To achieve transformation, Kenyan law needs to shun a hierarchy of sources

humphrey_sipallaAuthor: Humphrey Sipalla
Freelance editor

It is opined by some in Kenya that the regime of former President Moi hardly broke constitutional law. For the most part, it rather, applying provisos and rigid compartmentalised thinking, bended and stretched it absurdly. There may be some truth to this. Previously on this platform, I opined that Kenyan society is prone to absolutes, in that instance, equating legitimate use of force with its disproportionate immoral use in “law enforcement”. It would seem that the legal fraternity too suffers its own peculiar version of this Kenyan tendency to be rigid.

At a conference on transformative constitutionalism, Prof. Ambreena Manji noted that for Kenya to realise the aims of its visionary transformative constitution, we needed a certain conversion of the soul, not just the mind, of the Kenyan jurist. At this same conference, the Chief Justice of Kenya, Dr Willy Mutunga lamented the old judiciary’s reliance of “mechanistic jurisprudence”. Such judicial policy led to the dismissal of the late Wangari Maathai’s (later Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) 1989 case against government plans to build a 60 storey building on Nairobi’s Uhuru Park as she did not show what injury would befall her were the environment to be spoilt. In 1989 too, the High Court held that the Bill of Rights could not be enforced as the Chief Justice had not issued enforcement rules as obligated by the Constitution. In 1993, again, presidential candidate, Kenneth Matiba’s election petition ground to a halt as he was unable to serve the sitting president with suit papers personally.

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Dealing with statelessness in sub-Saharan Africa: The way forward

michael_addaneyAuthor: Michael Addaney
Student (MPhil Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa), Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

‘Statelessness is a profound violation of an individual’s human rights. It would be deeply unethical to perpetuate the pain it causes when solutions are so clearly within reach.’
– Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Statelessness as a legal problem has far reaching political and economic challenges which have attracted rising attention from scholars, human rights activists and international organisations in recent years. Officially, statelessness means a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law. The UNHCR started collecting data on stateless persons in the world in 2006 and confirmed in 2011 that the number of stateless persons around the world is in excess of 10 million despite conceding that obtaining the actual statistics is difficult.

The most affected are regions that have suffered or are experiencing armed conflicts or economic migration. Large numbers of stateless population are largely due to policies and laws which discriminate against foreigners despite their deeper roots in the states concerned. For instance, more than 120 000 persons in Madagascar are stateless on the basis of discriminatory citizenship laws and administrative procedures. Moreover, about 170 000 Burundian refugees who fled their country in 1972 are recognised as stateless in Tanzania despite cogent attempts by international and local organisations to have the situation rectified.

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Mitigating the extractive industries resource curse in East Africa: Adopting the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

samuel_matsikoAuthor: Matsiko Samuel
Human rights lawyer; Africa Excellence DAAD Scholar, South African-German Centre for Transitional Justice

On 19 – 21 January 2015, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in partnership with the Institute for Human Rights and Business office in Kenya on behalf of the Africa Commission Working Group on Extractive Industries organized a three day consultative meeting for civil society and national human rights institutions . The consultations focused on challenges and best practices in the extractive industries in the East Africa Sub region.

The extractive industries sector in East Africa is growing exponentially with the discovery of oil and gas in Uganda and Kenya. In 2006, Uganda discovered commercially viable oil deposits in the Albertine Grabben in western Uganda with an estimate of 2.5 billion barrels of oil. In neighboring Kenya the government has issued more than 47 exploration licenses and has four prospective basins in Anza, Lamu, Mandera and the tertiary rift. Tanzania unlike its neighbor’s has no commercial discoveries of oil but it has built a niche in the natural gas sector with 2 producing gas fields in Songo Songo and Manzi Bay.

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It is time to take maternal mortality in Kenya seriously

Clara Burbano-HerreraAuthor: Clara Burbano-Herrera
Fulbright Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University (USA)

Maternal mortality rates reflect disparities between wealthy and poor women, and between developed and developing countries. [i] Frequently, whether women survive pregnancy and childbirth is related to their social, economic and cultural status. The poorer and more marginalized a woman is, the greater her risk of death. [ii] Ninetynine per cent (99%) of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, and most of these deaths are preventable. [iii]

While worldwide maternal mortality has declined – in 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 210 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 380 maternal deaths in 1990 (a 45 per cent reduction) [iv] – unfortunately in Kenya maternal mortality has decreased very little, i.e., from 490 to 400[v] in the period between 1990 and 2013, compared to the Millennium Development Goal No. 5 (MDG) target [vi] of 147 per 100,000 births. [vii]

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Sentencing ‘at the president’s pleasure’ and what it means to persons with mental disabilities in Kenya

felicia_mburuAuthor: Felicia Mburu
Advocate of the High Court of Kenya

On 8 May 2013, the High Court of Kenya in Case Number 14 of 2010 passes a sentence on the accused who had pleaded guilty on a murder charge. Nawya Mawjoya, a person with mental disability, was sentenced to detention ‘at the president’s pleasure’ under section 167(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) instead of being given a probationary sentence. The Court relied on the probation officer’s recommendation that he be institutionalised as the family believes he was bewitched and will be subjected to rituals. Such cases are common in Kenya for two reasons: lack of awareness by the criminal justice system on mental disability and cultural perception associated with mental disabilities. Thus the criminal justice system operates as a conduit to institutionalise persons with mental disabilities.

Kenya is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Article 14 (1) (b) of the CRPD provides for the rights of persons with disabilities not to be deprived of their liberty on the basis of their disability. Article 19 further provides that persons with disability have a right to live in the community on an equal basis with others. Article 50 of the Constitution of Kenya provides for the right to a fair trial for all persons. Article 29 further supports the rights of person not to be arbitrarily denied their freedom without just cause. Article 54 of the Constitution states the rights of persons with disabilities to be treated with dignity and respect.

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People with mental disabilities ALSO have the right to marry in Kenya

william_asekaAuthor: William Aseka
Human Rights Fellow at Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University

The Marriage Bill (now Act) 2014 has elicited different reactions from Kenyans. Some mostly women, have argued that the law will allow men to engage in polygamous marriages. Some have hailed the law as consolidating the different types of marriages into one piece of legislation. However, the people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities have completely been left out of this debate. The law clearly discriminates and expressly denies people with mental disorders from exercising their right to marry. Section 11(2)(b) of the Marriage Act 2014 provides:-

Consent is not freely given where the party who purports to give it is suffering from any mental disorder or mental disability whether permanent or temporary…

The Act further provides in section 73 that if one suffers from ‘recurrent bouts of insanity’ then the partner is allowed to have the marriage annulled. This essay seeks to argue that the Marriage Act 2014 not only violates Kenya’s obligation under international law but also violates the Constitution of Kenya 2010 Article 27(4), which proscribes discrimination based on disability.

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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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The African Union summit on the International Criminal Court: In whose interest?

wonderr_freemanAuthor: Wonderr Freeman
LLM (Trade and Investment Law in Africa) candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa
(Date of article: 4 October 2013)

On 13 October 2013, leaders of African states will meet in Addis Ababa, under the African Union (AU) banner), to consider a possible withdrawal from the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court (ICC). African leaders do not find favour with the ICC’s pursuit of Kenya’s “big men”- President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. The AU draws links between the indictment of Kenyatta and Ruto with that of President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan and Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast. Having drawn such links, the AU is of the view that the ICC is a western plot to finish-off African leaders. What is striking of the AU’s ICC analysis is the complete lack of consideration for the victims, 99.9% of whom are Africans. It seems as though grave crimes against humanity are of much less importance when a few “big men” stand accused.  What seems to be of extreme importance in the minds of African leaders is that, once again, one of their kind is wanted for crimes against humanity.

African heads of states are rarely united on any issue relevant to development of the continent, such as a common currency, the free movement of people and products, military interventions in war torn regions, etc. However, when it comes to protecting the likes of Bashir and Kenyatta, the AU is zealously united – without regard to the victims of atrocities.

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Illegal immigrants now deserve the eye of law in Tanzania

Njiti Lucius BattyAuthor: Njiti Lucius Batty
Candidate Advocate, High Court of Tanzania; Tutorial Assistant and Coordinator, University of Dodoma Law Society & Moot Court, Tanzania

This article comes as result of the historical background on the status of immigrants in the western part of Tanzania where the expulsion of illegal immigrants is never stable (see a BBC report). The main reason leading to the expulsion of illegal immigrates is the fact that most immigrants are not aware of Tanzanian immigration. In turn, Tanzania reacts by deporting them back to various nations along the Great Lake States.

Illegal immigration in Tanzania may be legally assessed based on two perspectives. One, those immigrants who enter Tanzania without observing due processes and are then apprehended, detained and charged with breaching immigration laws, and two, those who are found to be residing with and married to Tanzanians without observing legal procedures.

Illegal immigrants, of whatever nature, as described above, are deserving of human rights as other Tanzanians. Thus, there is a great need for lawyers and non-governmental organisations to offer information and knowledge on issues relating to immigration, labour and citizenship so as to bring awareness amongst refugees of their rights.

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