The need for proper leadership to guide the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights in Promoting and Protecting Human Rights in Kenya

francis_khayundiAuthor: Francis Khayundi
PhD candidate, Rhodes University, South Africa

The advent of the new 2010 Kenyan Constitution  brought with it a promise of inclusive human rights enjoyment by making provision for socio-economic rights in Article 43. The entrenchment of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNCHR) as an independent constitutional body, specifically tasked with the promotion and protection of human rights in Kenya, in terms of Article 59(1), further strengthened this development and promise. The KNCHR’s legal mandate, powers and the selection of commissioners is governed by the KNCHR Act of 2011.

Realising the importance of having an institution that could independently work towards the promotion and protection of human rights in Kenya, the drafters of the Constitution opted to include the KNCHR in the final draft, with a mandate that was whittled down from what was initially proposed. Through the Act, the KNCHR was established as a successor institution to the one initially anticipated in Article 59(1) of the Constitution. The KNCHR is a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), an institution formed by either a constitutional provision or legislative text to specifically promote and protect human rights. There are quite a number of similar NHRIs formed across the globe. NHRIs are non-judicial mechanisms that complement other arms of government in the fulfilment of human rights within a state. They are also an indication of a state’s commitment to use all appropriate means to realise human rights. The establishment of NHRIs is guided by the Principles Relating to the Status of National Institutions (Paris Principles) which, at a minimum, require that such an institution be independent (financially, operationally and legally autonomous); have a broad mandate; have a diverse membership; and given enough room to carry out their functions.

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