beaten by police. He had been investigating allegations of corruption in an Administration Police camp. He was among a team of journalists who had talked to local administration officials regarding the corruption allegations.
There were numerous reports of torture inflicted by the police to extract confessions. For example, John Chege Komu, from Thika town, was arrested in July and died reportedly as a result of torture while in detention. No steps were taken to investigate his death. Christopher Naza, a Roman Catholic aid worker in Nairobi, died after being beaten while in police custody. According to his father, policemen stormed into a bar at 10pm and arrested Christopher Naza and others who were drinking there, and took them away in a police car. The policemen hit Christopher Naza several times on the head. The police said they were investigating the death, but no findings were reported by the end of the year.
In March, after the killing of a policeman by bandits, 38 men and one woman were taken by police from Mbalambala village, 125 kilometres north of Garissa town in North Eastern Province, and then whipped and beaten. Some were tied upside down from trees with their arms tied behind their back. The woman was raped. Following the incident, 15 of them were taken to Garissa with flesh wounds, whip lacerations, genital injuries and limb paralysis. After pressure from local MPS and human rights groups, the police instituted an inquiry. The progress of this inquiry had not been made public, nor had those responsible been held to account, by the end of 1998.
In June an inquest ruled that Ali Hussein Ali had died as a result of torture while in police custody (see Amnesty International Report 1998) and that there was enough evidence to charge three named police officers in connection with his death. No charges had been brought against the accused by the end of the year.
Conditions were harsh in many prisons, and amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Scores of prisoners were reported to have died as a result of infectious diseases spread by severe overcrowding. In August, two High Court judges complained that prison officers had not taken prisoners for medical treatment despite receiving court orders to do so.
Scores of people were killed unlawfully by the police. In May, for example, six Administration Police officers shot and killed a 72-year-old woman, Wacera Muiruri, in a Nairobi suburb during a land dispute. A traditional chief had allegedly ordered the police to shoot into a crowd of unarmed protesters who posed no threat to the police. In the incident, four people were also injured, one seriously. In September a mentally handicapped man was shot dead by police through a window in his bedroom where he was hiding.
In August, three policemen from the Flying Squad were arrested after shooting dead a university student, James Odhiambo, in his car. He was suspected of having hijacked a car. The police apologized to the public, saying that the "slaying of the innocent student was a big embarrassment to the police force". In November Corporal Gideon Maino was jailed for five years for manslaughter after shooting dead Anthony Chege (see Amnesty International Report 1998).
At least 168 people were sentenced to death. More than 900 people were under sentence of death at the end of the year. No executions were reported.
Refugees and asylum-seekers continued to face forcible return to their countries. In August the government ordered all refugees and asylum-seekers to report to the Ministry of Immigration. Many had their registration documents confiscated and were issued with residence permits for two or four weeks. These refugees were threatened with forcible return to countries where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations. Others were ordered to reside in designated refugee camps where conditions were appalling. Following national and international appeals, most of the refugees were allowed to stay in Kenya.
In December at least 800 foreign nationals were detained following raids on a Nairobi housing estate. The police were accused by witnesses of raping women and stealing personal belongings; no investigation into the allegations was opened by the authorities. It was not clear whether any refugees were forcibly returned to their country of origin.
Amnesty International appealed to the Kenyan government to investigate the killing of Seth Sendashonga, and to use evidence gathered in connection with a previous assassination attempt in February 1996 in which a Rwandese diplomat in Kenya was detained but released without trial. Seth Sendashonga, a former Rwandese government minister, was shot dead with his driver in Kenya in May. The assassination was believed to be linked to his criticisms of the Rwandese government and his denunciation of human rights violations in Rwanda. Seth Sendashonga had been in exile in Kenya since 1995 and headed a Rwandese opposition party in exile. In June David Akiki Kiwanuka, a Rwandese man, and Charles Muhanji Wamuthoni and Christopher Lubanga Mlonda, both Ugandans, were charged with his murder. The men would face the death penalty if convicted.
Amnesty International appealed to the government to take urgent steps to protect the human rights of all communities in the context of escalating violence. The organization also appealed to the government to investigate fully allegations of unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment, and to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice.
In March, at the UN Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International raised its concerns about Kenya in a written statement. It also urged the government to fulfil its reporting obligations to the UN and to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Amnesty International delegates visited the country in April and met government officials and contacts. In June Amnesty International published a report, Kenya: Political violence spirals.