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The African Commission On Human Rights Asks Government To Guarantee Freedom Of Opinion & Expression During Elections

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The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has asked the Government of Kenya to respect and guarantee the freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and the freedom of peaceful demonstration, as well as civil and political rights of all citizens during the August 9 general elections.

The Commission through its Country Rapporteur for Kenya  Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa Commissioner Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie emphasized the need to protect the Rights of Women and prevent sexual and gender based violence in the run up to the presidential elections.

The Commission further commended the preparations under way towards ensuring the national elections are free, fair and credible. It also noted the enthusiasm of the electorate for exercising their sovereign right through participation in the electoral campaign process and balloting.

The African Commission was however alarmed by reports of increasing political tension and risks and incidents of violence, hate speech and the production and circulation of content for inciting division and violence during the electoral campaign.

“We particularly underscore the urgency and need to prevent the incidence of acts of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women, to prevent the recurrence of such violence reported during earlier electoral disputes in Kenya.” Said part of the commission’s statement.

The perpetration of brutal acts of sexual violence and rape that is weaponized in the context of electoral disputes in Kenya involving in particular, law enforcement personnel constitute serious breaches of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which it has severally reiterated to Member States. These include the rights to dignity, personal security, bodily integrity, personal liberty, peace and security, the right to participate in political and decision-making processes, as well as freedom from discrimination, torture, and inhumane or degrading treatment

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During the last 2007 and 2017 Presidential Elections in Kenya, the Commission received several reports about the perpetration of brutal acts of violence and rape, weaponized in the context of electoral disputes in Kenya, involving in particular, law enforcement personnel engaged in dispersing election protesters, with a very low record of accountability accorded in justice to the victims.

According to the commission, such acts constitute a serious breach of the rights, and freedoms guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which it has severally reiterated to Member States. These include the rights to dignity, personal security, bodily integrity, personal liberty, peace and security, the right to participate in political and decision-making processes, as well as freedom from discrimination, torture, and inhumane or degrading treatment.

“The African Commission would therefore like to seize this opportunity to remind the Government of Kenya of its obligations under the above instruments, to recognize and guarantee the enjoyment of all the rights therein, through the adoption of appropriate measures to sanction SGBV in order to ensure that women participate fully in the electoral process without fear of any form of violence” sad the commission.

The African Commission urges the Government of Kenya and the Opposition, especially the presidential candidates to not encourage any form of violence and to initiate dialogue and use established dispute settlement mechanisms with a view of resolving any differences or disputes.

It also called on all parties taking active part in the electoral process including political parties and their supporters to fully refrain from any use or circulation of inciteful expressions that may subject any one or group to any attacks or discrimination. The institutions entrusted in conducting and overseeing the elections, ensuring the security of the electoral process and of certifying the compliance of the electoral process with applicable laws and standards should also ensure that they discharge their responsibilities independently, impartially and professionally.

The African Commission urges the government to respect and guarantee the freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and the freedom of peaceful demonstration, civil and political rights of all citizens during this electoral period in conformity with the Constitution of Kenya.

Finally, the African Commission called on the government to work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that all necessary measures are put in place to guarantee a non-occurrence of elections-related SGBV against women and that in the event this occurs, the perpetrators are put to account, with adequate relief granted to the victims where applicable.

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