Events of 1991

Human Rights Developments

Nineteen ninety-one was marked by the growing number of voices in Kenya challenging the long-term denial of human rights. Late in the year, after persistent resistance, the government of President Daniel Arap Moi yielded ground to internal and external demands for greater political freedom. Immediately after international donors decided in late November to suspend new assistance for six months pending economic and political reforms, President Moi in December announced the legalization of multiparty politics. Other welcome developments included the release of the three political detainees whose detention had been officially acknowledged by the government and the decision not to carry out certain threats to the freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary. However, the basic institutional structure of authoritarian and repressive rule remained intact.

The pressure for a multiparty political system remained the central human rights issue in 1991. The year began on a promising note with the announcement of reforms such as the end of the queue-voting system for elections, in which electors were left open to intimidation by the requirement that they stand behind a photograph of the candidate of their choice, and the promise to cease expelling government critics from the Kenyan African National Union (KANU), the single ruling party. In September, President Moi reneged on his earlier promise and began to expel dissidents from KANU. Among those expelled were opposition leaders Martin Shikuku, Masinde Muliro, Philip Gachoka, George Nthenge and Salim Ahmed.

On December 3, in a major shift, the president announced the repeal of Section 2a of the Constitution, introduced in 1982 to ban opposition groups. Until then, President Moi repeatedly had denounced supporters of the democracy movement, often by name, as "traitors" and "anarchists," and accused them of receiving foreign financing with the intention of destabilizing Kenya.

Earlier attempts to challenge KANU's monopoly of political organization were promptly suppressed. The attempts of a prominent government critic, former Vice President Oginga Odinga, to register his National Democratic Party in March were frustrated, and Oginga was briefly detained while his house was searched in May. Later, Oginga tried to register the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), but was also prevented from doing so. The president banned efforts to observe the first anniversary of the July 7, 1990 pro-democracy riots that left over a hundred people dead. He also issued a statement banning a public rally scheduled for October 5. The organizers had sought legal permission and the matter was pending in court at the time. The president's actions led them to withdraw their request, stating that executive interference in the judiciary had made a mockery of the judicial process. Oginga's bodyguard and over twenty others were detained on suspicions of supporting FORD. Oginga's son, Raila, who had spent most of the 1980s detained without charge or trial, was subjected to regular intimidation and, in October, fled the country.

On October 29, the Moral Alliance for Peace was established by, among others, Reverend Timothy Njoya of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa; lawyers Martha Njoka and Beatrice Nduta; the editor of the proscribed magazine Beyond, Bedan Mbugua; and Professor Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement. The Mombasa KANU Branch chairman, Shariff Nassir, promptly declared the Alliance to be an illegal political party. On November 3, George Nthenge, a founding member of FORD, was arrested and, two days later, charged along with three others for holding an illegal meeting in Machakos; he was released on bail after pleading not guilty.

On November 1, President Moi banned a public rally called by FORD for November 16. The action was the government's most serious effort to deny the right to political participation. In a show of force, police arrested opposition leaders and broke up the pro-democracy rally. The crackdown began on the night of November 14-15, when police began arresting FORD members and their supporters in Kisumu and Nairobi. Oginga Odinga, a FORD founder, was arrested together with Gitobu Imanyara, editor of the Nairobi Law Monthly; Dennis Akumu, a former secretary general of the Accra-based Organization of African Trade Union Unity; George Nthenge, a FORD member and former member of Parliament; Luke Obok, also a former member of Parliament; Philip Gachoka, a businessman and FORD member; Salim Ndamwe, secretary general of Oginga Odinga's unregistered National Democratic Party; John Kamangara, a businessman; and at least five others, including Oginga Odinga's bodyguards. Some of those arrested were taken to Nairobi's Wilson airport and put on board a police aircraft and a helicopter with cardboard covering the windows to hide them. At least eleven people were arrested in Kisumu.

The November 16 rally site – the Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi – was cordoned off by armed police and the paramilitary General Service Unit. Security forces were put on alert with paratroopers manning roadblocks around Nairobi and checking identities. Journalists were turned back.

Another eight people were arrested on the day of the rally, including Paul Muite, a government critic and chair of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK); Masinde Muliro, a former Cabinet minister and a FORD member; Martin Shikuku and Philip Gachoka, both FORD members; and two Nairobi lawyers, James Orengo and Japheth Shamalla. They faced charges of violating the Public Order Act. Oginga Odinga and Masinde Muliro were released on bail and the others appeared in court on November 18-19 and were remanded.

Between one and two dozen foreign and local journalists were harassed and arrested at the Kamukunji grounds on November 16, but were later released without charge. Miles Bredin, bureau chief of United Press International, was hit on the head with a police truncheon but avoided serious injury. Scores of FORD supporters and demonstrators were also arrested.

Hundreds of demonstrators showed up outside the police cordon at the rally site. Helicopters circled overhead as tension mounted. Security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges to disperse thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets after opposition leaders seeking to hold the rally were arrested. Police beat demonstrators, fired shots in the air, and lobbed canisters of tear gas to break up the generally peaceful demonstrators. American and German diplomats trying to observe the rally were turned back by the police and later accused of having "masterminded" the rally.

The ensuing unrest in the area surrounding the Kamukunji grounds was easily contained, but not without bloodshed among the protestors. Stones were thrown at the police and motorists, and security forces retaliated with rubber bullets and volleys of tear gas. One person was reported to have died in the clashes when he was trampled to death by a crowd being chased by the riot police, and at least seven others, one of whom later died, received gunshot wounds from both live ammunition and rubber bullets. Later in the day, buses were stoned by protestors and barricades of burning tires were erected in the nearby suburb of Eastleigh as security forces patrolled the streets. There were also disturbances in Pumwani and Mathare after the arrest of the FORD members. In Pumwani, a KANU office was burned down. The center of Nairobi was virtually deserted.

By November 19, at least eighty-six people had appeared in court and been arraigned or charged in connection with the banned rally. Some of the charges were dropped in late November. However, some protesters have been convicted and many are serving sentences for showing the two-fingered "V-for-victory" sign, a symbol of support for the multiparty democracy movement. Many others remain in custody awaiting trial. Among those arrested are:

  • George Nthenge, a FORD member, who was arrested in Machakos on the night of November 14-15. He was charged with five counts of intending to hold an illegal meeting, and was released on bail of 10,000 Kenyan shillings (approximately $350) on November 19.
  • Philip Gachoka, a FORD member and businessman, who was arrested in Muranga on November 16 and charged with violating the Public Order Act. He was released on bail of 20,000 Kenyan shillings (approximately $700) on November 19.
  • Martin Shikuku, a FORD member and former assistant minister, and Japheth Shamalla, a lawyer and council member of the Law Society of Kenya, were arrested on November 16 and each charged with five counts of violating the Public Order Act by publishing notices of the unlicensed rally. Appearing before Senior Resident Magistrate Gladys Ndeda in Kakamega, Shikuku pleaded "not guilty," was denied bail, and was remanded to custody. Shamalla refused to plead, leaving the disposition of his case to the discretion of the court, and was also remanded. On November 21, Justice John Osiemo set bond for each of them at 10,000 Kenyan shillings ($350), and both were released. Shikuku's case was set for hearing on December 9 and 10, and Shamalla's for December 11 and 13. Thousands of demonstrators marching in the streets of Kakamega in support of the two protesters were dispersed with tear gas after they threw stones at the police.
  • Salim Ahmed Bamahriz, a FORD member who was arrested on November 25 in Mombasa after surfacing from hiding, was released after twelve hours.

An unknown number of others are still being held in custody. The whereabouts of some are still not known, including Joseph Owuor Nyongo, Oginga Odinga's bodyguard, and Morris Nyaoki, a worker.

Another significant act of political repression was the trial and conviction for sedition of George Anyona, a former member of Parliament; Edward Oyugi, an educational psychologist; Augustine Kathangu, an outspoken KANU member; and Ngotho Kariuki, a former lecturer at the University of Nairobi. The six-month sedition trial was the longest of its kind in Kenyan history. The defendants were accused of holding a seditious meeting in a bar, and two of them were allegedly in possession of a seditious publication. The trial was blatantly unfair. The accused testified that they had been subjected to torture to obtain confessions, but this claim was summarily rejected by the judge. The allegedly "seditious" publication, a copy of the journal Africa Confidential that contained an article about the Kenyan security service, is not banned in Kenya. None of the defendants had ever advocated violence against the Kenyan government. However, all were found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison.

One of the more insidious aspects of the government's human rights record is its deliberate undermining of the independence of the judiciary. In May, Attorney General Matthew Muli, who had been instrumental in using the judiciary for political ends, was replaced by Amos Wako, who promptly declared that the president is above the law. There is such widespread lack of confidence in the judiciary as a system willing or capable of defending human rights that the government's welcome decision to restore security of tenure to judges is unlikely, in the short term, to allow the judiciary to recover its independence from the executive.

The Law Society of Kenya, which in October received an international human rights award from the American Bar Association, remained an important rallying point for those critical of the government's human rights record. In retaliation, the government began an intense campaign to intimidate and discredit the LSK leadership. In March, Paul Muite, a lawyer who has been highly critical of the government, was elected as chair of the LSK and immediately called for the repeal of Section 2a of the Constitution. Pro-government members obtained a court injunction to restrain Muite and eight members of the LSK Council from making any "political" pronouncements on behalf of the LSK. The LSK was also prohibited from holding its general meeting.

The LSK's conflict with the government intensified with its outspoken criticism of the role played by British expatriate judges. In May, the LSK passed a unanimous motion calling for the removal of three British expatriate judges because of their consistently pro-government rulings, including decisions upholding the legality of the one-party state and rejecting the justiciability of the human rights provisions of the Kenyan Constitution.

On October 23, Justice John Mwera found seven LSK officers guilty of contempt of court for allegedly disobeying the injunction against making political statements, and fined them 10,000 Kenyan shillings each. The judgment was seen as a partial victory because it had been feared that the officers would be sent to jail. The seven officers were: Paul Muite, chair; Willy Mutunga, vice chair; and Japheth Shamalla, Fackson Kagwe, Charles Nyachae, G.B.M. Kariuki and Martha Njoka, as Council members. The case is awaiting the decision of the Court of Appeal. Hundreds of pro-democracy supporters marched through Nairobi following the judgment.

However, one lawyer continued to be singled out for punishment. On October 31, Justice Gideon Mbito upheld an objection by a lawyer who argued that Martha Njoka should not be allowed to represent clients in court because of her contempt-of-court offense. Although Njoka had already been fined for the contempt, and the matter was not before Justice Mdito, nor any longer in the High Court, the justice ordered her to apologize to the High Court for her alleged contempt. Njoka immediately applied for a stay of the blatantly illegal order, but on November 4, the order was effectively upheld. Only on November 29 did the Court of Appeal grant a stay pending appeal.

The government continued to crack down on independent journals. Gitobu Imanyara was arrested and charged with publishing seditious material on account of an editorial in his Nairobi Law Monthly which discussed the phenomenon of tribalism and highlighted the extent to which members of the president's small ethnic group dominate senior positions in government. Imanyara was held from March 1 to May 28. During the last month in custody he was hospitalized with a serious illness, chained to his bed and kept under twenty-four hour surveillance. Charges were later dropped. Njehu Gatabaki, editor of Finance, was also harassed and forced into hiding in late March. Paul Amina, a freelance journalist and former political detainee, was arrested on August 16 at the International Press Center in Nairobi and detained for two days after he publicly identified a Special Branch officer. Two other journalists, Macharia Gaitho and Julius Bargorett, were beaten with sticks by security policemen, and had their cameras smashed and their notebooks confiscated, while covering a meeting in April addressed by Nicholas Biwott, the former minister for industry; Biwott has been accused of official corruption and involvement in the February 1990 murder of former Foreign Minister Robert Ouko.

Those associated with a number of journals were subjected to harassment, and copies of the journals were confiscated by the police. These include the Nairobi Law Monthly, Finance, Society and copies of one edition of The Observer of London, which contained an article critical of the Kenyan government. Four plays were also refused licenses on the grounds of being "too political" for Kenyan audiences. They included a Swahili version of George Orwell's "Animal Farm."

The government seized five thousand copies of Newsweek magazine and all copies of the International Herald Tribune for November 17-19 because of articles describing government repression in Kenya. Newsweek carried an article critical of Kenya's one-party system, its human rights record and its opposition to demands for multiparty democracy. The International Herald Tribune carried reports on the arrest of opposition leaders and the government's suppression of the pro-democracy rally on November 16.

The harassment of government critics has also taken other forms. The freedom of movement of several prominent Kenyans was severely restricted in 1991. The passport of Gitobu Imanyara was seized to prevent him from traveling to Athens to collect the Golden Pen of Freedom award. The passport was never returned, preventing him in September from traveling to the United States to receive the Nieman Foundation award from Harvard University. Mohamed Ibrahim, a human rights lawyer, was denied the opportunity in the fall to travel to the United States. Immigration authorities refused to renew his passport unless he obtained a "pink card" required for all Kenyans of Somali origin since a national screening in 1989 and 1990. Ibrahim had publicly refused to participate in this invidious discrimination among Kenyan citizens.

The passports of several Kenyans were seized to prevent them from traveling to the inaugural conference of the Institute for the Promotion of Human Rights in Africa. They included Oginga Odinga, Martin Shikuku, and Denis Akumu, described above, and James Orengo, a lawyer. Akumu and Shikuku were physically removed from an airplane at Nairobi airport.

Three prominent government critics were released from detention during the year: Charles Rubia, Kenneth Matiba and Raila Odinga. However, an incident at the Nairobi headquarters of the Special Branch highlighted the problem of the many ordinary people who are believed still in detention, sometimes having spent years in custody. On July 14, Bernard Kiragu, who had been detained without trial for ten months, was killed in a shootout (in which a senior police officer was also killed) in the detention center at Nyayo House, Nairobi. Kiragu's detention had not been officially acknowledged, suggesting that other unidentified prisoners are also languishing in detention. Kiragu was to have been the key prosecution witness in the above-mentioned treason trial.

Allegations of torture continue to be made without prompting investigations by the government. During the sedition trial described above, sworn affidavits of torture and inhuman treatment were presented to the court but never investigated. Others who have alleged torture and inhuman treatment while in police custody include Koigi wa Wamwere, Rumba Kinuthia, Mirugi Kariuki and Geoffrey Kuria Kariuki, all of whom are facing treason charges. In his affidavit of September 16, 1991, Mirugi Kariuki stated that the police had taken him shortly after his arrest on October 8, 1990 to a dungeon in Nyayo House in Nairobi where he was tortured and subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. He was denied food, bedding and clothing and was held blindfolded and incommunicado for twelve days. On October 19, 1990, he was charged with treason before the chief magistrate, and on March 27, 1991, after several appearances before the chief magistrate, he was served with pretrial documents. Kariuki claims that he is being held in the same block as three hundred convicts condemned to death; denied newspapers, magazines and radio; forced to sleep on the floor without a bed or mattress; and generally treated worse than the convicted prisoners. On October 31, Justice Mbogholi Msagha ruled that Kariuki was being lawfully held pending trial for treason.

The mysterious death and apparent murder in February 1990 of former Foreign Minister Robert Ouko became a major embarrassment to the government in 1991 and resulted in the arrest of top government officials. It also became an important source of information about human rights abuses and corruption among top government officials. A former Scotland Yard detective, John Troon, giving evidence before the Public Commission of Inquiry into the death of Ouko, identified his two prime suspects as Nicholas Biwott, the former minister of energy and industry, and Hezekiah Oyugi, then head of internal security. He also alleged that the Kenyan police had tried to obstruct his investigation. On November 19, Biwott was dismissed from office while attending a meeting in Vienna. He was arrested upon his return to Kenya on November 20 and detained for questioning and further investigation in connection with the murder. Also detained for questioning on November 26 were Hezekiah Oyugi; Julius Kobia, a provincial commissioner; Jonah Anguka, a district commissioner; and George Oraro, the lawyer for the Ouko family who has been named by Ouko's brother, Barak Mbajah, as one of the those who lured Ouko out of his house on February 13, 1990, the day he disappeared.

At the same time, in an act of suspect motive, President Moi dissolved the Public Commission of Inquiry, which had spent 246 days listening to evidence about the murder. He ordered the three judges to submit their report to him before the end of January 1992. Before the president's move, the three commissioners had adjourned proceedings because of alleged intimidation by the state security services, including ransacking of their hotel rooms and bugging of their office telephones. Fearing for their lives, they said they would not continue with the hearings until their personal safety was guaranteed.

On November 27, Julius Kobia was released after questioning but five other people were arrested including potential witnesses Selina Were, Matthew Onyango K'Oyoo and John Eric Ouko Reru and suspects Paul Gondi and Police Inspector Washington Ajwoya.

In an affidavit sent to the Commission from the United States where he has sought refuge, Ouko's brother alleged that he had been tortured and subjected to inhuman treatment in an attempt to force him to cooperate in what he described as the official cover-up of his brother's murder.

John Troon alleged that Hezekiah Oyugi, who was dismissed as head of internal security only to be named to the highly lucrative position of executive chairman of General Motors Kenya (he has since lost the position), had blocked the announcement of Ouko's death as a murder and announced it as suicide instead. John Troon and Dr. Ian West of Guys Hospital in London had told Hezekiah Oyugi that Dr. Ouko had been murdered and had not committed suicide, as claimed by a senior Kenyan government pathologist.

Allegations of corruption by top government officials soured Kenya's relations with international donors, which responded to the endless corruption charges and political repression by suspending or threatening to suspend aid. A meeting of the Paris Club on aid to Kenya was held on November 25-26, chaired by the World Bank. Kenya currently receives nearly $1 billion a year in foreign aid, which is about thirty percent of its development budget, and the Paris meeting was seen as a major opportunity for Western governments to demonstrate their opposition to the abuse of human rights in Kenya. At the end of the meeting, the World Bank said that it would wait for six months to see whether Kenya instituted wide-ranging political and economic reforms in light of its poor human rights record. The communique issued after the meeting "underlined the importance of the rule of law and respect for human rights, notably the basic freedoms of expression and assembly."

The World Bank also said at the end of the meeting that it had approved two loans for Kenya totaling $86 million, but warned that it might cut off all but the most basic of project loans if the country failed to reform its economy and cut government corruption. It said that Kenya would receive no aid for its energy sector – a $140-160 million loan was withheld – unless Minister Biwott was removed. Biwott was apparently shielding $600 million worth of projects from scrutiny by the World Bank, including the construction of geo-thermal and hydroelectric power plants and the upgrading of the Mombasa refinery. Britain also held back a shipment of oil to Kenya in 1991 for fear that proceeds from it would find their way into Biwott's personal bank account. His demotion to industry minister and his subsequent arrest and dismissal from office altogether indicate that President Moi is desperate to continue attracting foreign investment.

During the past decades, Kenya's once-independent universities have gradually been stripped of their autonomy. Political interference in the appointment of academic staff and the content of courses has become commonplace. Violations of academic freedom continued throughout 1991. In mid-1991, one student was killed after being shot by policemen and several others were injured during clashes between riot police and students on the campus of Moi University in Eldoret. The university was closed. The source of the conflict – the reduction in student allowances – also led to the closure of Kenyatta University. The government's long-standing policy of co-opting academics to defend its record was brought into sharp focus by the publication in November of an open, unsigned letter attacking the pro-democracy movement that purported to be sponsored by 140 academics. A number of academics were apparently threatened with reprisals if they refused to be associated with the letter.

The treatment of ethnic Somalis in Kenya continues to be an important source of human rights violations. Following the excesses of the "screening"5 of all ethnic Somalis in 1989 and 1990, a further crackdown began in June 1991 when homes of ethnic Somalis were searched and hundreds were arrested. Refugees fleeing the civil war and anarchy in neighboring Somalia were also subjected to abuse. Refugees who began arriving on the coast in January were frequently detained on board their vessels as Kenyan authorities refused to allow them to disembark. The action led to many deaths, as overloaded boats capsized and vital relief was withheld. On May 21, the Lamu district authorities rounded up Somali refugees and boat owners with their staff, and forced them on board a vessel which was towed to sea by a Kenyan naval patrol ship; Somali refugees elsewhere in Kenya were also forced on board so they could be deported to Somalia. On May 24, sixteen refugees died when their boat capsized. On May 25, a Kenyan patrol ship transferred forty-eight refugees, most of them women and children, to a leaking fishing boat with broken engines; it capsized immediately, killing twenty-one of the refugees. Thereafter, many of the refugees arriving by boat were not allowed to disembark despite terrible overcrowding and a lack of sufficient water and food. At least two children died. Many other refugees were interned in poor conditions in camps and denied access to humanitarian supplies. By April, it was estimated that almost ten thousand Somalis were living in Jomo Kenyatta showground without proper amenities. Many refugees claimed that they had not received anything to eat for a week.

The Right to Monitor

There are no established human rights groups in Kenya, although a number of churchmen, lawyers and journalists have documented and publicized human rights abuses. Many of these individuals have been the target of government reprisals, as described above.

U.S. Policy

While several years ago Kenya was the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance in sub-Saharan Africa, U.S. aid to Kenya in 1991 was sharply limited. In late 1990, Congress enacted legislation placing strict human rights conditions on the Bush Administration's proposed package of $15 million in military aid and Economic Support Funds (budgetary support) for Kenya. Before that aid could be expended, the Administration was required to issue a formal certification that the Kenyan government had: taken steps to charge and try or release all prisoners detained for political reasons; ceased any physical abuse or mistreatment of prisoners; restored the independence of the judiciary; and restored freedom of expression. To its credit, the Administration did not attempt to certify that these conditions had been met, even after the Kenyan government enacted some judicial reforms and released the bulk of the most prominent prisoners detained for peaceful political expression.

The State Department also denied Kenya funding under a special account for fiscal year 1991 which included $15 million in military aid aimed at promoting "biological diversity in Africa" – an anti-poaching and wildlife conservation program.6 The State Department made the determination that the human rights legislation concerning other foreign aid to Kenya also governed the biological diversity program.

The Bush Administration deviated from an otherwise positive human rights policy in Kenya on one important occasion in 1991. In February, the Administration provided $5 million in military assistance to Kenya, drawing the aid from unobligated funds that Congress had withheld in 1990 as a protest over gross abuses of human rights in July of that year. By dipping into the 1990 "pipeline," the Administration avoided the human rights conditions governing the 1991 funds. The assistance was provided as a payoff to the Moi government for providing refuge to a group of several hundred Libyan prisoners of war in Chad whom the United States had been arming and training to use against the Libyan government of Moammar Qadhafi. When the Chad government of President Hissein Habre fell to forces that were friendlier to Libya, Kenya agreed to provide refuge for the prisoners. Particularly unfortunate was the State Department's insistence on justifying the aid not as a reward for taking the Libyans but by pointing to the "limited steps" that Kenya supposedly had taken on human rights, as spokesman Richard Boucher did on March 12.

The provision of the $5 million caused an uproar in Congress, with a number of members issuing sharp protests. The State Department had additional reason to regret its gesture of support; on March 1, only days after the aid was sent, the Kenyan authorities arrested human rights lawyer and journalist Gitobu Imanyara. On March 1, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher issued a strongly worded statement in Imanyara's defense, saying that the United States was "dismayed" by the arrest and calling upon the Kenyan government to release Imanyara without delay. Later, on May 5, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen took the unusual step of telling the Senate Appropriations Committee that he felt personally betrayed by the incident.

The $5 million payoff was the last time that Washington granted any foreign aid to Kenya. Throughout the rest of the year, aid was limited and the Administration became increasingly explicit in its condemnation of the Kenyan government's corruption and human rights abuses. (The two issues are closely related; numerous human rights abuses, including the murders of Kenyan Foreign Minister Robert Ouko and Bishop Alexander Muge,7 appear to have been related to their outspoken denunciation of government corruption.)

U.S. Ambassador Smith Hempstone was so explicit in his criticisms that he had practically become persona non grata in Kenya by late November. The U.S. ambassador described the November 14 arrest of democracy movement leaders as "a bloody mess," and says he told President Moi that "the best thing he could do was to release these people as quickly as possible."8 The Embassy issued a written statement as well, calling the arrests "a blatant interference with the civil and human rights of these individuals," and criticizing the Kenyan government for abrogating the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly.9 The Kenyan authorities responded in a fury, condemning "the open involvement of United States diplomats who have masterminded and abetted the supposed opposition movement in Kenya." Ambassador Hempstone responded with his characteristic bluntness, "If that guy [President Moi] doesn't stop telling lies about me, I'm going to start telling truths about him."10 When asked on November 19 about the "row with Kenya," State Department spokesman Boucher gave strong reinforcement to Ambassador Hempstone's message:

You know the Kenyan Foreign Minister made some statements which we took exception to. We put up a statement yesterday saying that our ambassador there is the President's representative and we had confidence in what he was doing. Part of U.S. policy is to raise issues of human rights, and we and our ambassador will continue to do that.

Ambassador Hempstone was no less frank on the subject of corruption, stating: "I don't know if Kenya is at the head of the class when it comes to corruption but they're a contender. The state of the economy is extremely fragile, and corruption has a deleterious effect."11 The U.S. Embassy provided an extensive report to the international press about President Moi's personal involvement in skimming foreign investments in Kenya.12

The outspokenness of the Bush Administration on the subject of Kenyan corruption and human rights violations clearly influenced the November 25 meeting of Kenya's international donors in Paris. Not a single international donor pledged to provide foreign assistance to Kenya, in contrast to $1 billion in international pledges received the previous year. Following the meeting, in a November 26 hearing before the House Subcommittee on African Affairs, Secretary Cohen stated that the crackdown on November 14 and 16 had a far-reaching effect on international aid to Kenya. According to testimony at the same hearing by George Lewis, acting director of Eastern African affairs at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States expected to provide Kenya with $47.1 million in development assistance for fiscal year 1992, but just before the Paris meeting, USAID rewrote its aid plan and decided to limit U.S. assistance to $19 million in funds that could be channeled through private voluntary organizations rather than the Kenyan government. Secretary Cohen reiterated that no military aid would be provided, given the current human rights conditions in U.S. law.

As noted, the World Bank stated publicly at the Paris donors' meeting that "levels of aid for Kenya depend on clear progress in implementing economic and social reform" and indicated that no aid would be forthcoming from the bank for the next six months.13 The action was extremely important not only in its own right but also as a signal to private banks that investment in Kenya is a bad risk given the government's governance record.

In the aftermath of the donors meeting, the Kenyan government abruptly announced that a top official who is personally close to President Moi and known to be deeply involved in corruption and violence, former Energy Minister Nicholas Biwott and the former head of internal security, Hezekiah Oyugi, were being held for questioning about the murder of Foreign Minister Ouko. The arrest of formerly "untouchable" high officials is a clear sign that U.S. influence has been extremely important in Kenya.

British Policy

Until late in 1991, British policy was consistently supportive of the Kenyan government, reflecting strong commercial and military ties. (Britain outranks the United States as both an aid donor and a commercial partner.) The British government's actions indicate a continuing lack of interest in human rights in Kenya.

Despite Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd's announcement in June 1990 of a "breakthrough" policy intended to tie British aid to respect for human rights and multiparty democracy, Lynda Chalker, the minister for overseas development, said on a visit to Kenya in June 1991 that British aid to Kenya would continue as before. Contradicting earlier statements by the foreign secretary that British aid to Africa would be linked to the development of a pluralist political system, she said that Britain had "no intention of dictating what kind of political systems to adopt." In August, Minister Chalker defended Kenya's human rights record and emphasized that Britain would not bow to pressure to reduce aid to Kenya. She dismissed criticism as "claptrap" and "bluster" and argued that Kenya's human rights record was better than that of many other developing countries and that its society was more open.

On a visit to Kenya in September, Foreign Secretary Hurd reiterated that it would be "bizarre to pick Kenya as having a particularly bad record on human rights." However, Hurd did make a strong general statement in favor of multiparty democracy, stating that "the arrival of multiparty politics is going to happen and in my mind is desirable." Hurd also met with two leaders of the movement for multiparty democracy, FORD members Martin Shikuku and Masinde Muliro.

On November 19, three senior British Privy Counsellors, Sir David Steel, Sir Bernard Braine and Peter Shore, tabled a motion on Kenya's human rights record in the House of Commons. They condemned the arrests of supporters of multiparty democracy, noted with concern the repeated attempts by the Kenyan government to thwart the processes of democracy, and urged the British government to express its concerns about the gap between Kenya's actions at the time and its agreement at the Commonwealth Conference in October to respect human rights. The motion has yet to be debated.

On November 20, Britain again urged Kenya to release government critics arrested during the crackdown and repeated calls for the government to tolerate legitimate dissent. In a statement to Parliament, Minister Chalker said, "We have told the government that oppression of opposing views is not the way forward and we have called upon them for further progress toward democracy." Shortly before the donors' meeting in Paris, Minister Chalker said, "Donors are going to be tough and that includes Britain." Britain joined the aid suspension agreed to at the meeting.

The Work of Africa Watch

Africa Watch's work on Kenya centered on the publication in July of a comprehensive report, Kenya: Taking Liberties. The report is the most wide-ranging evaluation of Kenya's human rights record ever published. The press officer of the Kenyan High Commission in London stated in an August letter to The Guardian that the government planned to release a detailed rebuttal. None has yet been issued. Related articles and letters were published by Africa Watch staff in The Nairobi Law Monthly, The Nation, Legal Times, Africa Report and The Guardian (London).

Africa Watch also launched campaigns on a number of specific issues. These include government actions against the Nairobi Law Monthly and its editor, Gitobu Imanyara; government restrictions on academic freedom, and U.S. and British policy toward Kenya.

An Africa Watch representative visited Kenya in February and met with many human rights activists and government officials. The government continued to deny a visa to the Executive Director of Africa Watch. On February 12, Africa Watch produced a memorandum to congressional offices analyzing Kenya's failure to meet human rights conditions on aid contained in U.S. law. Further updates were also sent to congressional offices on March 1, April 1, June 6, July 29, August 1 and September 25.

All Kenyans of Somali origin and all Somali citizens were required to register at special centers and obtain special pink cards to be eligible for any state service. See Africa Watch, Taking Liberties, July 1991.

Section 5(e) of Public Law 101-513, the Foreign Assistance Appropriations Act.

A public critic of "land-grabbing" and corruption among senior government officials, Muge was killed in a mysterious car accident on August 9, 1990, days after Minister of Labor Peter Okando threatened his life. He is widely believed to have been murdered.

Jane Perlez, "Riot Police Break up Opposition Rally in Kenya," The New York Times, November 17, 1991.



Jane Perlez, "Aid for Kenya cut as Donors Cite Corruption," The New York Times, October 21, 1991.


Associated Press, "World Bank Says Future Aid to Kenya Depends on Reforms," November 26, 1991.

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