Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
KenyaPresident Daniel Arap Moi won reelection in December in Kenya's second general elections since the restoration of multiparty politics in 1991. While observers considered the elections imperfect, they concluded that the vote broadly reflected the popular will. In addition to his role as President, Moi also commands the military services and controls the security, university, civil service, judiciary, and provincial, district, and local governance systems. The ruling party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) has a slim majority of the unicameral National Assembly's 200 seats. The judiciary is subject to executive branch influence. The large internal security apparatus includes the Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the Directorate of Security and Intelligence (DSI), the National Police, the Administration Police (AP), and the paramilitary General Services Unit (GSU). The CID and the DSI investigate criminal activity and monitor persons whom the State considers subversive. Members of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses, and on a larger scale than in 1996. The economy includes a well-developed private sector in trade, light manufacturing, and finance. The large agricultural sector provides food for local consumption, substantial exports of coffee, tea, cut flowers, and vegetables, and approximately 70percent of total employment. Tourism remained the largest single foreign exchange earner, despite a major setback caused by ethnic violence along the coast in August and September. Drought, followed by floods, kept upward pressure on food prices. Annual per capita gross domestic product is $270. Throughout the first 8 months of the year, the Government's human rights record deteriorated, with serious problems in many areas. Many aspects of the situation improved significantly in the last 4 months of the year, although human rights violations continued to occur. Police continued to commit extrajudicial killings and to torture and beat detainees. They arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens (although not for political reasons after the enactment of the reforms), and held them for prolonged periods. Prison conditions remained life threatening. The judiciary was subject to executive branch influence, and several judges complained in public about executive interference in judicial affairs. Authorities infringed on citizens privacy rights. Through the spring and summer, as the tempo of political activity quickened, government harassment and intimidation of opponents significantly increased. The Government detained critics of the ruling party, including opposition parliamentarians, journalists, clergy, and human rights activists, for periods ranging from a few hours to several days. Government authorities severely limited freedom of speech, assembly, and association, and blocked opposition leaders' access to their supporters and to the electronic media. Journalists practiced some self-censorship. The Government deployed the National Youth Service (NYS), which traditionally has provided young Kenyans job training in exchange for several years of national civilian service, to block opposition political meetings. The number of disrupted opposition political meetings and civic education workshops in the first 8 months of the year rose sharply over 1996. Beginning in late September, however, there was a visible improvement in the human rights situation, as the bipartisan Interparties Parliamentary Group (IPPG) brokered a package of wide-ranging political reforms, which the Government enacted in early November. These paved the way for a generally free campaign and credible, if imperfect, national elections at year's end. The results broadly reflected the popular will and marked a step forward in citizen's ability to change their government peacefully, although their ability to do so has not yet been fully demonstrated at the presidential level. After denying registration to many political parties for several years, the Government finally acted on the applications and registered 16new parties. Government disruption of opposition and civic education meetings declined in September, then halted altogether by mid-October. Discrimination against women and violence against women and children remained serious problems. Animosity against and among various ethnic groups continued, and there were a series of incidents involving ethnic violence on the coast in August and early September, causing at least 100 deaths. Mob violence also resulted in many deaths. After 1½ years in operation, the Government's standing committee on human rights has yet to make public any of its reports or make a visible impact on the human rights situation. The Government arrested and prosecuted a number of police officers for abuses. It also directed police not to harass journalists or carry guns when covering public meetings. In February the Government acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and directed police not to torture or beat detainees, albeit with limited results.