Report: Kenya loses democratic gains

AP News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2009 8:20 AM

Kenya is steadily losing democratic gains it has made in recent years as human rights abuses increase and perpetrators aren't held accountable, a human rights watchdog said Friday.

The report by the independent Release Political Prisoners Trust said democracy in the country has eroded to the lows seen during the rule of former President Daniel arap Moi, who left office in 2002.

The report said two human rights activists have been killed this year, forcing others to go into hiding. A journalist was also killed because of his work. Meanwhile, corruption is rampant but perpetrators remain free.

The report also said the government has failed to form a tribunal to prosecute those responsible or involved in 2007-08 postelection violence, which left more than 1,000 people dead and more than 600,000 displaced from their homes.

"Even with the international community offering to assist Kenya to tackle its human rights problems ... the country seems to backslide to negativity in democracy," said the report, which was titled "Impunity! A Hindrance to Rights Promotion and Protection."

Earlier this year, advocacy groups said more than 20 human rights workers went into hiding after receiving anonymous threats. Many were investigating extra-judicial killings allegedly carried out by security agents.

The Release Political Prisoners report said five of its workers were among those who have fled to other countries for safety, after investigating the executions of hundreds of youths associated with an outlawed gang known as the Mungiki.

The report said one of the worst human rights violations this year was the killing of two rights activists working for a free legal aid clinic called the Oscar Foundation. The two were gunned down in a car while stuck in traffic, just 50 yards (meters) from the president's home.

The killings of the foundation's executive director, Oscar Kingara, and program officer Paul Oulu came a week after a U.N. human rights investigator, Philip Alston, said Kenyan police had gotten away with executing suspected Mungiki members, criminal suspects and individuals without trial.

Kingara and Oulu's killings provoked international outrage, calls for an independent investigation and protests by university students.

"Gradually human rights defenders have become targets for persecution by the political elite and the security agencies who are further spoiling what ought to be a progression path toward mature democracy and human rights," the report said.

Steve Musau, the group's executive coordinator, said impunity leads to poverty and unemployment as the corrupt steal from state coffers without fear of punishment.

Musau said if action is not taken against impunity it will lead to violence, such as the postelection violence of 2007-08.