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  • Writer's pictureIrungu Houghton

The context just shifted, we must also

Anti-slavery campaigner Fredrick Douglas reminds us power concedes nothing in the absence of organised public demand by those most affected. The 21 members of the Police Reforms Working Group have much to celebrate.

From ensuring the protection of whistle-blowers and victims of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings to successfully advocating for the expansion of safe houses, special courts and services for victims of sexual crimes, we have had impact. We have championed the independence of our Chapter 17 offices and commissions and contributed to stopping establishment of the National Police Council in the Building Bridges Initiative. Our campaigns backed by public vigiliance and outrage reduced violent policing during the pandemic and during the recent General Elections.

That the implementation of the Prevention of Torture Act, National Coroners Service Act, independence of the Police Inspector General, zero tolerance for enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings and concerns with police integrity and welfare are now promises for the Kenya Kwanza government can also be attributed to a decade of relentless civic activism by civil society organisations and the social justice centres.

There are a number of opportunities before the nation. An administration that believes all hustles matter must rally the National Council of Administration of Justice to decriminalize poverty and reduce the 100,000s of men and women suffocating in our courts and jails. Can Kenya Kwanza complete the unfinished business of transition justice for victims of state repression and establish the Justice Restoration Fund promised since 2015? Can the Kenya Kwanza end the nine year old policy vacuum for public benefits organisations and operationalise the Public Benefits Organisations Act?

Can we bring justice and religious leaders closer together to address extreme inequalities, social justice and dignity for all? Can the county governors with demonstrated commitment to human rights, social justice and the rule of law who now govern in Nairobi, Mombasa, Siaya, Nakuru, Kisumu and Makueni and elsewhere, be tasked to expand freedoms within chapter 4?

Kenya Kwanza starts its mandate with a very divided and divisive nation. Identity based labelling and profiling can easily lead to xenophobia against minorities. Civic space is dependent on well-funded media houses, investigative and bold journalists and courageous activists grounded in factual information.

Civic organisations must continue to challenge corruption, knowing it will eat the Kenya Kwanza manifesto for breakfast. Civic organisations must also continue to work side by side with ordinary people struggling against abuse of state power and the rule of the law.

Let us be pragmatic not polemic, collaborative not competitive or combative. Let’s wear our commitment not like t-shirts we take off and put on, but as tattoos etched in us forever and engage consistently.

This statement was made to colleagues at the Post 2022 Elections Police Reforms Working Group Retreat, 14 September 2022


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