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Kenya

Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports  - 2008
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
May 23, 2008

Part 1

Kenya is a republic with a strong president who is both chief of state and head of government. In December 2007 the country held general elections. Observers judged the parliamentary and local elections to be generally free and fair. In the presidential election, however, incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, was proclaimed the winner by a narrow margin under controversial circumstances. The main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement, protested the result, claiming its candidate, Raila Odinga, had won. Observers concluded that, while the voting and counting process generally met democratic standards in most areas of the country, there were serious irregularities in both opposition and progovernment strongholds and in the tallying of results by the Electoral Commission of Kenya in Nairobi. These irregularities undermined the credibility of the presidential election result. The announcement that President Kibaki had won led to civil unrest that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 600,000 citizens. An African Union (AU) mediation process led by Kofi Annan led to the formation of a coalition government and, in March 2008, a constitutional amendment to create the post of prime minister. The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens or attempted to institute reforms to address deficiencies. However, serious problems remain that predate the political crisis, including: unlawful killings, physical abuse, and use of excessive force by police; police impunity; harsh and life‑threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; prolonged pretrial detention; executive influence on the judiciary; incidents of disrespect for freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and the press; government corruption; abuse of and discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); child prostitution and labor; trafficking in persons; vigilante justice; interethnic violence; and lack of enforcement of workers' rights.

Part 2

The U.S. government has made promotion of democratic principles and human rights a top priority. The United States supports activities aimed at fostering democracy and good governance by facilitating free, fair, and credible elections; reducing and ultimately eliminating corruption; strengthening the watchdog capacity of civil society, parliament, and the media; and promoting gender equity, among other issues.

Part 3

In advance of the December 2007 elections, the United States supported programs for improved electoral administration, citizen awareness and voter education, political party development, training for female candidates, and election observation and media monitoring. The ambassador and other U.S. officials also met frequently with government officials, political leaders, civil society, and the media to encourage them to ensure that campaigning and polling for the 2007 general elections were peaceful. More than 170 U.S. embassy personnel observed the elections, by far the largest resident diplomatic observation mission. In the post-election crisis, the U.S. ambassador spoke out forcefully against the lack of transparency in the vote-tallying process and other irregularities in the weeks following the elections, while repeatedly calling for nonviolence and a political solution. The U.S. Secretary of State and the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs traveled to the country as part of international mediation efforts to resolve the crisis. The United States funds reconciliation programs in the violence-torn Rift Valley. In 2008 the United States sent letters to 13 individuals warning that their visa status could be affected by their suspected involvement in either instigating ethnic violence or undermining democratic institutions by participating in election fraud.

U.S. programs assist parliament to become a more effective counterweight to the historically dominant executive branch. U.S. programs continue to contribute to a more open and participatory budget process and to improving parliament's leadership on corruption-related issues. The United States funds programs assisting the oversight committees that shadow government ministries and play a watchdog role. U.S. programs also target the committees addressing policy issues critical to achieving the overall U.S. democracy strategy. A U.S. democracy-building program complements and strengthens other ongoing U.S. assistance to the parliamentary committees. The United States continues to assist the long-term constitutional, legal, institutional, and land reform processes that are expected as an outcome of the post-election crisis mediation effort and has pledged support to the secretariat being formed under the aegis of the AU mediation effort to implement these reforms. The U.S. embassy will also allocate increased funding to civil society groups to advance human rights, democratization, and peace-building goals.

The United States continues to assist the country in developing a freer media. In 2007 experts traveled to the country for a seminar to train journalists in investigative journalism techniques, which carried over into more effective reporting of the post-election crisis and the mediation process. During the post-election crisis, the U.S. ambassador engaged the government on protecting human rights defenders and publicly called on the government to lift its ban on live broadcasts, as well as to permit public demonstrations during the post-election period. The United States continues to support anticorruption activities. The United States supported both NGO and governmental efforts to enhance citizens' engagement in anticorruption reforms and to strengthen the government's capacity to deliver on its anticorruption reform pledges. Working with civil society, U.S. programs promote greater public awareness of corruption issues, improve access to information regarding government processes, and increase demand for reform. U.S. programs also strengthen enforcement and oversight units of government institutions, such as the Department of Public Prosecutions, the Judicial Service Commission, and the parliamentary watchdog committees. The United States supports the government's Public Financial Management reform program, concentrating on closing loopholes and increasing transparency in the public procurement system by providing technical assistance to finalize the new procurement regulations. Activities in this program area are closely coordinated with the two-year Millennium Challenge Account Threshold Program that supports the newly established Public Procurement Oversight Authority to implement the government's new procurement regulations, to launch e-procurement procedures, and to pilot the procurement reforms in the health sector.

Part 4

The promotion and protection of women's rights is also a top U.S. priority. In 2007 the United States signed a letter of agreement with the Ministry of Justice establishing the Women's Justice and Empowerment Initiative (WJEI) to implement the country's 2006 Sexual Offenses Act. When fully operational, this agreement will create the country's first-ever rape crisis center. WJEI will increase public awareness of the legal support services and strengthen the capacity of the legal system–-from investigation through prosecution–-to protect women from sexual violence. The United States also funds an NGO focused on human rights to undertake an anti-FGM program and provides separate funding to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and another NGO to support prevention of gender-based violence, including FGM, in refugee camps in the country.

The United States worked to promote acceptable labor practices, including the elimination of child labor. It continued to fund an American labor rights organization that promoted independence and good governance of trade unions, national and regional democracy and anticorruption efforts, improvement of industrial relations, HIV/AIDS workplace programs, and implementation of the international labor standards in the country. Two union officials participated in an International Visitor Leadership Program designed to encourage labor union reform. The United States also continued to support a multi-year international project to reduce the incidence of the worst forms of child labor.

The United States works to combat trafficking in persons and coordinates the international donors working group in the country. Along with several other donors, the United States has started renovating a rescue center for assisting trafficked victims. The United States continues to support work to strengthen a network for collaborative antitrafficking efforts by the government and civil society and participates in deliberations of a government-led initiative of the national planning committee, charged with producing a national plan of action on trafficking. The United States awarded small grants to three local NGOs and an American labor rights organization for projects that include victims' assistance programs and human trafficking awareness training for law enforcement officers.


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