Excerpt : Few Kenyans noticed that December 10 was the International Human Rights Day to mark the day when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. There were no noticeable events to commemorate the day in Nairobi.
Few Kenyans noticed that December 10 was the International Human Rights Day to mark the day when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. There were no noticeable events to commemorate the day in Nairobi. There were no key events to reflect on how far we have come. The situation is the same in most countries; there were no events to mark this crucial day. Human rights is often a thorn in the flesh for governments globally, and they deride any activity to remind them.
The UN had devoted 2015 commemoration to two key covenants; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Under the motto “Our rights. Our freedoms. Always”, the UN aims to promote and create awareness of these covenants, with a focus on freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear, all of which underpin the Bill of Rights.
Many of these basic rights vital to the dignity and sanctity of the human fraternity continue to be violated immensely by nearly all nations.
Governments in particular have defiled their people’s values and rights with impunity, denying their very right to life. Constitutions and statutes have failed to safeguard citizens against abuse and gross violations of their fundamental rights. Each year, UN member states meet in Geneva to review compliance with these charters, with little action on the belligerents. Even a nation such as USA, which runs the dreadful Guantanamo detention camp, is not an exception.
Citizens are denied the right to elect freely persons of their choice in some countries. Where polls are held regularly, their rights are violated through sanctioned poll malpractices. Bad governance denies the masses their dreams to realise freedom from want of basic social amenities.
The MDGs ended with many countries still unable to reduce extreme hunger in their countries. The elite continue to be super rich as the breadth and depth of poverty, and inequality, continues to increase.
We live in a world where torture, extra-judicial killings, and other inhuman treatments of dissenting voices and suspects are rising; where opposition to a ruler gives him the right to decimate the nation; where it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between a state that ought to respect international conventions and a terrorist organisation that barbarically slaughters innocent civilians. Governments have become increasingly intolerant to criticism and dissent, often in a violent and abusive manner. A call to observe human rights is perceived as an attempt to destabilise it. Democracy, and the rule of law, is a relative term applied when it suits the regime of the day.
Justice is dispensed in different doses between the rich and the poor. Fifty years after these covenants were signed, these rights are as elusive to the minorities and the poor as they have always been.
Kenya is no exception. We value human rights when we are deprived of power. Once we are on the throne, it can hardly be tolerated. Despite the 2010 Constitution that brought in a progressive Bill of Rights, violations continue unabated. Police reforms to end impunity and brutality are grounded, and accountability institutions such as IPOA undermined. Reports of human rights abuses from constitutional commissions such as KNCHR is viewed as anti-establishment and dumped. Civil society and human rights defenders have been gagged. As Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery put it this week, these organisations ‘are the governments’ severest critics, out to destroy the nation’. Is it surprising therefore that the day was largely ignored?