Missed Opportunities: Reflections on Amnesty Kenya’s Scorecard

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President Willian Ruto presenting the 2017 Jubilee Party manifesto. [File, Standard]

According to Amnesty Kenya‘s Human Rights Scorecard 2022, the Jubilee Administration scored an unimpressive 46 percent. Human rights are at the heart of human dignity. The low score indicates a weak focus on citizen welfare. Much political energy was lost in the transmission and did not arrive to brighten people’s lives in line with the outgoing government’s promises.

Since human beings are created in the image of God, human rights affirm and nurture that divine image. They form the solid pillars that affirm humanity. Governments have a duty to create environments where all human rights exist freely. In the case of the Focus Scorecard, five areas were assessed: liberty and security of individuals, civil liberties, the right to the highest standard of health, the right to adequate housing and the right to adequate food. To be against these rights is to be against the people.

Different contexts give rise to unique legal claims. The Reverend Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement was anchored on the premise that all human beings are created equal, adding that people “are not judged by the color of their skin but by their character”. Governments struggle to establish certain rights because of some internal resistance, often shaped by the need to exercise certain powers over people. This makes frequent external rights checks necessary.

reject opinions

In Scripture, evaluation begins right at Genesis, when the Creator looked at each day’s work and judged it good. At the end of the creation process, “God saw that it was very good.” The role of human systems is to receive that goodness with a spirit of creativity. In the Bible, even prominent leaders found themselves wanting when placed on God’s scales. This makes human rights a journey in which even the best have steps to take, trends to examine and cracks to mend.

While Kenya’s human rights record is by itself not exactly impressive, it is complicated by the fact that, for all the optimism sold by contenders for the new government, all is not well: “In just under two months, new national and regional governments will be formed with a faces a debt-ridden and defaulting economy that is too weak to absorb the shocks of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. The cost of living will rise as the economy and government coffers shrink…”

Kenyan leaders are used to dismissing assessments that are not in their favour. Opinion polls are quickly discredited as they are cooked up by camps portrayed as losers. But no sooner does another poll benefit them than they run with the numbers as a bushel to eclipse their opponents. Amnesty’s scorecard title Missed Opportunities shows a government that had chances in front of an open goal but thwarted them. There were glaring opportunities to make lasting impressions on the right, but those affected were too distracted to notice. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words as he wept for Jerusalem: “If only you knew the time of your visitation!”

Unfortunately, the report is dedicated to those “who didn’t live to read it”. King David missed the honor of building the temple despite having the plan, wealth, and will because his hands were “full of blood.” Innocent blood erects barriers that hold back even the largest states. Where too many Abel voices cry out from the earth, a country experiences a spirit existence. Kenya needs to drain its swamps of innocent blood by investing heavily in each person’s safety. The life of every Kenyan is important.

Politically weak or wrong

Rights should not be distributed as if they were privileges. In leader-centric governance, people are marginalized. They exist to serve the leaders, and those who rebel are punished. Because the biblical Mordecai could not bow to Herman, Herman was so angry that he plotted the extermination of an entire people. Some communities in Kenya are being pushed into punitive mode because they are perceived as politically weak or wrong. It is this kind of punishment that led the Reverend Daniel Wario, an Anglican minister in Marsabit, to speak honestly, if bitterly: “Is there life for the people of Marsabit? CS Matiangi, IG Mutyambai, if you hesitate a bit, come and bury us with tractors.” The infamous statement “Kenyans don’t eat road” means that Kenyans don’t need the same things.

Some legal progress has been made, but only slowly. The greed pandemic among leaders keeps holding Kenya back. Even food intended for the drought stricken are being stolen themselves! It is such incredible acts that prompted the apostle Paul to ask, “You foolish ones (Kenyans), who bewitched you?” Food is a big thing. “There is much to be found within our borders” was not meant to be a song lyric, but a full-bodied state of the nation. A government that cannot feed its people makes no sense. The lack of access to basic foodstuffs is a sign of a regime that has no contact with the people. It’s a shame that campaigns have been run during a drought but no voices offer explicit solutions to the situation. Instead, solutions are zipped into a promise mode and sent to the future as the place where wit is unleashed!

The new government should pin the 46 percent on the wall. This poor result should set the absolute floor below which we must not go. Kenyans should not fear the state. Fear makes it difficult to hold government officials accountable. In a country where leaders expect praise with their name as the refrain, it takes courage for a leader to stand up to criticism. But this is exactly where we have to go. Resisting oppression and accepting constructive criticism is what it takes to be a friend of dignity.

About Sonia Martinez

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