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Diplomacy in Action

Kenya


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
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Part 1: Political and Human Rights Condition

Kenya is a republic with a mixed presidential and parliamentary system. In December 2007 the country held general elections. In the presidential election, the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, was proclaimed the winner by a narrow margin under controversial circumstances. The main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, disputed the results and violence erupted in sections of Nairobi and opposition strongholds in Nyanza, Rift Valley, and Coast provinces; approximately 1,500 persons were killed and more than 500,000 displaced between December 2007 and February 2008. The violence ended in February 2008 when, as the result of an international mediation process in which the United States played a key role, the two sides agreed to form a coalition government. Under the terms of the agreement, President Kibaki retained his office, and Odinga was appointed to a newly created prime ministerial position. The government appointed a commission to study the integrity of election results; it concluded that serious irregularities occurred. These irregularities seriously undermined the integrity of the election results. Human rights problems include unlawful killings, torture, rape, 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; restrictions on freedom of assembly, speech, and the press; forced return of refugees and societal abuse of refugees including killing and rape; government corruption; abuse of and discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); child prostitution and labor; trafficking in persons; internally displaced persons; vigilante justice; interethnic violence; and lack of enforcement of workers' rights.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. priorities are focused on promoting implementation of the agenda for fundamental reform agreed to by the coalition government. The United States is working closely with civil society, the private sector, religious groups, and the media to press the coalition government to follow through on its commitment to carry out reforms. The United States is also working to strengthen the watchdog capacity of civil society, parliament, and the media; promote ethnic reconciliation; and support good governance, including combating official corruption. Additional areas of focus include promoting gender equity, encouraging emerging youth leadership and addressing the needs of disaffected youth, and strengthening respect for labor rights.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States continues to support peace-building efforts and to press the government, through public diplomacy and private contacts, to implement fully the reform agenda to which the coalition government committed itself. U.S. officials urge the government to address human rights issues and to end the culture of impunity, particularly through investigation of allegations of human rights abuses by security forces, protection of human rights defenders, and programs aimed at tackling corruption. The United States also funds speakers on democracy-related issues who reach leading members of civil society and university students. In 2008 the United States increased funding to promote reconciliation in areas affected by postelection violence. These programs worked with community leaders, including government and religious leaders from different religious and ethnic groups, to promote unity, peace, and reform. A U.S. program assists districts affected by postelection violence to create peace committees and supports the development and implementation of a gender-sensitive national policy on conflict management and peace building. U.S. officials frequently met with and encouraged groups undertaking initiatives that address the needs of disaffected youths.

U.S. programs continue to assist parliament in becoming a more effective and independent counterweight to the executive branch. One U.S. program was instrumental in the drafting and adoption of new rules of procedure by parliament that increase transparency and allow public participation in the deliberations of parliament. The United States supports live media coverage of parliament in order to strengthen accountability. The United States funds programs assisting oversight committees that shadow government ministries and play a watchdog role. For example, U.S. support strengthens the ability of a network of civil society organizations to lobby parliament to impact policy.

To support anticorruption activities, the United States engages both NGO and government officials in efforts to enhance citizens' engagement in anticorruption reforms and to strengthen the government's capacity to deliver on its anticorruption reform pledges. U.S. programs strengthen enforcement and oversight units of government institutions such as the Department of Public Prosecutions. The United States provides training to investigators of the Kenya Anticorruption Commission and supports the government's public financial management reform program, which concentrates on closing loopholes and increasing transparency in the procurement system by providing technical assistance to finalize new procurement regulations. The United States also continues to support the Public Procurement Oversight Authority's efforts to implement procurement regulations, launch e-procurement procedures, and pilot the procurement reforms in the health sector.

A U.S. expert trained police, prosecutors, and medical personnel in the investigation and prosecution of gender-based violence through a U.S.-funded initiative. The United States funds a gender-based violence and victim support unit in a hospital in Nairobi. U.S. funding also provides support for additional efforts to combat gender-based violence and FGM, including in refugee camps. The United States promotes internationally recognized core labor standards and efforts to eliminate exploitive child labor. This includes U.S. funding of an American labor rights organization that works to strengthen independence and good governance of trade unions, national and regional democracy and anticorruption efforts, industrial relations, HIV/AIDS workplace programs, and implementation of labor standards in the country. A U.S.-supported multiyear project to reduce the incidence of the worst forms of child labor concluded in 2009. The United States works to combat trafficking in persons and coordinates the international donors' working group in the country. The United States continues to support work to strengthen a network of collaborative antitrafficking efforts by the government and civil society. In addition, the United States participates in deliberations of a government-led initiative of the national planning committee charged with producing a national plan of action on trafficking. The U.S. Government funds a program aimed at reducing child trafficking in the agricultural and fishing sectors.

 



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