Thursday, July 25, 2013

The true human rights tragedy.

When Ken Wafula declares, in Ease the Repression, on the flimsiest of proofs, that human rights advocates [are] living in fear, he takes hyperbolic Third Sector yammering to new lows (Daily Nation, 25/07/13.) He bandies about phrases popularised by American spy movies such as "secret service agents", "private intelligence reports" and "counter-intelligence." But he, like the legions of like-minded activists in Kenya, fails to provide a shred of proof that thesituation is such as he describes it to be.

Let us not for one minute presume that the Government of Kenya under the charming but iron-fisted grip of the Jubilee Coalition, has allowed the expansion of the "human rights space" claimed by the likes of Ken Wafula. But that is not sufficient proof that they have become the targets of the Government, that the mysterious and unexplained deaths of activists is necessarily at the hands of State agents, or that their continued arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution is a strategy aimed at keeping them busy fighting court battles rather than street battles in the name of human rights.

Mr Wafula, and his fellow travelers, have been unable to point to a single instance where President Kenyatta has been shown to have ordered that the human rights heroes like Oscar King'ara and Paul Oulu be "eliminated" by whatever means necessary. Even at the height of the 2007/2008 crisis, human rights advocates did not accuse Mr Kenyatta of targetting human rights activists; rather they simply accused him of human rights violations. Even the mysterious deaths of Messrs King'ara and Oulu were not part of a broader accusation of a State-sanction assault on the human rights citadel, rather it was alleged that it was a cover-up ploy to ensure the truth about the murders of Mungiki, suspected or confirmed, adherents at the hands of policemen and intelligence officers.

This blogger is well aware that the Government of Kenya has not covered itself in glory when it comes to the expansion of the enjoyment of inalienable rights Kenyans enjoy. Because of the mindset of the Kenya security establishment, the focus of the intelligence and police agencies is to preserve the State from all threats, regardless of their benign appearance of ineffectualness. It is for this reason why Inspector-General Kimaiyo, CID supremo Ndegwa Muhoro and NIS Director-General Gichangi have been quick off the bat to reign in the March 4th Movement despite what the Constitution clearly says. Indeed, if one were to scour the law books, whether it is the Penal Code or the Anti-terrorism Act or any of the security-related laws we have, one will be hard-pressed to find the offenses for which Eliud Owalo is being questioned by the CID and the police.

A popular American TV show from the silent twenties had characters known as the Keystone Kops whose incompetence became legendary. It is time we reflected deeply on the continuing incompetence of the national Police Service, the Administration Police Service, the Criminal Investigations Department, the Banking Fraud Unit, the Anti-terrorism Police Unit, or the disbanded Anti-Stock Theft Unit. The human rights tragedy is not that Ken Wafula and his ilk are being treated unfairly; the tragedy is that a decade or more since Daniel Toroitich arap Moi was shoved out of State House, Kenyans cannot count on their government to protect them from foreign bombers, homegrown professional extortionists or well-connected fraudsters. Whether it was under Moi or Kibaki or Kenyatta, Kenyans have continued to be on the receiving end of violent crime that it beggars belief that all that blood does not seem to have pricked the conscience either of the We-are-being-finished human rights industry or the mandarins in charge of public safety in the Government of Kenya.

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