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Press statement of the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, in Nairobi at the end of her visit to Kenya

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It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to address you here on United Nations Day as I end my brief visit to Kenya. I would like to first express my thanks to the Government of Kenya and my UN colleagues for having made my past three days extremely engaging and fruitful.

The purpose of my visit was three-fold, all converging on the fundamental aspects of justice and accountability to the promotion and protection of human rights. In addition to participating in the 9th International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions, which discussed the role of NHRIs in the administration of justice, in my discussions with Kenyan interlocutors, we focused on the challenges and opportunities that Kenyans face in coming to terms with the post-election violence in a way that strengthens the rule of law and justice. On Somalia, I tried to meet with as many interlocutors as possible to better understand the terrible abuses that the Somali people have been suffering for so long under the protracted conflict, and how to fight the impunity that lies at the core of the issue.

It is truly encouraging to see the Republic of Kenya as host to the 9th International Conference on NHRIs just some 10 months after the chaos and violence that shook the country following the elections.

The efforts of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his mediation team, the Kenyan political leadership, and Kenyan civil society to respond to the crisis and to reach and implement the Mediation Agreement continue to bear fruit. I would like to underscore the crucial and constructive role played by the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights during this difficult period.

The National Human Rights Institutions conference advanced the debate on the important role that National Institutions may play in strengthening the administration of justice and combating impunity. The Conference will adopt this afternoon an action-oriented Declaration which will guide efforts by NHRIs and their partners, including NGOs, for independent and effective judiciaries and for police and prison administrations that are fully in line with international human rights standards. I would like to commend all National Human Rights Institutions which, like the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights, work in full independence and with limited resources to carry out broad mandates, including important work on reporting on the wide spectrum of human rights,.

While it is heartening to see the progress made in Kenya since the beginning of the year, daunting human rights challenges, including the situation of internally displaced persons, remain.

Many of my interlocutors stressed that many of the underlying factors that fueled the post-electoral crisis remain unaddressed, including violations of socio-economic rights, land issues, gross disparities between classes, marginalization and exclusion. Durable solutions to these problems will take determination and require broad participation from all sectors of Kenyan society. Important reforms to the constitution and the police, and the adoption of key laws, including on witness protection, will be essential.

Implementation and action must replace evasion and denial. In this regard, I was very encouraged during my meetings with the Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Raila Odinga, and the Minister of Justice, the Rights Honorable Martha Karua, to hear their commitment to implement the recommendations of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Post Electoral Violence. Implementation of the recommendations - in particular the establishment of a credible Special Tribunal to bring to justice the perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed following the elections, as well as reform of the security forces - will be a critical test of the Kenyan political leadership in the struggle to end impunity.

A credible and fully independent Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission could play an important and complementary role in promoting accountability and reconciliation. Crucial to its success will be the extent to which the Commission is victim-centered, gender sensitive, and oriented towards the needs and realities of everyday Kenyans.

I was also privileged during my stay to meet with victims of the conflict in Somalia who have sought shelter in the Dadaab refugee camp, as well as with the Somali Ambassador, civil society, and UN colleagues working on Somalia. Listening to the stories of refugees, especially the women and children who have spent 17 years (for many, their entire lives) waiting for peace, adds to the heartbreaking stories of the thousands who have just arrived in recent weeks. One of the many courageous members of civil society with whom I met asked, "Is Somalia a lost cause?"

Somalia is not a lost cause; it is a long term cause, and one that will require stamina, creativity and a concerted effort by the international community, civil society, and above all, Somali political leaders. As a 17-year old high school student - one who had spent his entire life in Dadaab refugee camp - told me regarding how to end the Somali conflict: "we are the ones who must solve it".

This youthful wisdom, and the determination of Somali human rights defenders, humanitarian workers and members of civil society, give me hope for peace in Somalia. But any lasting peace in Somalia must be based on accountability and justice for the serious violations of human rights committed by all sides throughout the Somali conflict. The Djibouti peace process should serve as a safeguard against amnesties for gross human rights violators - not a mechanism to let warlords off the hook. Broad participation of Somali civil society in the peace process - in particular women, who have borne the brunt of abuses - should help to ensure this.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is committed to doing our part and lending our full support to the highly laudable and indefatigable efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Mr. Ould-Abdallah, as well as to the United Nations country team which continues to do extraordinary work on behalf of Somali refugees and internally displaced persons.

The Kenyan Government has been generous in responding to the needs of Somali refugees, and I would hope that this generosity would be extended to respond to meeting the urgent need for more land for refugees. With new victims of the Somali conflict arriving at a rate of some 5,000 per month, the camps are at a bursting point. Now is the time to act, as well as to make contingency plans for potential arrivals in the upcoming months.

I would again like to express my warmest thanks to the Government of Kenya and my United Nations colleagues for having made my stay in Kenya so fruitful.