Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press; however, SOE regulations included restrictions on these rights, giving legal cover for continued efforts to harass and intimidate journalists that predated the SOE. Government officials harassed, arrested, detained, charged, and prosecuted journalists and bloggers perceived as critical of the government, creating an environment of fear and self-censorship. The Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2016 prison census found the country to be among the top five worst jailers of journalists worldwide. An intensifying crackdown on media included the arrest of journalists, including bloggers, in 2016, according to the committee.

Freedom of Expression: The SOE regulations contained several prohibitions that restricted freedom of speech and expression and subsequently resulted in the detention or disappearance of numerous independent voices. The regulations, interpreted broadly, prohibited any covert or overt agitation and communication that could incite violence and unrest. For example, authorities included the popular Oromo protest sign of crossed arms above one’s head. Restricted activities also included any communication with designated terrorist groups or antipeace forces, storing and disseminating texts, storing and promoting emblems of terrorist groups, incitement in sermons and teaching in religious institutions to induce fear or incite conflict, and speech that could incite attacks based on identity or ethnicity.

Under the SOE, it was illegal to carry out covert or public incitement of violence in any way, including printing, preparing or distributing writings; performing a show; demonstrating through signs or making messages public through any medium; or importing or exporting any publication without permission. The SOE also prohibited exchanging any message through internet, mobile telephones, writing, television, radio, social media, or other means of communication that may cause riot, disturbance, suspicion, or grievance among persons. Suspicion of individuals possessing or distributing such media was used as a premise to enter homes without a warrant.

Finally, the SOE prohibited any individual from exchanging information with a foreign government in a manner that undermined national sovereignty and security and prohibited political parties from briefing journalists in a manner deemed anticonstitutional or that undermined sovereignty and security. Individuals self-censored because of these prohibitions.

Authorities regularly arrested, detained, and harassed persons for criticizing the government. NGOs reported the torture of individuals critical of the government. The government attempted to impede criticism through intimidation, including continued detention of journalists, those who express critical opinions online, and opposition figures. Additionally, the government monitored and interfered in activities of political opposition groups. Some citizens feared authorities would retaliate against them for discussing security force abuses. Authorities arrested and detained persons who made public or private statements deemed critical of the government under a provision of the law pertaining to inciting the public through false rumors.

Press and Media Freedom: On March 15, the SOE Command Post lifted the provision that allowed for monitoring of media and communications.

Independent journalists reported access to private, independent printing presses was generally limited to a single government-owned facility, citing government intimidation. At least one outlet attempted to import a printing press for private use, but it was unable to secure permission to make it operational. Independent media cited this limited access as a major factor in the small number, low circulation, and infrequent publication of news.

In Addis Ababa seven independent newspapers had a combined weekly circulation of approximately 45,000 copies; there were in addition two sports-focused newspapers. There were no independent newspapers outside of the capital. Seven independent weekly, monthly, and bimonthly magazines published in Amharic and English had a combined circulation estimated at 18,000 copies. State-run newspapers had a combined daily circulation of approximately 50,000 copies. Most newspapers were printed on a weekly or biweekly basis, except state-owned Amharic and English dailies and the privately run Daily Monitor. Government-controlled media closely reflected the views of the government and ruling EPRDF party. The government controlled the only television station that broadcast nationally, which, along with radio, was the primary source of news for much of the population. There were two government-owned radio stations that covered the entire country, seven private FM radio stations broadcast in the capital, one FM radio station in the Tigray Region, and 28 community radio stations broadcast in other regions. State-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation had the largest broadcast range in the country, followed by Fana Broadcasting Corporate, which was affiliated with the ruling party. There were a few private satellite-based television stations, including the Ethiopian Broadcast Service.

The government periodically jammed foreign broadcasts, including the entire bandwidth for Voice of America. The law prohibits political and religious organizations as well as foreigners from owning broadcast stations.

Violence and Harassment: The government continued to arrest, harass, and prosecute journalists. As of October, four journalists remained in detention.

There were numerous reports of arrest, harassment, and prosecution of the press similar to the following: On January 3, the Federal High Court sentenced journalists Khalid Mohammed and Darsema Sorri along with 17 Muslim activists after finding them guilty of terrorism crimes. The court sentenced Khalid to a prison term of five years and six months and Darsema to four years and five months. Authorities arrested the two journalists in 2015.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Government harassment caused journalists to avoid reporting on sensitive topics. Many private newspapers reported informal editorial control by the government. Examples of government interference included requests regarding specific stories and calls from government officials concerning articles perceived as critical of the government. Private sector and government journalists routinely practiced self-censorship. Several journalists, both local and foreign, reported an increase in self-censorship, especially after the October 2016 implementation of the SOE. The government reportedly pressured advertisers not to advertise in publications that were critical of the government.

National Security: The government used the antiterrorism law and the SOE laws to suppress criticism. Journalists feared covering five groups designated by the parliament in 2011 as terrorist organizations (Ginbot 7, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), al-Qaida, and al-Shabaab), citing ambiguity whether reporting on these groups might be punishable under the law.


The government restricted and disrupted access to the internet. It periodically blocked social media sites. At times the government blocked access throughout the country. There were credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. State-owned Ethio Telecom was the only internet service provider in the country.

The law on computer crimes includes some provisions that are overly broad and could restrict freedom of speech and expression. This included, for example, a provision that provides for imprisonment for disseminating through a computer system any written, video, audio, or any other picture that incites violence, chaos, or conflict among persons. The SOE regulations included prohibitions on agitation and communication to incite violence and unrest through the internet, text messaging, and social media.

The government imposed a nationwide internet blackout from May 30 through June 8, the period during which students sat for national exams. The shutdown came 11 months after the government blocked social media sites throughout the country following an online leak of national exam papers, which eventually forced the government to postpone exam dates. The government stated blocking these sites was necessary to provide for an “orderly exam process.”

Between early October 2016 and June the government shut down mobile access to the internet in Addis Ababa, most parts of Oromia Region, and other regions. The government also denied wired access for many popular websites. These included social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber, news websites such as the Washington Postand the New York Times, and many other sites, including foreign university homepages and online shopping sites such as Amazon.

The government periodically and increasingly restricted access to certain content on the internet and blocked numerous websites, including blogs, opposition websites, websites of Ginbot 7, the OLF, and the ONLF, and news sites such as al-Jazeera, the BBC, andRealClearPolitics. Several opposition diaspora group blogs and websites were not accessible. These included Ethiopian Review,NazretCyberEthiopia, Quatero Amharic Magazine, and theEthiopian Media Forum.

Authorities monitored communication systems and took steps to block access to Virtual Private Network providers that let users circumvent government screening of internet browsing and email. There were reports such internet surveillance resulted in arrests. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 15.4 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.


The government restricted academic freedom, including student enrollment, teachers’ appointments, and curricula. Authorities frequently restricted speech, expression, and assembly on university and high school campuses. SOE regulations prohibited strikes in educational institutions, giving authorities the power to order educational institutions to take measures against any striking student or staff member and provided law enforcement officers the authority to enter educational institutions and take measures to control strikes or protests.

The ruling EPRDF party, via the Ministry of Education, continued to favor students loyal to the party in assignment to postgraduate programs. Some university staff members commented that students who joined the party received priority for employment in all fields after graduation.

Numerous anecdotal reports suggested that inadequate promotions and lack of professional advancement were more likely for non-EPRDF member teachers. There were reports of non-EPRDF members being summarily dismissed for failure to attend party meetings. There continued to be a lack of transparency in academic staffing decisions, with numerous complaints from academics alleging bias based on party membership, ethnicity, or religion.

A separate Ministry of Education directive prohibits private universities from offering degree programs in law and teacher education. The directive also requires public universities to align their curriculum with the ministry’s policy of a 70/30 ratio between science and social science academic programs. As a result the number of students studying social sciences and the humanities at public institutions continued to decrease; private universities, however, focused heavily on the social sciences.

Reports stated there was a pattern of surveillance and arbitrary arrests of Oromo university students based on perceived dissent participation in peaceful demonstrations, or both. According to reports, there was an intense buildup of security forces, both uniformed and plainclothes, embedded on university campuses preceding student protests, especially in Oromia, and in response to student demonstrations.

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.


The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; SOE regulations, however, prohibited demonstrations and town hall meetings that did not have approval from the Federal Command Post. The government did not respect freedom of assembly, including prior to the SOE, and killed, injured, detained, and arrested numerous protesters throughout the year (see also sections 1.a-e.).

In April the EHRC reported to parliament on its investigations into the death of several persons in a stampede at the Irrechaa festival in Bishoftu in October 2016. The commission recommended bringing to account local and regional officials in Oromia who failed to stop the festival in advance. The commission also blamed diaspora-based media house Oromo Media Network (OMN) for fueling the unrest that led to the incident. In March authorities brought terrorism charges against OMN in absentia. The EHRC report held opposition political group Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) as well as the OLF, a parliament-designated terrorist group, responsible for protests in July and August 2016.

For the 2017 Irrechaa festival, the main ceremony ended in mid-morning, much earlier than recent previous ceremonies. Breaking from tradition, neither the Abba Geddas (the traditional leaders and elders who have historically organized the event) nor government officials offered remarks or blessings. The Abba Geddas arrived at the sacred space with security force protection, which was an additional security measure employed for the event.

Prior to the SOE, organizers of public meetings of more than two persons or demonstrations had to notify the government 48 hours in advance and obtain a permit. Authorities could not refuse to grant a permit but could require changing the location or time for reasons of public safety or freedom of movement. If authorities determined an event should be held at another place or time, under the law authorities must notify organizers in writing within 12 hours of their request.

Opposition party organizers stated that authorities interfered in most of their gatherings, and changed the dates or locations of several of the protests and rallies. Protest organizers disputed the credibility of the government’s public safety concerns. Local government officials, who were generally EPRDF members, controlled access to municipal halls, and there were many complaints from opposition parties that local officials denied or otherwise obstructed the scheduling of opposition parties’ use of those spaces for lawful political rallies.

There were numerous credible reports from opposition organizations of hotels and other large facilities citing internal rules forbidding non-EPRDF affiliated political parties from utilizing their spaces for gatherings. Regional governments, including the Addis Ababa regional administration, were reluctant to grant permits or provide security for large meetings. EPRDF uses its own conference centers in Addis Ababa and the regional capitals and also utilizes government facilities for these meetings and events. Following the imposition of the SOE, the prohibition on unauthorized demonstrations or town hall meetings severely limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. For example, authorities interrupted a fundraiser organized by the independent rights group HRCO in October 2016 at a hotel in Addis Ababa. Security officers who stopped the event claimed the SOE Command Post had not authorized the event. The organizers had secured written permission from the government’s Charities and Societies Agency.


Although the law provides for freedom of association and the right to engage in unrestricted peaceful political activity, the government severely limited this right (see sections 3 and 5).

The SOE and the accompanying regulations restricted the ability of organizations to operate (see section 5). Regulations prohibited exchanging information or having contact with a foreign government or NGOs in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security, and this reduced communication between local organizations and international organizations.

The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP), also called the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) law, bans anonymous donations to NGOs and political parties. All potential donors were therefore aware their names would be public knowledge. A 2013 report by the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association stated, “The enforcement of these provisions has a devastating impact on individuals’ ability to form and operate associations effectively.” For example, international NGOs seeking to operate in the country had to submit an application via the country’s embassies abroad, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs then submitted to the government’s Charities and Societies Agency for approval.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

Although the law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, SOE regulations temporarily restricted internal movements for refugees and diplomats. The SOE prohibited refugees from leaving camps without authorization and prohibited entry into the country without visas. Diplomats were prohibited from traveling farther than 24 miles from Addis Ababa. The government also restricted foreign travel.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. At times authorities or armed groups limited the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate in areas of insecurity, such as on the country’s borders.

In-country Movement: Under the SOE some regions of the country and the borders were restricted. Those restrictions ceased once the SOE ended.

Foreign Travel: A 2013 government prohibition on unskilled workers travelling to the Middle East for employment remained in force. The ban did not affect citizens travelling for investment or other business reasons. The government stated it issued the ban to prevent harassment, intimidation, and trauma suffered by those working abroad, particularly in the Middle East, as domestic employees.

Exile: As in past years, citizens including journalists and others fled and remained abroad in self-imposed exile due to fear of government retribution should they return.


According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as of July there were 1,056,738 IDPs, including protracted and new cases. Of these IDPs, 577,711 resided in Somali Region; 367,557 in Oromia; 52,523 in Afar; 28,954 in Tigray, 17,472 in Gambella; 8,921 in Amhara; and 3,600 in Harar.

The two largest contributing factors were conflict and drought. IDP numbers increased compared with previous years, with 450,160 IDPs newly displaced during the year. Of the IDPs, conflict affected 588,531 of them while drought affected 375,074 others. The majority of internal displacements at the national level were attributed to conflict, particularly interregional and interclan conflicts due to lack of governance and property disputes. IDPs’ rights to alternative livelihoods, skill development, compensation, and access to documentation that determine their opportunity to participate in civic and political action often were limited while they were displaced.

In September and October there were armed border conflicts along the Oromia-Somali border, with incidents in the far south of that border in Moyale, through the Bale Mountains, up to East Haraege in the north, and to the west of Dire Dawa in Mossie. The government mobilized the ENDF to respond. The extent of the violence was difficult to verify, but reports indicated that at a minimum dozens of persons lost their lives, including local government officials. There were credible reports that more than 300,000 IDPs resulted from this conflict.

The government, through the Disaster Risk Management Food Security Sector (DRMFSS), continued to play an active role in delivering humanitarian assistance to IDPs. Federal and local DRMFSS officials coordinated with IOM and its partners in monitoring IDP populations.


As of August 31, the country hosted 852,721 refugees. Major origin countries include South Sudan (388,086), Somalia (252,036), Eritrea (161,941), and Sudan (42,967). Among the South Sudanese population, an estimated 17 percent of the refugees were unaccompanied or separated minors.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government used a refugee-status-determination system for providing services and protection to refugees.

Employment: Under the existing Ethiopian Refugee Regulation, the government does not grant work permits to refugees. The government supports an Out of Camp policy for those deemed self-sufficient, which allowed some refugees to live outside camps and engage in informal livelihoods.

Durable Solutions: The government welcomed refugees to settle in the country but did not offer a path to citizenship or provide integration. Refugee students who passed the required tests could attend university with fees paid by the government and UNHCR.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and conviction provides for a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the case. The law does not expressly address spousal rape. The government did not fully enforce the law.

Domestic violence is illegal, but government enforcement of laws in this sphere was inconsistent. Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. A 2013 government report stated 50-60 percent of all women had experienced domestic violence. Depending on the severity of injury inflicted, penalties for conviction range from small fines to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but the government did not actively enforce this prohibition. It was less common in urban areas. The penal code criminalizes the practice of clitoridectomy and provides for three months or a fine of at least 500 birr ($22) for convicted perpetrators. Conviction of infibulation of the genitals (the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM/C) is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. According to government sources, there has never been a criminal charge regarding FGM/C, but media reported limited application of the law. For more information, see .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Marriage by abduction is illegal, although it continued in some regions despite the government’s attempts to combat the practice. Forced sexual relationships accompanied most marriages by abduction, and women often experienced physical abuse during the abduction. Abductions led to conflicts among families, communities, and ethnic groups. In cases of abduction, the perpetrator did not face punishment if the victim agreed to marry the perpetrator.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was widespread. The penal code prescribes penalties for conviction of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment, but authorities generally did not enforce harassment laws.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: Discrimination against women was a problem. It was most acute in rural areas, where an estimated 80 percent of the population lived. The law contains discriminatory regulations, such as the recognition of the husband as the legal head of the family and the sole guardian of children more than five years old. Courts generally did not consider domestic violence by itself a justification for granting a divorce. Irrespective of the number of years married, the number of children raised, and joint property, the law entitled women to only three months’ financial support if a relationship ended. There was limited legal recognition of common-law marriage. A common-law husband had no obligation to provide financial assistance to his family, and consequently women and children sometimes faced abandonment. Traditional courts continued to apply customary law in economic and social relationships.

All federal and regional land laws empower women to access government land. Inheritance laws also enable widows to inherit joint property acquired during marriage.

Women’s access to gainful employment, credit, and the opportunity to own or manage a business was limited by their lower levels of educational attainment and by traditional attitudes. There were a number of initiatives in progress aimed at increasing women’s access to these critical economic empowerment tools.


Birth Registration: A child’s citizenship derives from its parents. The law requires all children to be registered at birth. Children born in hospitals were registered; most of those born outside of hospitals were not. The overwhelming majority of children, particularly in rural areas, were born at home. During the year the government initiated a campaign to increase birth registrations by advising that failure to register would result in denial of public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The law does not make education compulsory. As a policy primary education was universal and tuition free; however, there were not enough schools to accommodate the country’s youth, particularly in rural areas. The cost of school supplies was prohibitive for many families. The most recent data showed the net primary school enrollment rate was 90 percent of boys and 84 percent of girls.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Uvula cutting, tonsil scraping, and milk tooth extraction were amongst the most prevalent harmful traditional practices. The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013, published by the African Child Policy Forum, found the government had increased punishment for sexual violence against children. “Child friendly” benches heard cases involving violence against children and women. There was a commissioner for women and children’s affairs in the EHRC.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age of marriage for girls and boys at 18; however, authorities did not enforce this law uniformly, and rural families sometimes were unaware of this provision. The government strategy to address underage marriage focused on education and mediation rather than punishment of offenders. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 18, but authorities did not enforce this law. The law provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for conviction of sexual intercourse with a minor. The law provides for one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 birr ($444) for conviction of trafficking in indecent material displaying sexual intercourse by minors. Traffickers recruited girls as young as age 11 to work in brothels. Young girls were trafficked from rural to urban areas and exploited as prostitutes in hotels, bars, resort towns, and rural truck stops.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Ritual and superstition-based infanticide, including of infants with disabilities, continued in remote tribal areas, particularly in South Omo. Local governments worked to educate communities against the practice.

Displaced Children: According to a 2010 report of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, approximately 150,000 children lived on the streets; 60,000 of them were in the capital. The ministry’s report stated the inability of families to support children due to parental illness or insufficient household income exacerbated the problem. Research in 2014 by the ministry noted rapid urbanization, illegal employment brokers, high expectations of better life in cities, and rural-urban migration were adding to the problem. These children begged, sometimes as part of a gang, or worked in the informal sector. A large number of unaccompanied minors from Eritrea continued to arrive in the country (see section 2.d.).

Institutionalized Children: There were an estimated 4.5 million orphans in the country in 2012, 4.9 percent of the population, according to statistics published by UNICEF. The vast majority lived with extended family members. Government and privately run orphanages were overcrowded, and conditions often unsanitary. Institutionalized children did not receive adequate health care.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


The Jewish community numbered approximately 2,000 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution does not mandate equal rights for persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment and mandates access to buildings but does not explicitly mention intellectual or sensory disabilities. It is illegal for deaf persons to drive.

The law prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. It also makes employers responsible for providing appropriate working or training conditions and materials to persons with disabilities. The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on women with disabilities. The government took limited measures to enforce these laws; for example, by assigning interpreters for deaf and hard-of-hearing civil service employees (see section 7.d.). The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Public Servants Administration Commission are responsible for the implementation of employment laws for individuals with disabilities.

The law mandates building accessibility and accessible toilet facilities for persons with physical disabilities, although without specific regulations that define accessibility standards. Buildings and toilet facilities were usually not disability accessible. Property owners are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground-floor apartments, and generally did so.

Women with disabilities faced more disadvantages in education and employment. According to the 2010 Population Council Young Adult Survey, 23 percent of girls with disabilities were in school, compared with 48 percent of girls and 55 percent of boys without disabilities. Girls with disabilities also were much more likely to experience physical and sexual abuse than were girls without disabilities.

Nationally there were several schools for persons with hearing and vision disabilities and several training centers for children and young persons with intellectual disabilities. There was a network of prosthetic and orthopedic centers in five of the nine regional states.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs worked on disability-related problems. The CSO law hindered several domestic NGOs active in supporting persons with disabilities, particularly those focused on accessibility and vocational training.

The law does not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, although continued accessibility challenges could make participation difficult. Most polling stations were accessible to persons with disabilities and these individuals as well as the elderly, pregnant women, and nursing mothers received priority.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country has more than 80 ethnic groups, of which the Oromo, at approximately 35 percent of the population, is the largest. The federal system drew boundaries approximately along major ethnic group lines. Most political parties remained primarily ethnically based, although the ruling party and one of the largest opposition parties are coalitions of several ethnically based parties.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and conviction is punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment. No law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were some reports of violence against LGBTI individuals; reporting was limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There are no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the investigation of abuses against LGBTI individuals. Individuals did not identify themselves as LGBTI persons due to severe societal stigma and the illegality of consensual same-sex sexual activity. Activists in the LGBTI community reported surveillance and at times feared for their safety. There were no reports of persons incarcerated for engaging in same-sex sexual activities.

The AIDS Resource Center in Addis Ababa reported the majority of self-identified gay and lesbian callers, most of whom were men, requested assistance in changing their behavior to avoid discrimination. Many gay men reported anxiety, confusion, identity crises, depression, self-ostracism, religious conflict, and suicide attempts.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal stigma and discrimination against persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS continued in education, employment, and community integration. Persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS reported difficulty accessing various services. There were no statistics on the scale of the problem.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The constitution and law provide workers, except for civil servants and certain categories of workers primarily in the public sector, with the right to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Meanwhile, other provisions and laws severely restrict or excessively regulate these rights. The law specifically prohibits managerial employees, teachers, health-care workers, judges, prosecutors, security-service workers, domestic workers, and seasonal agricultural workers from organizing unions. Despite the law prohibiting antiunion discrimination, unions reported employers terminated union activists. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination were required by law to reinstate workers dismissed for union activities and generally did so. The law prohibits retribution against strikers, and there were no reported cases of violations.

A minimum of 10 workers are required to form a union. While the law provides all unions with the right to register, the government may refuse to register trade unions that do not meet its registration requirements. One possible rationale for refusal is the nonpolitical criminal conviction of the union’s leader within the previous 10 years, but there were no reports of a refused registration on this basis. The government may unilaterally cancel the registration of a union. Workers may not join more than one trade union per employment. The law stipulates a trade union organization may not act in an overtly political manner. The law allows administrative authorities to seek recourse via court actions to cancel union registration for engaging in prohibited activities, such as political action.

Other laws and regulations that explicitly or potentially infringe upon workers’ rights to associate freely and to organize include the CSO law and implementing regulations and arbitrary application of antiterrorism laws. The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations noted the CSO law gives the government power to interfere in the right of workers to organize, including through the suppression of registration, internal administration, and the dissolution of organizations. For example, the law requires that labor unions’ internal administration follow certain procedures that diminish their autonomy.

While the law recognizes the right to collective bargaining, this right was severely restricted under the law. Negotiations aimed at amending or replacing a collectively bargained agreement must take place within three months of its expiration; otherwise, the prior provisions on wages and other benefits cease to apply. The law restricts enterprise unions to negotiating wages only at the plant level. Civil servants, including public school teachers, have the right to establish and join professional associations created by the employees, but not to negotiate better wages or working conditions. Arbitration procedures in the public sector are more restrictive than in the private sector. The law does not provide for effective and adequate sanctions against acts of interference by other agents in the establishment, functioning, or administration of either workers’ or employers’ organizations. Unions in the formal industrial sector made some efforts to enforce labor regulations.

Although the constitution and law provide workers with the right to strike to protect their interests, the law contains detailed provisions prescribing extremely complex and time-consuming formalities that make legal strike actions difficult. The law requires aggrieved workers to attempt to reconcile with employers before striking and includes a lengthy dispute settlement process. These provisions apply equally to an employer’s right to lock workers out. For a strike to be authorized, two-thirds of the workers concerned must support such action. If cases are not referred to a court or labor relations board, the union retains the right to strike without resorting to either of these options, provided they give at least 10 days’ notice to the other party and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and make efforts at reconciliation.

The law also prohibits strikes by workers who provide essential services, including air transport and urban bus services, electric power suppliers, gas station personnel, hospital and pharmacy personnel, firefighters, telecommunications personnel, and urban sanitary workers. The list of essential services goes beyond the ILO definition of essential services. The law prohibits retribution against strikers, but it also provides for civil or criminal penalties against unions and workers convicted of committing unauthorized strike actions. Violation of this procedure is an offense punishable with a fine not exceeding 1,200 birr ($53) if committed by a union or of 300 birr ($13) if committed by an individual worker. If the provisions of the penal code prescribe more severe penalties, the punishment proscribed in the penal code becomes applicable.

The informal labor sector, including domestic workers, was not unionized, nor protected by labor laws. The law defines workers as persons in an employment relationship. Lack of adequate staffing prevented the government from effectively enforcing applicable laws for those sectors protected by law. Court procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Labor officials reported that high unemployment, fear of retribution, and long delays in hearing labor cases deterred workers from participating in strikes or other labor actions.

The ILO was critical of the government’s use of the antiterrorism law to punish ringleaders, organizers, or leaders of forbidden societies, meetings, and assemblies. The government refused for the fourth year to register the National Teachers Union (NTA) on grounds that a national teachers’ association already existed and that the NTA’s registration application did not comply with the CSO law. In 2013 an ILO mission made a working visit and signed a joint statement with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, stating the government was committed to registering the NTA. The ILO’s country office reiterated this message and characterized the dispute as an administrative matter concerning naming rights and diaspora membership.

Though rarely reported, antiunion activities occurred. There were media reports that some major foreign investors generally did not allow workers to form unions, often transferred or dismissed union leaders, and intimidated and pressured members to leave unions. Lawsuits alleging unlawful dismissal often took years to resolve because of case backlogs in the courts.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor but permits courts to order forced labor as a punitive measure. Conviction of slavery is punishable with five to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and forced labor occurred.

In 2015 the federal government enacted a comprehensive overhaul of its antitrafficking penal code. The code prescribes harsh penalties up to life imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 birr ($22,197) for conviction of human trafficking and exploitation, including slavery, debt bondage, forced prostitution, and servitude. The penalties served as a deterrent, especially when paired with increased law enforcement attention to the abuse. The number of traffickers convicted surged more than nine-fold to 640 in 2016, up from 69 in 2015. Police at the federal and regional levels received training focused on human trafficking and exploitation.

Although a ban on labor migration to the Gulf States remained in effect, in February 2016 the government enacted the Revised Overseas Employment Proclamation (Proclamation No. 923/20 16), a major precondition for lifting the existing labor migration ban. Women who migrated for work were vulnerable to forced labor overseas. Men and boys migrated to the Gulf States and other African nations, sometimes resulting in forced labor. Adults and children, often under coercion, engaged in street vending, begging, traditional weaving of hand-woven textiles, or agricultural work. Children also worked in forced domestic labor. Situations of debt bondage also occurred in traditional weaving, pottery making, cattle herding, and other agricultural activities, mostly in rural areas.

The government sometimes deployed prisoners to work outside the prisons for private businesses, a practice the ILO stated could constitute compulsory labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

By law the minimum age for wage or salaried employment is 14. The minimum age provisions, however, apply only to contractual labor and do not apply to self-employed children or children who perform unpaid work. The law prohibits hazardous or night work for children between ages 14 and 18. The law defines hazardous work as any work that could jeopardize a child’s health. Prohibited work sectors include passenger transport, work in electric generation plants, factory work, underground work, street cleaning, and many other sectors. The law expressly excludes children under age 16 attending vocational schools from the prohibition on hazardous work. The law does not permit children between ages 14 and 18 to work more than seven hours per day, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., or on public holidays or rest days.

Child labor remained a serious problem and significant numbers of children worked in prohibited, dangerous work sectors, particularly construction.

School enrollment was low, particularly in rural areas. To reinforce the importance of attending school, joint NGO, government, and community-based awareness efforts targeted communities where children were heavily engaged in agricultural work. The government invested in modernizing agricultural practices and constructing schools to combat the problem of child labor in agricultural sectors.

In both rural and urban areas, children often began working at young ages. Child labor was particularly pervasive in subsistence agricultural production, traditional weaving, fishing, and domestic work. A growing number of children worked in construction. Children in rural areas, especially boys, engaged in activities such as cattle herding, petty trading, plowing, harvesting, and weeding, while girls collected firewood and fetched water. Children worked in the production of gold. In small-scale gold mining, they dug mining pits and carried heavy loads of water. Children in urban areas, including orphans, worked in domestic service, often working long hours, which prevented many from attending school regularly. Children also worked in manufacturing, shining shoes, making clothes, parking, public transport, petty trading, as porters, and directing customers to taxis. Some children worked long hours in dangerous environments for little or no wages and without occupational safety protection. Child laborers often faced abuse at the hands of their employers, such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Girls from impoverished rural areas were exploited in domestic servitude and commercial sex within the country.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at .

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin nationality, gender, marital status, religion, political affiliation, political outlook, pregnancy, socioeconomic status, disability, or “any other conditions.” The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on pregnant women and persons with disabilities (see section 6). The penalty for conviction of discrimination on any of the above grounds is a fine of 1,200 birr ($53). The government took limited measures to enforce the law. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status have no basis for protection under the law.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women, who had fewer employment opportunities than did men, and the jobs available did not provide equal pay for equal work.

Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred (see section 7.e.).

There is no national minimum wage. Some government institutions and public enterprises set their own minimum wages. Public sector employees, the largest group of wage earners, earned a monthly minimum wage of approximately 615 birr ($26). The official estimate for poverty income level was 315 birr ($13) per month.

The law provides for a 48-hour maximum legal workweek with a 24-hour rest period, premium pay for overtime, and prohibition of excessive compulsory overtime. There are four conditions that allow employers to make use of overtime work. These are urgency of the task, danger, absence of an employee, and lack of alternatives. Additionally, employers may not engage their employees in overtime work exceeding 2 hours a day, 20 hours a month, and 100 hours a year. The country has 13 paid public holidays per year. The law entitles employees in public enterprises and government financial institutions to overtime pay; civil servants receive compensatory time off for overtime work.

The government, industries, and unions negotiated occupational safety and health standards. Workers specifically excluded by law from unionizing, including domestic workers and seasonal agricultural workers, generally did not benefit from health and safety regulations in the workplace. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardizing their employment; there were no reports that workers exercised this right.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ inspection department was responsible for enforcement of workplace standards. Occupational safety and health measures were not effectively enforced. The ministry carried out regular labor inspections to monitor compliance; however, there were an insufficient number of trained labor inspectors and a lack of enforcement resources. The ministry’s severely limited administrative capacity; lack of an effective mechanism for receiving, investigating, and tracking allegations of violations; and lack of detailed, sector-specific health and safety guidelines hampered effective enforcement of these standards. The ministry completed 37,000 inspections in the most recent fiscal year. It also carried out 250 investigations into workplace accidents during that same period.

Only a small percentage of the population, concentrated in urban areas, was involved in wage-labor employment. Wages in the informal sector generally were below subsistence levels.

Compensation, benefits, and working conditions of seasonal agricultural workers were far below those of unionized permanent agricultural employees. The government did little to enforce the law. Most employees in the formal sector worked a 39-hour workweek. Many foreign, migrant, and informal laborers worked more than 48 hours per week.

Hazardous working conditions existed in the agricultural sector, which was the primary base of the country’s economy. There were also reports of hazardous and exploitative working conditions in the construction and industrial sectors, although data on deaths and injuries were not available.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government sometimes restricted this right.

Freedom of Expression: On April 26, a branch of the High Court declared unconstitutional Section 132 of the Penal Code, which criminalized “undermining the authority of a public officer,” ruling the provision violated the fundamental right of freedom of expression. Other provisions of the constitution and the National Cohesion and Integration Act prohibiting hate speech and incitement to violence remained in force. Authorities arrested numerous members of parliament (MPs) on incitement or hate speech charges. On September 25, authorities arrested former MP David Manyara for alleged incitement to violence and separately arrested MP Paul Ongili (aka Babu Owino) on charges of subversion and incitement over his September 7 comments comparing President Kenyatta to deposed dictators. Immediately following Ongili’s release on bond September 28, police re-arrested him on charges of causing grievous harm to a voter on August 8. On September 11, police arrested MP Moses Kuria and former Senator Johnson Muthama for allegedly making inflammatory statements. Authorities had previously arrested Kuria and Muthama, along with six other politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties, for making inflammatory public comments in June 2016. Courts dismissed those charges against the eight politicians last year.

Press and Media Freedom: The government occasionally interpreted laws to restrict press freedom, and officials occasionally accused the international media of publishing stories and engaging in activities that could incite violence. Two laws give the government oversight of media by creating a complaints tribunal with expansive authority, including the power to revoke journalists’ credentials and levy debilitating fines. The government was the media’s largest source of advertising revenue, and regularly used this as a lever to influence media owners. Journalists practiced self-censorship to avoid conflict with the government on sensitive subjects, such as the first family.

Sixteen other laws restrict media operations and place the restrictions on freedom of the press. In August 2016 the president signed into law the Access to Information bill, which media freedom advocates lauded as progress in government transparency.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists alleged security forces or supporters of politicians at the national and county levels sometimes harassed and physically intimidated them. The government at times failed to investigate allegations of harassment, threats, and physical attacks on members of the media.

In May Human Rights Watch and the NGO Article 19 documented 23 incidents between 2013 and 2017 in which government officials or individuals believed to be aligned with the government assaulted journalists or bloggers. Two of the victims died under circumstances that may have been related to their work. The groups documented an additional 16 incidents of direct death threats against journalists and bloggers and 14 cases of arbitrary arrest or detention of journalists and bloggers who were later released without charge.

Numerous news outlets and NGOs reported intimidation of journalists increased in advance of and following the August 8 elections. In June authorities arrested journalist Walter Menya after he published an article on senior employees at a public service organization who were also registered officials of the ruling Jubilee party’s campaign. Authorities released Menya two days later without charge. On August 12, police arrested journalists Duncan Khaemba and Otieno Willis while reporting on postelection violence in the Nairobi informal settlement of Kibera, reportedly for wearing bulletproof gear without a license. Authorities dropped the charges on August 15.

Most news media continued to cover a wide variety of political and social issues, and most newspapers published opinion pieces criticizing the government.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The mainstream media were generally independent, but there were reports by journalists that government officials pressured them to avoid certain topics and stories and intimidated them if officials judged they had already published or broadcast stories too critical of the government. There were also reports journalists avoided covering issues or writing stories they believed their editors would reject due to direct or indirect government pressure. According to media reports, in October 2016 a Ministry of Health official threatened Business Daily reporter Stellar Murumba over a story about corruption at the ministry. On a recorded phone call, the official told Murumba the story put Murumba at risk and the government had tapped her computer. The official later apologized; authorities did not deny the reporter’s surveillance claims.

Libel/Slander Laws: Government officials and politicians threatened and brought defamation cases against the media. On February 6, a branch of the High Court declared unconstitutional Section 194 of the Penal Code, which defined the offense of criminal defamation, and all criminal libel cases were withdrawn. Libel and slander remain civil offenses.

National Security: The government cited national or public security as grounds to suppress views that it considered politically embarrassing. In February the Communications Authority directed mobile phone service providers to allow a private company contracted by the government to listen to private calls, read text messages, and review mobile money transactions. A judge halted the directive, ruling it violated constitutional privacy protections.


The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Authorities, however, monitored websites for violations of hate speech laws.

By law, mobile telephone service providers may block mass messages they judge would incite violence. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) tracked bloggers and social media users accused of spreading hate speech. According to an August 13 article in the Nairobi News (a blog run by the daily newspaper The Daily Nation), authorities arrested the administrator of a discussion group on the mobile application WhatsApp for spreading inflammatory false information and propaganda via social media.

According to the Kenya National Bureau’s 2017 Economic Survey, as of September there were 39.4 million internet users–more than 80 percent of the population. Mobile data expanded internet access to many less-developed parts of the country. Network coverage for 3G and 4G data expanded, as did the number of internet service providers.


There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. In August 2016 the president signed into law the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Bill.


Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, the government sometimes restricted this right. Police routinely denied requests for meetings filed by human rights activists, and authorities dispersed persons attending meetings that had not been prohibited beforehand. Organizers must notify local police in advance of public meetings, which may proceed unless police notify organizers otherwise. By law authorities may prohibit gatherings only if there is another previously scheduled meeting at the same time and venue or if there is a perceived specific security threat.

Police used excessive force at times to disperse demonstrators. At least twice during the year, police used tear gas to disperse striking nurses. IPOA’s investigation of resulting complaints continued as of November. There were widespread media reports of police violence directed at protesters following the August 8 elections, including the use of live ammunition against nonviolent protesters, house-to-house operations, and physical assault of bystanders not participating in protests. Credible reports indicated the number killed was at least 35 persons, with at least 100 injured. There were no reports of police injuries or deaths from the same period. Violence spiked episodically in opposition strongholds surrounding the October 26 fresh election, and unconfirmed reports indicate up to two dozen deaths in October and November from a mix of police action and mob violence. Many human rights and civil society organizations condemned the excessive use of police force against demonstrators. There were multiple press reports throughout the year of police using tear gas to disperse protesters, including against supporters of both the ruling party and opposition coalition following the elections. IPOA’s investigation of resulting complaints continued as of November. For example, on September 29, IPOA and IAU both announced investigations into excessive use of force and extortion during a police action against protests at the University of Nairobi on September 28 in which 27 students were injured. The acting interior cabinet secretary announced stern actions would be taken against officers found culpable. A lack of police cooperation frustrated IPOA’s investigation into some of the alleged abuses. On October 12, the government banned protests in the central business districts (CBD) of the three largest cities–Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu–until further notice. Protests nonetheless continued in all three CBDs. Police reportedly clashed with protesters in the Kisumu CBD on October 13, but allowed protests to proceed there on October 16.


The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right, but there were an increasing number of reports that authorities arbitrarily denied this right in some cases. A statement by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights dated February 14 noted a systematic and deliberate pattern of suppression of civil society groups that challenge government policies and investigate human rights abuses and corruption.

The Societies Act requires that every public association be either registered or exempted from registration by the Registrar of Societies. The NGO Coordination Act requires that NGOs dedicated to advocacy, public benefit, or the promotion of charity or research register with the NGO Coordination Board. Rights groups accused the NGO Coordination Board of using its authority to suppress groups critical of government action, particularly following the August 8 elections. On August 14, the NGO Coordination Board announced the Ministry of the Interior would cancel the registration of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), one of the country’s oldest human rights groups, citing alleged tax evasion and other reasons. This was the second such effort since 2015. On August 15, the NGO Coordination Board requested authorities shut down the offices of the Africa Center for Open Governance (AfriCOG), freeze its assets, and arrest its directors. A High Court judge granted a stay in the case, and the acting interior cabinet secretary put a hold on the suspensions of the KHRC and AfriCOG, but directed further investigations into the issues the NGO Board raised.

The NGO Coordination Act of 1990 requires organizations employing foreign staff to seek authorization from the NGO Coordination Board before applying for a work permit. On January 6, the interior principal secretary directed the 47 county commissioners to monitor strictly local NGOs’ license status, and whether an NGO’s foreign employees possessed valid work permits. Following the August 8 election, the NGO Coordination Board informed NGOs it would not meet for the rest of the year and would stop issuing extensions on certain types of work passes. As a result, NGOs could not hire foreign employees, and the status of many existing NGO employees expired, forcing them to leave the country or cease working and leave NGOs short-handed.

In September 2016, the Ministry of Devolution and Planning announced its intention to implement immediately the 2013 Public Benefits Organization (PBO) Act, an important step in providing a transparent legal framework for NGO activities. As of November the PBO Act was not implemented because it was not gazetted, a step required before implementation.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights but increasingly enforced restrictions on refugees’ movements. The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. In February a High Court blocked the government’s plan to close the Dadaab refugee camp, ruling the plan violated the principle of nonrefoulement, and was discriminatory and unconstitutional for targeting Somali refugees. The government announced its intention to appeal, but had not done so as of year’s end.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Police abuse of asylum seekers and refugees continued, with most reports coming from Nairobi’s predominantly Somali Eastleigh neighborhood.

Witnesses alleged security forces routinely confiscated or destroyed both expired and valid UN refugee documents and frequently demanded bribes to release persons in detention or in the process of arrest. According to media and NGO reports, police and military personnel mistreated refugees in retaliation for al-Shabaab attacks on security personnel.

At year’s end, the security situation in Dadaab remained precarious, although no new attacks on humanitarian workers occurred. In February assailants fired shots in an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap a teacher there. Increased police presence in the camps led to some improvements and cooperation with refugees through community policing and neighborhood watch initiatives. Violence also occasionally flared over Dadaab host community protests about employment and priority contract rights related to the camp.

Gender-based violence remained a problem in both the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps and in Nairobi, particularly for vulnerable populations including women, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) refugees. Reported incidents included domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, physical assault, psychological abuse, FGM/C, and forced marriage, particularly of young Sudanese, South Sudanese, and Somali girls. Refugee communities sometimes targeted opponents of FGM/C. Health and social workers in Kakuma refugee camp reported that, due to strong rape-awareness programs in the camp, survivors increasingly reported such incidents, resulting in improved access to counseling. In the Dadaab refugee camp, however, the government’s limited effectiveness and UNHCR’s restricted access and limited ability to provide services or protection resulted in higher numbers of cases of gender-based violence and underreporting of crimes and abuse, particularly against women and girls.

While mobile courts continued to serve the camp populations, most crimes went unreported. Refugees generally dealt with criminality in accordance with customary law and traditional practices rather than through the country’s justice system. Other security problems in refugee camps included petty theft, banditry, ethnic violence, and the harassment of Muslim converts to Christianity, according to UNHCR.

In-country Movement: The country hosted a very large refugee population. Prolonged insecurity and conflict in the region forced the country to play a leading role in coping with refugee flows, especially from Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Ethiopia. In February the government announced its intention to appeal a 2017 Court of Appeal High Court ruling that blocked a plan to relocate all urban refugees to camps, although it had not appealed by the end of the year. The government enforced an encampment policy, with Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps as the designated areas for refugees.

The government granted limited travel permission to refugees to receive specialized medical care outside the camps, to refugees enrolled in public schools, and to refugees in the resettlement pipeline. It made exceptions to the encampment policy for extremely vulnerable groups in need of protection. The government continued to provide in-country movement and exit permits for refugee interviews and departures for third-country resettlement.

From January through July, the Department of Refugee Affairs issued more than 5,000 temporary movement passes to refugees and asylum seekers. UNHCR reported that approximately 90 percent of the individuals returned to their camps by the time their passes expired. Authorities charged more than 600 refugees and asylum seekers with being unlawfully present in the country (under the Citizenship and Immigration Act) or residing without authority outside designated areas (under the Refugees Act). Of these, authorities discharged 137 and returned them to the camps, 44 were deported to Somalia, and 443 were convicted and ordered to pay fines or serve three to six months in prison.


The National Consultative Coordination Committee on IDPs (the committee) operates under the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. According to the committee, in 2016 it compensated 44,577 IDPs who remained in camps after the 2007-08 postelection violence with approximately $500 to aid their reintegration into society. The committee planned to compensate the remaining 39,314 by the end of the year.

Violence in Mandera County in 2014 between the communities of Mandera North District and Banisa District, and on the border between Mandera and Wajir Counties, resulted in displacement of an estimated 32,000 households. According to the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, the committee provided Mandera County with financial assistance for 6,890 IDP households that had not been able to return home, and assistance to the IDPs continued.

Water scarcity exacerbated communal conflict and left an unknown number of citizens internally displaced. IDPs from all locations generally congregated in informal settlements and camps. Living conditions in such settlements and camps remained poor, with rudimentary housing and little public infrastructure or services. Grievances and violence between IDPs and host communities were generally resource based and occurred when IDPs attempted to graze livestock or gather food and fuel locally. In the north, IDP settlements primarily consisted of displaced ethnic Ethiopians and Somalis and were targets of clan violence or involved in clashes over resources.


Refoulement: In November 2016 the government forcibly sent South Sudanese opposition spokesperson James Gatdet Dak to South Sudan, despite the risk of torture. In a statement, UNHCR expressed its deep concern, noting that Dak had previously been granted refugee status by Kenyan authorities. In February a court ruled that Dak had not been held by authorities, and ordered the government to investigate the case as a criminal abduction.

There were also multiple reports released by advocacy organizations alleging undue government pressure on refugees in Dadaab camp to repatriate voluntarily to Somalia and that inadequate information was provided to prospective refugees about conditions in areas of return inside Somalia.

In August the NGO Refugees International questioned the continued facilitation of returns in view of the deterioration in conditions in Somalia. In 2016 NGO Human Rights Watch released a report that questioned the voluntariness of Somali refugee returns from Kenya and accused officials of violating international law by intimidating refugees into returning to insecure conditions in Somalia. Also in 2016, Amnesty International issued a report alleging the government was forcing refugees to return to Somalia.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to camp-based refugees. While the government generally coordinated with UNHCR to provide assistance and protection to refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, cooperation was limited in urban areas. Security threats emanating from Somalia strained the government’s ability to provide security to those seeking asylum, especially in Dadaab. The government permitted registration of new refugee arrivals only during specific periods. For example, in June and July only one new refugee was registered in Dadaab. Since that time, no registration of arrivals took place, and there were an estimated 4,000 unregistered persons of concern, mostly from Somalia, in need of adjudication. In May 2016 the government revoked prima facie status–a group determination of refugee status–for newly arrived asylum seekers from Somalia and did not provide individual refugee status determination to Somali refugee arrivals.

According to UNHCR, as of September the country hosted approximately 489,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers: in Dadaab refugee camp an estimated 240,000; in Kakuma camp approximately 185,000; and in the Nairobi area an estimated 64,000. The government and UNHCR had not recently verified the number of refugees in other urban areas, which was estimated to be nearly 100,000. The majority of refugees and asylum seekers were from Somalia (287,400), with others coming from South Sudan (110,400), the DRC (34,800), Ethiopia (27,800), Sudan (9,900), and other countries (500). Most refugees arriving in Kakuma were from South Sudan, and the refugee population in Dadaab was primarily Somali. New arrivals also included individuals from Burundi, the DRC, Ethiopia, and Uganda. The Somali refugee influx was lower than in previous years. An agreement on voluntary repatriation between Kenya, Somalia, and UNHCR expired in November. Under the agreement, UNHCR supported the return of more than 73,800 Somali refugees from December 2014 until October.

In February the high court overturned a May 2016 government plan to close the Dadaab camps in November for reasons of security and because of cost. The high court ruled the plan violated the constitution and international obligations. Officially, the country encouraged Somali refugees to return voluntarily to Somalia. UNHCR continued to provide both financial and transportation support to refugees voluntarily returning to Somalia.

In May 2016 the government disbanded the Department of Refugee Affairs and replaced it with a Refugee Affairs Secretariat to carry out the department’s previous work.

Employment: Refugees are generally not permitted to work in the country.


The constitution and the 2011 Citizen and Immigration Act provide for the protection of stateless persons and for legal avenues for eligible stateless persons to apply for citizenship. UNHCR estimated that an estimated 18,500 stateless persons were registered in the country; the actual number, however, was unknown. Communities known to UNHCR as stateless included Sudanese Nubians in Nairobi, the Somali Galjeel in the Tana River area, the Mozambican Makonde in Mombasa, and the Pemba in Kwale. There were also a number of stateless persons of mixed Eritrean-Ethiopian heritage. In February the government began issuing identity cards and title deeds for land they own to Makonde applicants after President Kenyatta issued a directive in October 2016 that the government should do so by December 2016.

Although legal safeguards and pathways to citizenship for stateless persons exist, the government lacked a strategy to identify and register them, significantly limiting their ability to acquire legal residence or citizenship. Stateless persons had limited legal protection and encountered travel restrictions, social exclusion, and heightened vulnerability to trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation, forced displacement, and other abuses. UNHCR reported that stateless persons faced restrictions on internal movement and limited access to basic services, property ownership, and registration of births, marriages, and deaths. Inadequate documentation sometimes resulted in targeted harassment and extortion by law enforcement officials and exploitation in the informal labor sector.

National registration policies require citizens age 18 and older to obtain national identification documents from the National Registration Bureau. Failure to do so is a crime. Groups with historical or ethnic ties to other countries faced higher burdens of proof in the registration process. For example, Nubians, along with ethnic Somalis (such as the Galjeel community) and Muslims in the coast region, experienced discriminatory registration policies that led to statelessness, according to UNHCR and domestic legal aid organizations.

The deadline for stateless persons to apply to be considered for citizenship expired in August 2016. In accordance with Article 15(2) of the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act of 2011, the deadline was extended until August 30, 2019.

Many stateless persons did not qualify for protection under the local refugee determination apparatus. Among these were Somali refugees born in Kenyan refugee camps and Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees.

During the year the government established a vetting committee of Nubian elders to identify children of Nubian descent who are eligible for registration. As of November, the committee had not completed this process.

On June 2, the government issued a land title for 288 acres of public land to a private group representing the Nubian Council of Elders for the settlement of stateless persons. UNHCR reported that the government had completed, but not yet approved, the National Action Plan to eradicate statelessness in Kenya.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, defilement, sexual violence within marriage, and sex tourism, but enforcement remained limited. The law criminalizes abuses that include early and forced marriage, FGM/C, forced wife “inheritance,” and sexual violence within marriage. The law’s definition of violence also includes damage to property, defilement, economic abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, harassment, incest, intimidation, physical abuse, stalking, verbal abuse, or any other conduct against a person that harms or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health, or well-being of the person. Under law, insulting the modesty of another person by intruding upon that person’s privacy or stripping them of clothing are criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years.

The law provides a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for rape, although sentences were at the discretion of the judge and usually no longer than the minimum of 10 years.

Citizens frequently used traditional dispute resolution mechanisms to address sexual offenses in rural areas, with village elders assessing financial compensation for the victims or their families. They also used such mechanisms occasionally in urban areas. In October, CEDAW reported the government failed to provide substantial assistance to female victims of gender-based violence as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence of 2007.

The Coalition on Violence against Women estimated 16,500 rapes occurred per year. IPOA investigated eight reported cases of sexual assault by police officers between April and September.

Although police no longer required physicians to examine victims, physicians still had to complete official forms reporting rape. Rural areas generally had no police physician, and in Nairobi there were only two. NGOs reported police physicians often but inconsistently accepted the examination report of clinical physicians who initially treated rape victims.

Domestic violence against women was widespread. Police officers generally refrained from investigating domestic violence, which they considered a private family matter.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law makes it illegal to practice FGM/C, procure the services of someone who practices FGM/C, or send a person out of the country to undergo the procedure. The law also makes it illegal to make derogatory remarks about a woman who has not undergone FGM/C. Nevertheless, individuals practiced FGM/C widely, particularly in some rural areas. Government officials often participated in public awareness programs to prevent the practice.

Media reported growing numbers of female students refused to participate in FGM/C ceremonies, traditionally performed during the August and December school holidays. Media reported arrests of perpetrators and parents who agreed to FGM/C, but parents in regions with a high prevalence of FGM/C frequently bribed police to allow the practice to continue. There were also reports the practice of FGM/C increasingly occurred underground to avoid prosecution.

For more information, see .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Certain communities commonly practiced wife inheritance, in which a man inherits the widow of his brother or other close relative, regardless of her wishes. Such inheritance was more likely in cases of economically disadvantaged women with limited access to education living outside of major cities. Other forced marriages were also common. The law codifies the right of men to enter into consensual marriage with additional women without securing the consent of any existing wife.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Sexual harassment was often not reported, and victims rarely filed charges.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The constitution provides equal rights for men and women and specifically prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language, or birth. The justice system and widely applied customary laws often discriminated against women, limiting their political and economic rights.

The constitution prohibits gender discrimination in relation to land and property ownership and gives women equal rights to inheritance and access to land. The constitution also provides for the enactment of legislation for the protection of wives’ rights to matrimonial property during and upon the termination of a marriage, and it affirms that parties to a marriage are entitled to equal rights at the time of marriage, during the marriage, and at its dissolution.

The law includes provisions to strengthen property rights for wives, According to an October report by CEDAW, despite the law, much of the country held to the traditions that married women are not entitled to their fathers’ property and that upon remarriage, a woman loses her claim to her deceased husband’s property.


Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship from the citizenship of the parents, and either parent may transmit citizenship. Birth registration is compulsory. An estimated 63 percent of births were officially registered. Lack of official birth certificates resulted in discrimination in delivery of public services. The Department of Civil Registration Services began implementing the Maternal Child Health Registration Strategy requiring nurses administering immunizations to register the births of unregistered children.

For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Education is tuition free and compulsory through age 13. Authorities did not enforce the mandatory attendance law uniformly.

While the law provides pregnant girls the right to continue their education until after giving birth, NGOs reported that schools often did not respect this right. School executives sometimes expelled pregnant girls or transferred them to other schools.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes several forms of violence that affect children, including early and forced marriage, FGM/C, incest, and physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. Violence against children, particularly in poor and rural communities, was common, and child abuse, including sexual abuse, occurred frequently.

The minimum sentence for conviction of defilement is life imprisonment if the victim is less than 11 years old, 20 years in prison if the victim is between ages 11 and 16, and 10 years’ imprisonment if the child is age 16 or 17.

The government banned corporal punishment in schools, but there were reports corporal punishment occurred.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 years for women and men. Media occasionally highlighted the problem of early and forced marriage, which some ethnic groups commonly practiced. Under the constitution, the kadhi courts retained jurisdiction over Muslim marriage and family law in cases where all parties profess the Muslim religion and agree to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children, including prohibiting procurement of a child under age 18 for unlawful sexual relations. The law also prohibits domestic and international trafficking, or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, transfer, or receipt of children up to the age of 18 for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances. Provisions apply equally to girls and boys. The Sexual Offenses Act has specific sections on child trafficking, child sex tourism, child prostitution, and child pornography. Nevertheless, according to human rights organizations, children were sexually exploited and victims of trafficking.

Child Soldiers: Although there were no reports the government recruited child soldiers, there were reports that the al-Shabaab terrorist group recruited children.

Displaced Children: Poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS continued to intensify the problem of child homelessness. Street children faced harassment and physical and sexual abuse from police and others and within the juvenile justice system. The government operated programs to place street children in shelters and assisted NGOs in providing education, skills training, counseling, legal advice, and medical care to street children whom the commercial sex industry abused and exploited.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


The Jewish community was very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. A number of laws limit the rights of persons with disabilities. For example, the Marriage Act limits the rights of persons with mental disabilities to get married and the Law of Succession limits the rights of persons with disabilities to inheritance. The constitution provides legal safeguards for the representation of persons with disabilities in legislative and appointive bodies. The law provides that persons with disabilities should have access to public buildings, and some buildings in major cities had wheelchair ramps and modified elevators and restrooms. The government did not enforce the law, however, and new construction often did not include accommodations for persons with disabilities. Government buildings in rural areas generally were not accessible to persons with disabilities. According to NGOs, police stations remained largely inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

NGOs reported that persons with disabilities had limited opportunities to obtain education and job training at all levels due to lack of accessibility of facilities and resistance by school officials and parents to devoting resources to students with disabilities.

Authorities received reports of killings of persons with disabilities as well as torture and abuse, and the government took action in some cases. For example, the Daily Nation newspaper reported in March 2016 that a woman was arrested and would be prosecuted in Nairobi after 11 disabled children were found in poor living conditions, locked up, and malnourished in her home.

Persons with disabilities faced significant barriers to accessing health care. They had difficulty obtaining HIV testing and contraceptive services due to the perception they should not engage in sexual activity. According to Handicap International, 36 percent of persons with disabilities reported facing difficulties in accessing health services; cost, distance to a health facility, and physical barriers were the main reasons cited.

Few facilities provided interpreters or other accommodations to persons with hearing disabilities. The government assigned each region a sign language interpreter for court proceedings. Authorities often delayed or adjourned cases involving persons who had hearing disabilities due to a lack of standby interpreters, according to an official with the NGO Deaf Outreach Program. According to the KNCHR, 10 secondary schools in the country could accommodate persons with hearing limitations.

The Ministry for Devolution and Planning is the lead ministry for implementation of the law to protect persons with disabilities. The quasi-independent but government-funded parastatal National Council for Persons with Disabilities assisted the ministry. Neither entity received sufficient resources to address effectively problems related to persons with disabilities.

Nominated and elected parliamentarians with disabilities formed the Kenya Disability Parliamentary Caucus in 2013 and issued a strategy statement focusing on improving economic empowerment and physical access for persons with disabilities as well as integrating disability rights into county government policies. According to an October report by CEDAW, persons with disabilities comprised only 2.8 percent of the Senate and National Assembly, less than the 5 percent mandated by the constitution (see section 3).

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are 42 ethnic groups in the country; none holds a majority. The Kikuyu and related groups dominated much of private commerce and industry and often purchased land outside their traditional home areas, which sometimes resulted in fierce resentment from other ethnic groups, especially in the coastal and Rift Valley areas.

Many factors contributed to interethnic conflicts: longstanding grievances regarding land-tenure policies and competition for scarce agricultural land; the proliferation of illegal guns; cattle rustling; the growth of a modern warrior/bandit culture (distinct from traditional culture); ineffective local political leadership; diminished economic prospects for groups affected by regional droughts; political rivalries; and the struggle of security forces to quell violence. Conflict between landowners and squatters was particularly severe in the Rift Valley and coastal regions, while competition for water and pasture was especially serious in the north and northeast. According to the OHCHR, between December 2016 and April, in defiance of a court order, Kenya Forest Service guards burned multiple dwellings of the minority Sengwer tribe in order to evict them from Embobut Forest.

There was frequent conflict, including banditry, fights over land, and cattle rustling, among the Somali, Turkana, Gabbra, Borana, Samburu, Rendille, and Pokot ethnic groups in arid northern, eastern, and Rift Valley areas that at times resulted in deaths. Disputes over county borders were also a source of ethnic tensions.

Ethnic differences also caused a number of discriminatory employment practices.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The constitution does not explicitly protect LGBTI persons from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The penal code criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which was interpreted to prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity, and specifies a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment if convicted. A separate statute specifically criminalizes sex between men and specifies a maximum penalty of 21 years’ imprisonment if convicted. Police detained persons under these laws, particularly persons suspected of prostitution, but released them shortly afterward. In April 2016 the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) filed Petition 150 of 2016 challenging the constitutionality of these penal codes. As of November, two cases filed by NGOs in early 2016 to test the constitutionality of these laws remained unresolved.

LGBTI organizations reported police more frequently used public-order laws (for example, disturbing the peace) than same-sex legislation to arrest LGBTI individuals. NGOs reported police frequently harassed, intimidated, or physically abused LGBTI individuals in custody.

Authorities permitted LGBTI advocacy organizations to register and conduct activities.

Violence and discrimination against LGBTI individuals was widespread. According to a 2015 HRW and Persons Marginalized and Aggrieved report, LGBTI individuals were especially vulnerable to blackmail and rape by police officers.

On May 26, the government gazetted a taskforce on policy and institutional reforms toward intersex persons in order to implement a High Court’s judgment in the 2014 Baby ‘A’ case recognizing the existence of intersex persons. Separately, in 2015, a High Court ruled in favor of the NGLHRC in a case challenging the government’s refusal to register LGBTI advocacy and welfare organizations. The court ruled that refusing to register the organization was an infringement on the constitutionally protected freedom of association. The Court of Appeal ruled in May 2016 that the High Court’s judgment stood in the interim. The government’s appeal remained pending as of November.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government, along with international and NGO partners, made progress in creating an enabling environment to combat the social stigma of HIV and AIDS and to address the gap in access to HIV information and services. For example, the government launched treatment guidelines for sex workers and injected drug users in collaboration with key stakeholders. The government and NGOs supported a network of at least 5,488 counseling and testing centers providing free HIV/AIDS diagnosis. Diagnosis of other sexually transmitted infections was available through hospitals and clinics throughout the country. In 2016, according to its website, the First Lady’s Beyond Zero Campaign to stop HIV infections led to the opening of 46 mobile clinics across the country.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Mob violence and vigilante action were common and resulted in numerous deaths. Human rights observers attributed vigilante violence to a lack of public confidence in police and the criminal justice system. The social acceptability of mob violence also provided cover for acts of personal vengeance. Police frequently failed to act to stop mob violence.

In 2016 the Senate and the National Assembly established a joint parliamentary select committee to investigate police brutality and mob violence. That committee continued to meet as of November.

Mobs also attacked persons suspected of witchcraft or participation in ritual killings. For example, according to the Starnewspaper, on June 6 a mob in the coastal city of Kilifi killed three persons accused of using witchcraft to drown a man hours before his wedding ceremony. Police investigated the three murders, but there were no reports of arrests.

Societal discrimination continued against persons with albinism, many of whom left their home villages due to fear of abuse and moved to urban areas where they believed they were safer. Individuals attacked persons with albinism for their body parts, which some believed could confer magical powers and which could be sold for significant sums.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of workers, including those in export processing zones (EPZs), to form and join unions of their choice and to bargain collectively. Any two or more workers in an enterprise have the right to form a union by registering with the trade union registrar. If the registrar denies the registration, a union may appeal to the courts. For the union to be recognized as a bargaining agent, it needs to represent a simple majority of the employees in a firm eligible to join the union. This provision extends to public and private sector employees. Members of the armed forces, prisons service, and police are not allowed to form or join trade unions.

The law permits the government to deny workers the right to strike under certain conditions. For example, the government prohibits members of the military, police, prison guards, and the National Youth Service from striking. Civil servants are permitted to strike following a seven-day notice period. In 2016 the Judiciary granted High Court status to the Employment and Labor Relations Court. A bureau of the Ministry of Labor called the Ministry of Labor, Social Security, and Services (MOLSS) typically referred disputes to mediation, fact-finding, or binding arbitration at the Employment and Labor Relations Court, a body of up to 12 judges which has exclusive jurisdiction to handle employment and labor matters and which operates in urban areas, including Nairobi, Mombasa, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kisumu, and Kericho. It is illegal for parties involved in mediation to strike. Additionally, MOLSS referral of a dispute to the conciliation process nullifies the right to strike.

By law workers who provide essential services, defined as “a service the interruption of which would probably endanger the life of a person or health of the population,” may not strike. Any trade dispute in a service listed as essential or declared an essential service may be adjudicated by the Employment and Labor Relations Court.

Strikes must concern terms of employment, and sympathy strikes are prohibited.

The law permits workers in collective bargaining disputes to strike if they have exhausted formal conciliation procedures and have given seven days’ notice to the government and the employer. Conciliation is not compulsory in individual employment matters. Security forces may not bargain collectively but have an internal board that reviews salaries. Informal workers may establish associations, or even unions, to negotiate wages and conditions matching the government’s minimum wage guidelines as well as to advocate for better working conditions and representation in the Employment and Labor Relations Court. The bill of rights in the constitution allows trade unions to undertake their activities without government interference, and the government generally respected this right.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. The Employment and Labor Relations Court can order reinstatement and damages in the form of back pay for employees wrongfully dismissed for union activities. Labor laws apply to all groups of workers.

The government supported a strengthened labor dispute system, but enforced the decisions of the Employment and Labor Relations Court inconsistently. Many employers did not comply with reinstatement orders, and some workers accepted payment in lieu of reinstatement. In several cases, employers successfully appealed the Employment and Labor Relations Court’s decisions to a branch of the High Court. The enforcement mechanisms of the Employment and Labor Relations Court remained weak, and its case backlog raised concerns about the efficacy of the court.

The Employment and Labor Relations Court received many cases arising from the implementation of new labor laws. The parties filed the majority of cases directly without referral to MOLSS for conciliation. In 2015-16, the number of filed cases increased by 23.5 percent to 4,244, while the number of cases settled more than doubled to 2,403. The total Collective Bargaining Agreements registered in 2016 were 298, compared to 230 in 2015. The government established the court to provide for quick resolution of labor disputes, but backlog cases dated to 2007.

The chief justice designated all county courts presided over by senior resident magistrates and higher-ranking judges as special courts to hear employment and labor cases. Providing adequate facilities outside of Nairobi was challenging, but observers cited the ability of workers to submit labor-related cases throughout the country as a positive step. In 2016 the Judiciary finalized the Employment and Labor Relations (Procedure) Rules. The significant changes introduced in the new Court procedure rules provide parties access to file pleadings directly in electronic form, new pretrial procedures, and alternative dispute resolution. The rules also set a 30-day time limit for the court to submit a report on disagreements over Collective Bargaining Agreements filed.

The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively, although enforcement was inconsistent. The government expressed its support for union rights mandated in the constitution.

Migrant workers often lacked formal organization and consequently missed the benefits of collective bargaining. Similarly, domestic workers and others who operated in private settings were vulnerable to exclusion from legal protections, although domestic workers unions exist in the country to protect their interests. The East African Community Affairs bureau (EAC) of the Ministry of Labor , however, claimed all employees are covered by the existing labor laws, and the ministry continued to advise domestic workers on the terms of their contracts, especially when their terms and conditions of work are violated.

In 2016 the government deployed labor attaches to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to regulate and coordinate contracts of Kenyan migrant workers and promote overseas job opportunities. EAC also helped Kenyan domestic workers understand the terms and conditions of their work agreements. The government signed two bilateral agreements for employment opportunities with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and EAC negotiations continued with UAE. The EAC also established a directorate to regulate the conduct of labor agents for migrant workers, including requiring the posting of a 500,000 shilling ($5,000) performance guarantee bond for each worker.

The survival of trade unions was threatened by the misuse of internships and other forms of transitional employment, with employers often not hiring employees after an internship ends. State agencies increasingly outsourced jobs to the private sector, and in the private sector, casual workers were employed on short-term contracts. This shift contributed to declining numbers in trade unions. NGOs and trade unionists reported increased replacement of permanent positions by casual or contract labor, especially in the EPZs, the Port of Mombasa, and in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. In some cases cited, employers staffed permanent jobs with rotating contract workers. This practice occurred at the management level as well, where employers hired individuals as management trainees and kept them in these positions for the maximum permitted period of three years. Instead of converting such trainees to permanent staff, employers replaced them with new trainees at the end of the three years. During the year the ministry reviewed misuse of term contract employment.

Workers exercised the right to strike. Nonteaching university staff demonstrated in 2016, seeking better employment terms. They did not report to work for 72 days in 2016 and for 42 days during the year. The matter was resolved in June when the government agreed to implement a new collective bargaining agreement. The health sector witnessed industrial strikes that began in the fourth quarter of 2016 and continued into the year. The doctors’ strike lasted for 100 days, leading to disruption of public health care service delivery and temporary detention of seven union officials. Strikes involving Kenya National Union of Nurses in various counties continued for most of the reporting year. The nurses demanded higher wages, prompt payment of salaries, more promotions, better working conditions and sufficient drugs for patients. They also demanded that county governments remit statutory deductions taken from their paychecks to the National Social Security Fund and the National Hospital Insurance Fund. The most recent strike ended November 3, when the government agreed to pay withheld back salaries; authorized a collective bargaining agreement; agreed to pay for nurses uniforms and to provide a risk allowance; and announced it would drop all pending disciplinary cases against nurses resulting from the strikes.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. The country made moderate advances to prevent or eliminate forced labor. The government continued to implement the National Safety Net Program for Results, a project seeking to establish an effective national safety net program for poor and vulnerable households, and the Decent Work Country Program, a project designed to advance economic opportunities. Under these programs, the government pays households sheltering orphans or other vulnerable children to deter the children from dropping out of school and engaging in forced labor. For example, there have been some cases reported in Western Kenya of girls dropping out of secondary school and engaging in sex work in order to afford basic supplies.

Some forced labor occurred. Certain legal provisions, including the penal code and the Public Order Act, impose compulsory prison labor. Resources, inspections, and remediation were not adequate to prevent forced labor, and penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Violations included debt bondage, trafficking of workers, and compulsion of persons, even family members, to work as domestic servants. The government prosecuted 59 cases of forced labor, primarily in cattle herding, street vending, begging, and agriculture. Domestic workers from Uganda, herders from Ethiopia, and others from Somalia, South Sudan, and Burundi were subjected to forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for work (other than apprenticeships) is 16, and the minimum age for hazardous work is 18. The ministry, in collaboration with the ILO, the international donor community, and NGOs, completed a list of specific jobs considered hazardous that would constitute the worst forms of child labor and published the list in the Kenya Gazette in 2014. This list includes but is not limited to scavenging, carrying stones and rocks, metalwork, working with machinery, mining and stone crushing. The law explicitly prohibits forced labor, trafficking, and other practices similar to slavery; child soldiering; prostitution; the use, procuring, or offering of a child for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; and the use by an adult for illegal activities (such as drug trafficking) of any child up to age 18. The law applies equally to girls and boys.

The law allows children ages 13 to 16 to engage in industrial undertakings when participating in apprenticeships. Industrial undertakings are defined under law to include work in mines, quarries, factories, construction, demolition, and transportation, which the list for children includes as hazardous work.

The law provides for penalties for any person who employs, engages, or uses a child in an industrial undertaking in violation of the law. The fines were generally enough to deter violations. Employment of children in the formal industrial wage sector in violation of the Employment Act was rare. Child labor in the informal sector was widespread but difficult to monitor and control.

MOLSS enforces child labor laws, but implementation remained problematic due to resource constraints. Supplementary programs, such as the International Labor Organization (ILO)-initiated Community Child Labor monitoring program, helped provide additional resources to combat child labor. These programs identified children who were working illegally, removed them from hazardous work conditions, and referred them to appropriate service providers.

In support of child protection, the MOLSS launched a national online database system in May. The Child Protection Information Management System collects, aggregates and reports on child protection data that informs policy decisions and budgeting for orphans and vulnerable children. The web-based system allows for an aggregate format of data to be made available to all the child protection stakeholders.

The government worked closely with the Central Organization of Trade Unions, the Federation of Kenyan Employers, and the ILO to eliminate child labor.

According to the 2009 National Census, almost three million children between ages five and 14 (33 percent of all children in that age group) engaged in child labor. Many children worked on family plots or in family units on tea, coffee, sugar, sisal, tobacco, and rice plantations, as well as in the production of miraa (khat). Children worked in mining, including in abandoned gold mines, small quarries, and sand mines. Children also worked in the fishing industry. In urban areas businesses employed children in hawking, scavenging, carrying loads, fetching and selling water, and selling food. Children often worked long hours as domestic servants in private homes for little or no pay, and there were reports of physical and sexual abuse of child domestic servants. Parents sometimes initiated forced or compulsory child labor, such as in agricultural labor and domestic service, but also including prostitution.

Most of the trafficking of children within the country appeared related to domestic labor, with migrant children trafficked from rural to urban areas.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at .

The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Several regulatory statutes provide a legal framework for a requirement for the public and private sectors to reserve 5 percent of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities; tax relief and incentives for such persons and their organizations; and reserves 30 percent of public procurement tenders for women, youth, and persons with disabilities.

The government did not, however, effectively enforce the law. Gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation occurred, although the law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring. The average monthly income of women was approximately two-thirds that of men. Women had difficulty working in nontraditional fields, had slower promotions, and were more likely to be dismissed. According to a World Bank report, both men and women experienced sexual harassment in job recruitment, but women more commonly reported it. Women who tried to establish their own informal businesses were subjected to discrimination and harassment. One study of women street vendors in Nairobi found harassment was the main mode of interaction between street vendors and authorities. The study noted that demands for bribes by police amounting to three to 8 percent of a vendor’s income as well as sexual abuse were common.

In an audit of hiring practices released in 2016, the NCIC accused many county governors of appointing and employing disproportionate numbers of the dominant tribe in their county. According to the commission, 15 of the 47 counties failed to include a single person from a minority tribe either on the county’s public service board or as county executive committee members. For example, all 10 of West Pokot’s committee members were Pokots. These problems were aggravated by the devolution of fiscal and administrative responsibility to county governments. Some counties, for example Nairobi City County, were notable for apportioning roles inclusively. Observers also noted patterns of preferential hiring during police recruitment exercises (see section 1.d.).

In both private business and in the public sector, members of nearly all ethnic groups commonly discriminated in favor of other members of the same group.

Due to societal discrimination, there were limited employment opportunities for persons with albinism. The law provides protection for persons with disabilities against employment discrimination, although in practice many persons with disabilities faced challenges in finding and obtaining employment. There are no legal employment protections for LGBTI persons, who remained vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace.

Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred. Migrant workers enjoy the same legal protections with regard to wages and working conditions as citizens.

Regulation of wages is part of the Labor Institutions Act, and the government established basic minimum wages by occupation and location, setting minimum standards for monthly, daily, and hourly work in each category. The minimum wage for a general laborer was 10,954 shillings ($110) per month. The average minimum wage for skilled workers was 17,404 shillings ($170) per month. The government increased the lowest agricultural minimum wage for unskilled employees to 6,780 shillings ($68) per month, excluding housing allowance. Agricultural workers were underpaid compared with other sectors.

The MOLSS implemented various social protection programs under the Social Safety Net Program, such as a cash transfer for orphaned and vulnerable children, a cash transfer program for the elderly, and a cash transfer program for persons with disabilities. These programs reached 832,408 households.

The law limits the normal workweek to 52 hours (60 hours for night workers); some categories of workers had lower limits. It specifically excludes agricultural workers from such limitations. It entitles an employee in the nonagricultural sector to one rest day per week and 21 days of combined annual and sick leave. The law also requires that total hours worked (regular time plus overtime) in any two-week period not exceed 120 hours (144 hours for night workers) and provides premium pay for overtime.

Authorities reported workweek and overtime violations. Workers in some enterprises, particularly in the EPZs and those in road construction, claimed employers forced them to work extra hours without overtime pay to meet production targets. Hotel industry workers were usually paid the minimum statutory wage, but employees worked long hours without compensation. Additionally, employers often did not provide nighttime transport, leaving workers vulnerable to assault, robbery, and sexual harassment.

The law details environmental, health, and safety standards. Fines generally were insufficient to deter unsafe practices.

The labor ministry’s Directorate of Occupational Health and Safety Services has the authority to inspect factories and work sites, but the government employed an insufficient number of labor inspectors to conduct regular inspections. The directorate’s health and safety inspectors can issue notices against employers for practices or activities that involve a risk of serious personal injury. Employers may appeal such notices to the Factories Appeals Court, a body of four members, one of whom must be a High Court judge. The law stipulates that factories employing 20 or more persons have an internal health and safety committee with representation from workers. According to the government, many of the largest factories had health and safety committees.

The law provides for labor inspections to prevent labor disputes, accidents, and conflicts and to protect workers from occupational hazards and disease by ensuring compliance with labor laws. Low salaries and the lack of vehicles, fuel, and other resources made it very difficult for labor inspectors to do their work effectively and left them vulnerable to bribes and other forms of corruption. The labor inspection form includes a provision for reporting on persons with disabilities. The Employment Act of 2007 prohibits discrimination against an employee on the basis of disability.

The law provides social protections for workers employed in the informal sector, and informal workers organized into associations, cooperatives, and, in some cases, unions. All Kenyan employers, including those in the informal sector, are required to contribute to the National Hospital Insurance Fund and the National Social Security Fund; these provide health insurance and pensions. According to the 2015 2017 Kenya Economic Survey, the informal sector employed 11.81 million persons in 2016, compared with 2.42 million in the formal sector.

Workers, including foreigners and immigrants, have the legal right to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The MOLSS did not effectively enforce these regulations, and workers were reluctant to remove themselves from working conditions that endangered their health or safety due to the risk of losing their jobs. The Kenya Federation of Employers provided training and auditing of workplaces for health and safety practices.


Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech, including for the press, but the government often restricted this right.

Freedom of Expression: The government restricted the ability of some individuals to criticize it or to discuss matters of general public interest. It restricted some political buttons and symbols, music lyrics, and theatrical performances.

Local media reported that in response to public opposition to the government’s efforts to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) issued several veiled warnings aimed at intimidating the public and media organizations from using social media to oppose the change. The UCC’s September 14 statement said, “Social and electronic communication platform users, account managers, and administrators should refrain themselves and group members against authoring, posting, receiving and sharing or forwarding any forms of electronic communications containing and or referring to illegal and/or offensive content to avoid the risk of being investigated and/or prosecuted.”

On October 7, the UPF banned football fans from wearing red ribbons, which had become a symbol for opposition to the government’s plan to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution. On October 17, the UPF banned member of parliament (MP) and musician Robert Kyagulanyi from performing concerts pending the police’s investigation into allegations that Kyagulanyi used “words that incite the public” at an October 15 concert. On October 18, a UPF official warned musicians not to politicize their art, saying, “Music is not supposed to be partisan.” On October 19, Kyagulanyi sued the government for 300 million shillings ($82,500) in damages for infringing on his right to employment, freedom of speech, expression, association, and conscience. The case was pending at year’s end.

On April 7, plain-clothed UPF officers arrested Makerere University professor Stella Nyanzi on charges of cyber harassment related to a series of Facebook (FB) posts in which she criticized the government’s failure to fulfill the president’s 2016 campaign pledge to provide sanitary pads for school girls and called the president “a pair of buttocks” (see section 1.e.). According to local media, the UPF interrogated Nyanzi about her posts for six hours on March 7 and told her she had offended the president. On March 18, airport immigration officers prevented Nyanzi from traveling to the Netherlands for an academic conference. Further, the state-controlled Makerere University suspended Nyanzi on March 31 for “continually insulting the first lady.” On April 10, the state charged Nyanzi with cyber harassment and offensive communication. A court released Nyanzi on bail on May 10, and the case continued at year’s end.

Press and Media Freedom: The country had an active media environment with numerous privately owned newspapers and television and radio stations. These media outlets regularly covered stories and often provided commentary critical of the government and officials. The UPF’s Media Crimes Unit, however, closely monitored all radio, television, and print media, and security forces subjected numerous journalists to harassment, intimidation, and arrest. Government officials and ruling party members owned many of the private rural radio stations and imposed reporting restrictions. Media practitioners said government and security agents occasionally called editors and instructed them not to publish stories that negatively portrayed the government. On September 14, local media reported that the president had warned FM radio stations that his government would not tolerate any that hosted opposition politicians who campaigned against government legislation.

Violence and Harassment: Security forces often harassed journalists. According to local media, on April 7, unidentified individuals kidnapped a local television journalist and held her for eight hours for posting messages on FB that supported Nyanzi’s criticism of the government’s failure to fulfill the president’s campaign promise to distribute sanitary pads to poor girls. The kidnappers interrogated her about her connections with Nyanzi, beat her, cut off her hair, threatened to kill her and her family, and forced her to delete the FB posts. By year’s end there was no known update on the investigation into the reporter’s kidnapping.

On April 1, unidentified individuals broke into the office of local newspaper The Observer, taking at least 20 computers, the computer server, one camera, and a television, as well as the security camera footage covering the burglary. This marked the second time in six months that unidentified individuals had broken into The Observer’s offices (the first break-in occurred in October 2016). The Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), whose premises were also broken into in 2013 and 2015, criticized police for not taking these break-ins seriously; the HRNJ stated that as of September 19, the police investigation had not made progress on any of the break-ins. On September 19, The Observer stated that police had asked for money to facilitate the investigation and added there had been no updates from the police. According to The Observer and the HRNJ, investigations remained pending as of year’s end.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government directly and indirectly restricted media coverage and content. On September 26, the UCC prohibited local television stations from live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings after MPs brawled in the House, claiming that such broadcasts incited public violence and hatred. On October 5, the UCC lifted the ban.

On September 30, Kyagulanyi reported that the UCC had warned radio stations that they could be shut down if they allowed him to participate on their talk shows. The UCC, however, denied making this statement. Local media reported that the UCC also ordered some radio stations to dismiss employees who had criticized government’s plan to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution and suspended the broadcasting licenses of those that refused to comply with the directive.

On April 21, after the IGP learned that four media outlets had been publishing leaked internal UPF information concerning Kaweesi’s killing (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.) and the ensuing investigation, the IGP successfully petitioned the Constitutional Court to prohibit these outlets from reporting on these subjects, claiming the publications were “injurious” to the investigation.

Many print and broadcast journalists practiced self-censorship, particularly when reporting on the president and his inner circle.

Libel/Slander Laws: Authorities used libel and slander laws to suppress criticism of government officials. On June 20, the UPF detained, questioned, and later released Ben Byarabaha, editor of local newspaper Red Pepper, whom it accused of offensive communication, following the newspaper’s report the IGP was ill. The UPF said the report was false.

National Security: Local media reported that a UPF disciplinary tribunal charged two officers with breach of confidence for recording and then sharing images from the November 2016 UPDF and UPF raid on the Rwenzururu Kingdom’s palace. This case was pending at year’s end.


There were allegations that government security agents censored online content by harassing and threatening authors of online statements that criticized the government or government officials. Although the government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet during the year, it established the legal authority to do so in the future. An amendment to the Uganda Communications Act, passed by parliament on April 6, authorizes the minister of information to regulate communications, including blocking access to the internet, without parliament’s approval. The amendment also affords parliament the ability to block any communication regulation issued by the minister within 30 days of issuance.

On June 28, local media reported that the government had created the Government Citizen Interaction Center, which would “scrutinize FB profiles and follow up on people who are angry with government, so it could give them solutions.” Several journalists reported that security agents monitored them and threatened to attack them if they continued to criticize the government on social media. Two bloggers reported in April they received threatening messages on FB demanding they stop posting messages in support of Nyanzi.

Citing the Antiterrorism Act, the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act, and the Computer Misuse Act, the government monitored social media. According to local media, the minister for information told a crowd gathered to mark World Communications Day on May 28 that the government was filtering social media content because internet users “have taken advantage of such platforms to terrorize the country.”

According to the International Communication Union, approximately 22 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.


The government occasionally restricted academic freedom and cultural events. On May 16, media reported that the Uganda Media Council prohibited the embassy of the Netherlands from screening The Dinner Club during the European Film Festival because the film “depicted and glorified homosexuality, which is a criminal offense in Uganda.” In a public statement, the Netherlands embassy stated it “deplores” the government’s decision and would withdraw from the film festival.

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.


While the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the government did not respect this right. The government used the 2013 Public Order Management Act to limit the right to assemble and disrupted opposition and civil society-led public meetings and rallies. The act also placed a significant bureaucratic burden on those wishing to organize or host gatherings and afforded the UPF wide discretion to prevent an event by refusing to approve it, or, more commonly, by not responding to the permission request, which then created a legal justification for disrupting almost any gathering.

According to local media, between September 12 and November 9, the UPF dispersed at least 30 rallies protesting the government’s plan to rescind Article 102 (b) of the constitution and arrested at least 170 protesters. On October 19, the UPF shot and killed three persons in Rukungiri District who were protesting against the government’s plan to rescind the article. On July 19, local media reported that the UPF arrested more than 60 persons, at various venues in Kampala, who were protesting against the proposed constitutional amendment. The UPF claimed the assemblies were unlawful and detained participants at FSU headquarters for three days before releasing them without charge. Such arrests of persons peacefully protesting efforts to amend the constitution occurred throughout the fall.


While the constitution and law provide for freedom of association, the government did not always respect this right and restricted the operations of local NGOs, especially those that work on civil and political rights (see section 5). On May 5, the government published implementing regulations for the 2015 NGO Act. The regulations require NGOs to disclose sources of funding and personal information about their employees and impose onerous registration and reporting requirements. The regulations enables the NGO Bureau and its local level structures to deny registration to any organization focused on issues deemed to be “undesirable” or “prejudicial” to the “dignity of the people of Uganda.” The regulations also provide the NGO Bureau broad powers to inspect NGO offices and records and to suspend their activities without due process. The regulations increase registration and annual permit renewal fees for local NGOs from 20,000 shillings ($5.50) to 100,000 ($27.50), and from 20,000 shilling ($5.50) to 60,000 shillings ($16.50), respectively. They also introduce new fees, including for the NGO Bureau to review permit applications (60,000 shillings, or$16.50) and for NGOs to file annual reports (50,000 shillings, or$13.80).

The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) said police concluded the investigation into the 2016 break-in into HRAPF offices, which included the killing of a guard, and that they found it was a normal burglary with no correlation to the organization’s work. The HRAPF stated that police did not provide any evidence to support this conclusion.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern. The government continued to uphold its enabling asylum policies and practices towards refugees and asylum seekers from various countries, mainly from South Sudan, the DRC, Burundi, and Somalia. Most refugees enjoyed unhindered access to asylum, freedom of movement, freedom of residence, right to registration and documentation, and access to justice, education, health care, and employment

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Some South Sudanese refugees reported that customs officials at border points confiscated their motorbikes and vehicles. Customs officials said they would release these items when the owners could present documentation establishing their ownership. Some of the affected refugees stated that they were unable to provide such documentation because they had fled their homes due to the conflict in South Sudan, and they asserted that the customs officials were requiring documents as a ploy to steal their possessions. UNHCR and government authorities continued to investigate these incidents at year’s end.

According to UNHCR, the UPF was unable to protect fully refugees in several of the large refugee settlements because of insufficient equipment, transportation, and personnel. As of year’s end, Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, one of 21 refugee settlements in the country, hosted more refugees than any other settlement in the world. UNHCR received reports that South Sudanese armed groups had infiltrated some refugee settlements near the border with South Sudan and abducted South Sudanese men to force them to fight in the country’s civil war. UNHCR reported the government deployed additional troops to improve its border surveillance and was investigating the alleged abductions.


Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. While individuals fleeing South Sudan have prima facie refugee status (status without determination of individual refugee status), the Refugee Eligibility Committee determines whether individuals fleeing from the DRC, Somalia, and Burundi are eligible for refugee status. The committee was functional, but administrative issues and the continued influx of asylum seekers from the DRC and Burundi created a case backlog.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country does not have a policy of presumptive denials of asylum to applicants. There were reports, however, that police officers at the asylum registration office in Kampala turned away two lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals who sought asylum due to discrimination in their home countries (Kenya and Afghanistan), in violation of the country’s asylum policy.

Durable Solutions: The government did not accept third-country refugees for resettlement, but it assisted in the safe and voluntary return of refugees to their homes and supported the resettlement of third-country refugees to other countries by providing birth certificates and travel documents. Following a 2015 constitutional court ruling that confirmed the right to naturalization for certain long-term refugees, however, the government in May 2016 committed to begin processing naturalization cases for an estimated 15,000 refugees who had resided in the country for approximately 20 years. By year’s end there were no known cases of a refugee having naturalized.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, which is punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. The law does not address spousal rape. The penal code defines rape as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or a girl without her consent.” Men accused of raping men are tried under section 145(a) of the penal code that prohibits “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” The law also criminalizes domestic violence and provides up to two years’ imprisonment for conviction.

Rape remained a common problem throughout the country, and the government did not effectively enforce the law. The 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) reported women were more than twice as likely as men to experience sexual violence. Local media reported numerous incidents of rape, often committed by persons in positions of authority, including police officers, employers, local government leaders, religious leaders, teachers, and soldiers. In many rape cases, the perpetrator also killed the victim.

According to the NGO Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA), incidents of rape and statutory rape were not commonly reported, in part due to societal factors. Parents, husbands, local leaders, religious leaders, police, prosecutors, and sometimes courts pressured victims to settle cases out of court, supposedly to “spare” the victim and her family from the social stigmatization. Of the cases brought to trial, few were completed.

Gender-based violence (GBV) was also common. The UPF recorded 163 deaths of women due to domestic violence in 2016, almost a 50 percent increase from 2010. International NGO FHI 360 reported in April that cultural factors fueled GBV. Its study found that 54 percent of women said it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife if she cheated on him, and 21 percent said it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife if she denied him sex.

FIDA reported it worked with the judiciary to organize two weeks of special court sessions between November and December 2016 focused solely on GBV cases in eight districts in northern and eastern areas. The sessions concluded 326 GBV cases. On June 20, the World Bank announced a $40 million (144 billion shillings) loan to the government to implement its 2016 Elimination of Gender Based Violence Policy. The loan, for which a memorandum of understanding was signed in October, focused on promoting behavioral change to prevent GBV and improving referral mechanisms and assistance services for GBV victims.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and establishes a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted perpetrators, or life imprisonment if the victim dies. According to UNICEF statistics from February 2016, 1 percent of women under age 50 had undergone FGM/C. Local NGOs reported that many girls who had undergone FGM/C were discouraged from delivering in health centers to avoid revealing they had been cut.

On May 15, the UPF told local media that it conducted a radio campaign to raise communities’ awareness of the dangers of FGM/C. Local NGOs Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA) and Law and Advocacy for Women in Uganda (LAW) reported that the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development worked with civil society organizations to train UPF and judiciary personnel on FGM/C practices and how to handle such cases.

On May 30, local media reported the UPF had insufficient resources to monitor adequately the remote areas of the northeast where FGM/C was prevalent, which allowed many practitioners to continue working with impunity. DENIVA and LAW reported the absence of courts in Amudat and Kween Districts and a shortage of clinics that could provide medical evidence made it difficult to prosecute perpetrators. Local NGOs conducted training for practitioners in communities where FGM/C was prevalent to encourage them to end the practice.

According to Deniva, the government also built an unspecified number of girls-only boarding schools in northeastern and eastern areas to provide shelter for girls who fled their homes due to familial pressure to undergo FGM/C, or those who fled after being cut.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Media and local NGOs reported several cases of ritual child killings, violence against widows, and acid attacks. According to local media, traditional healers kidnapped and killed children to use their organs for ancestral worship. Local NGOs reported cases in which wealthy entrepreneurs paid traditional healers to sacrifice children to ensure their continued wealth and then bribed police officers to stop the investigations. On February 6, local media reported that the UPF arrested traditional healer Godfrey Lukeera in the South after security forces found the mutilated body of a five-year-old boy at his shrine. The state charged Lukeera with murder on March 8 and remanded him to Masaka Prison. The case continued at year’s end.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides for penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but authorities did not effectively enforce the law. Sexual harassment was a widespread problem in homes, schools, universities, and workplaces. FIDA reported that most women declined to report sexual harassment due to fear of social stigmatization, and that those who did report it tended only to do so in conjunction with other violations. According to FIDA, the UPF recorded 548 cases of sexual harassment from January through March.

Local media and civil society also reported that the UPF often refused to investigate accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace or educational institutions. Most of these cases involved supervisors or teachers exploiting their authority; other cases were between peers.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men. Local NGOs reported numerous cases of discrimination against women, including in divorce, employment, education, and owning or managing businesses and property. Many customary laws discriminate against women in adoption, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Under customary laws in many areas, women could not own or inherit property or retain custody of their children if they were widowed. Traditional divorce law in many areas required women to meet stricter evidentiary standards than men to prove adultery. In some ethnic groups, men could “inherit” the widows of their deceased brothers. The law does not recognize cohabiting relationships, and women involved in such relationships had no judicial recourse to protect their rights.


Birth Registration: The law accords citizenship to children born in or outside the country if at least one parent or grandparent is a citizen at the time of birth. Abandoned children under the age of 18 with no known parents are considered citizens, as are children under 18 adopted by citizens.

The law requires citizens to register a birth within three months. According to the 2011 DHS, only 29 percent of rural and 38 percent of urban births were registered. Lack of birth registration generally did not result in denial of public services. Some primary schools, however, required birth certificates for enrollment, especially those in urban centers. Enrollment in public secondary schools, university, and tertiary institutions required birth certificates. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The law provides for compulsory education through the completion of primary school at age 12, and the government provided tuition-free education to four children per family in select public primary and secondary schools (ages six to 18 years). Parents, however, were required to provide lunch and schooling materials for their children.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a common problem, including sexual assault, physical abuse, ritual killings, early marriage, human trafficking, drug and substance abuse, involvement in social unrest, and forced engagement in criminal activities. The Uganda Child Helpline received 1,607 reports of children’s rights violations from January through June, with denial of education being the most prevalent, followed by statutory rape and child marriage.

The law defines “statutory rape” as any sexual contact outside marriage with a child under the age of 18, regardless of consent or age of the perpetrator, carrying a maximum penalty of death. Victims’ parents, however, often opted to settle cases out of court for a cash or in-kind payment. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18.

The government continued to work with UNICEF and NGOs–including Save the Children, Child Fund, and the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect–to combat child abuse. The UPF provided free rape and statutory rape medical examination kits to hospitals and medical practitioners throughout the country to assist with investigations.

Corporal punishment was illegal but remained a problem in schools and sometimes resulted in serious injuries. The 2015 Children Amendment Act made corporal punishment in schools illegal and punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. The amendment also sought to protect children from hazardous employment and harmful traditional practices, including child marriage and FGM/C.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but authorities generally did not enforce this law in rural areas. Some parents commonly arranged marriages for their underage daughters. UNICEF’s 2016 State of the World’s Childrenreport estimated that 10 percent of girls married before age 15 and 40 percent before age 18. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development reported that from January through June, it annulled 35 child marriages and stopped five from taking place. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, the sale and procurement of sexual services, and practices related to child pornography. The government did not enforce the law effectively, however, and the problem was pervasive.

Child Soldiers: The Lord’s Resistance Army continued to hold Ugandans, including children, against their will beyond Uganda’s borders.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The Uganda Child Helpline received two reports of infanticide from January through June.

Displaced Children: Families in the remote North East Karamoja Region sent many children to Kampala during the dry season to find work and beg on the streets. Authorities worked with civil society organizations to return Karamojong street children to their families. Local media, however, reported that police often found those same children back on Kampala’s streets soon thereafter.

Institutionalized Children: Local NGOs reported that the UPF often detained child and adult suspects in the same cells and held them beyond the legal limit of 48 hours prior to arraignment. The local NGO Uganda Child’s Rights Network reported that some juvenile detention centers in the east denied their inmates the right to education.

By regulations an approved orphanage “shall only receive children in an emergency from a police officer or under an interim care order from a judge.” All approved homes are required to keep proper accounts, employ a qualified warden and registered nurse, keep health records for each child, provide adequate sleeping facilities, and provide for an appropriate education. Nevertheless, the government lacked the resources to register and monitor orphanages.

In 2015 the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development estimated there were more than 50,000 children in approximately 1,000 orphanages, of which only 83 were licensed by the ministry. More than half of all orphanages did not meet minimal standards and housed children illegally. Nearly 70 percent of orphanages maintained inadequate records.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


The Jewish community had approximately 2,000 members centered in Mbale District, in the eastern part of the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The law provides for access to all buildings “where the public is invited,” and information and communications for persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The Equal Opportunities Commission reported in February that most public buildings in Kampala were inaccessible to persons with disabilities, due to a lack of ramps or elevators.

Persons with disabilities faced societal discrimination, limited job and educational opportunities, and most schools did not accommodate persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development and the National Council on Disability were the government agencies responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Local media reported most schools did not make accommodations for students with disabilities. Local media said that due to discriminatory behavior by students and teachers, a lack of trained special education teachers, and limited specialized learning resources, children with disabilities were often absent from school.

The National Union for Disabled Persons of Uganda, media, and government officials said there was insufficient government funding for welfare programs for persons with disabilities. Due to continued decreases in government funding for training “Special Needs Education” teachers, the Ministry of Education certified seven new teachers in 2016, compared with approximately 30 per year a decade before. The Ministry of Education’s principal officer for inclusive education stated that, despite funding limitations, the government provided an additional two to three million shillings ($550-$825) each quarter to schools known to have children with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were reports of violence among ethnic groups over land, grazing rights, water access, border demarcations, and other matters. On June 9, local media reported that unidentified individuals attacked members of the Acholi and Madi communities living in Apaa, killing nine persons with poison arrows. Local leaders said businesspersons hired the attackers to scare the residents off disputed ancestral land in order to claim it for themselves. The government deployed the UPDF and UPF to Apaa to stop the violence, and the Prime Minister’s Office donated food to the communities. Local government officials and traditional, civil society, and religious leaders criticized the government’s response as inadequate and accused it of tacitly supporting the businesspersons.

On April 29, opposition politicians asserted the UPDF and UPF hired only members of ethnic groups from the southwest, where the president is from, for senior positions, discriminating against other ethnic groups (see section 7). The UPDF denied any discrimination in recruitment and stated that all of its officers possessed the requisite qualifications for their assignments. In a May newspaper editorial, however, a government spokesperson criticized the UPF for ethnic discrimination in recruitment, deployment, and promotions, which “threatens to erode the (UPF’s) constitutional requirement of being national in character and composition.”

Indigenous People

The local NGO Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) reported that ethnic minorities did not participate in political leadership and decision-making processes affecting them. The CCFU reported that by year’s end, the government had not yet resettled the Batwa and Benet communities it had displaced from ancestral land claiming its actions were in the national interest, leaving them effectively landless and unable to maintain their livelihoods. In August the CCFU reported the 160-person Batwa community, which the government displaced to create a forest reserve in a western area in 1992, lived on two acres of land, in semipermanent buildings with inadequate sanitary facilities. The government displaced the Benet from their land in 1983 to create a forest reserve. The CCFU reported that although the High Court ruled in 2005 that the Benet could return to their land, authorities had not yet allowed them to do so.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is illegal according to a colonial era law that criminalized “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and provided for a penalty of up to life imprisonment. LGBTI persons faced discrimination, legal restrictions, societal harassment, violence, and intimidation.

The HRAPF reported numerous incidents of societal and government-led harassment and violence against LGBTI persons. Between February and April, the HRAPF reported 11 cases in which attackers physically assaulted persons because of suspicions they were LGBTI individuals. In one case a mob doused a suspected LGBTI person with gasoline and set him on fire before police rescued him. The HRAPF also reported 14 cases of police arresting persons on suspicion of being LGBTI. In five of these cases, police officers conducted forced anal examinations on the detainees. In August government pressure forced the LGBTI community to cancel its annual Pride Week. Officials threatened to arrest anyone who participated in Pride Week activities and coerced the Sheraton Hotel to cancel the opening gala the morning of the event.

Sexual Minorities Uganda’s (SMUG) 2016 suit against the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) stalled because the judiciary transferred the judge handling the case but did not reassign it to another judge. SMUG had sued the URSB in 2016 for rejecting its application to reserve a name under which SMUG could officially register. The case continued at year’s end.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, discrimination was common and inhibited these persons from obtaining treatment and support. In cooperation with the government, international and local NGOs sponsored public awareness campaigns to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS counselors encouraged clients to be tested and share information about HIV/AIDS with their partners and family. Persons with HIV/AIDS formed support groups to promote awareness in their communities.

Police and the UPDF regularly refused to recruit persons who tested positive for HIV, claiming their bodies would be too weak for the rigorous training and subsequent deployment.

HIV/AIDS-infected persons faced discrimination in employment, and some reported having been fired because of their HIV status. According to local media, some employers forced their staff and job applicants to undergo HIV tests and dismissed those who tested positive. On July 26, local media reported that Chinese construction company China Communications Construction Company, a contractor on multiple government infrastructure projects, forced its staff to take an HIV test and then fired two persons who tested positive. The two staff sued the company for wrongful dismissal and the health center for violating their right to personal privacy. The case continued at year’s end.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Mob violence remained a problem. Mobs attacked and killed persons suspected of robbery, murder, rape, theft, ritual sacrifice, and witchcraft, among other crimes. Communities often resorted to mob violence due to a lack of confidence in the UPF and judiciary to deliver justice. Mobs often beat, lynched, burned, and otherwise brutalized their victims. On July 7, local media reported that a mob in the eastern part of the country stoned a 17-year-old boy to death for allegedly stealing a goat. The police had yet to arrest any suspects by year’s end.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law allows workers, except members of the armed forces, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The Ministry of Labor must register unions before they may engage in collective bargaining.

The law allows unions to conduct activities without interference, prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers, and provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. The law also empowers the minister of gender, labor, and social development and labor officers to refer disputes to the Industrial Court if initial mediation and arbitration attempts fail.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable labor laws. Civil society organizations said the Ministry of Labor had insufficient funding to hire, train, and equip labor inspectors to enforce labor laws effectively. Employers who violate a worker’s right to form and join a trade union or bargain collectively may face up to four years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1.9 million shillings ($520). Penalties were generally insufficient to deter violations.

The government generally did not protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and, at times, restricted some public servants’ right to strike. On the third day of a nationwide strike by medical doctors, on November 9, the minister of health stated the government would punish doctors that refused to work and would terminate trainee doctors’ internships if they participated in the strike. The minister added that the Uganda Medical Association’s (UMA) call for the strike was illegal, as it did not have a collective bargaining agreement with the government, making its action illegal. On November 10, the UMA stated that the government’s threats infringed on doctors’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Antiunion discrimination occurred, and labor activists accused several companies of deterring employees from joining unions by denying promotions, not renewing their work contracts, and refusing to recognize unions. The local NGO Platform for Labor Action (PLA) reported that some sugar and rice producers threatened to dismiss employees who joined unions and then cited unrelated performance issues to justify firing the employees. PLA reported that most workers were unaware of their right to join a trade union and did not contest employers’ efforts to impinge upon this right. The National Organization of Trade Unions Uganda (NOTU) reported in 2016 that most employers did not provide their employees with written employment contracts, undermining employees’ job security and access to union representation.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, but does not prohibit prison labor. The law states that prison labor would be considered forced labor only if a worker is “hired out to, or placed at the disposal of, a private individual, company, or association.” According to local NGOs, the government did not effectively enforce the law, rendering penalties ineffective to deter violations. Those convicted of using forced labor may be fined up to 960,000 shillings ($260), sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, or both, and be required to pay a fine of 80,000 shillings ($22) “for each day the compulsory labor continued.”

PLA and local media reported that many citizens working overseas, particularly in the Arab Persian Gulf States, became victims of forced labor. PLA said traffickers and legitimate recruitment companies continued to send mainly female jobseekers to Gulf countries where many employers treated workers as indentured servants, including withholding pay and leave, and subjecting them to other harsh conditions.

Concluding that its 2016 ban on exporting domestic workers had failed to reduce the outflow of vulnerable women, the Ministry of Labor lifted the ban on April 1.

The UHRC reported that some prisons and police stations subjected detainees to forced labor. It reported that some prisons hired out prisoners as manual laborers to private farms without the detainees’ consent, and in some cases prison authorities forced sick inmates to work.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Child labor was common, especially in the informal sector. Children’s rights activists reported the employment of children as young as five years of age. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) reported in its 2016 Statistical Abstract that approximately 33 percent of children ages six to 17 years old were engaged in child labor. Children primarily worked in cattle herding, loading trucks, gold mining, street vending, begging, scrap collecting, street hawking, stone quarrying, brick making, road construction and repair, car washing, fishing, domestic services, service work (restaurants, bars, shops), cross-border smuggling, and commercial farming (including the production of tea, coffee, sugarcane, vanilla, tobacco, rice, cotton, charcoal, and palm oil). They also were exploited in commercial sex.

PLA reported that many parents forced their children to work on family farms instead of attending school. Many children voluntarily left school for agricultural or domestic work to help their family meet expenses. Other children, particularly among the country’s large orphan population, were compelled to work due to the absence of parents or because their parents were too sick to work.

Local media reported that some artisanal miners in central and eastern areas employed children in gold mining. While some children worked outside of school hours, others worked full-time and did not attend school. Local and international NGOs reported that children who worked as artisanal miners were exposed to mercury, and many were unaware of the medium- to long-term effects of the exposure. They felt compelled to continue working due to poverty and a lack of employment alternatives. Children also suffered injuries in poorly dug mine shafts that often collapsed.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at .

Although the law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, age, language, and HIV/communicable disease status, there were reports of discrimination based on some of these categories, including, disability, social origin, and HIV/communicable diseases (see section 6).

The government has not increased the legal minimum wage of 6,000 shillings ($1.65) per month since it established a minimum wage in 1984. This wage was far less than the government’s official poverty income level ($0.90 per day) and well below the market rate for unskilled labor. The government’s Minimum Wage Advisory Board, established in 2015 to assess the feasibility of a minimum wage, had yet to release the findings it presented to the president in 2016. NOTU officials reported in 2016 that due to the country’s high unemployment rate, which the 2014 National Census report estimated at 9.4 percent, and underemployment rate, which the UBOS reported at 12.9 percent in 2015, employers had disproportionate power to determine employees’ salaries in the formal sector.

The maximum legal workweek is 48 hours, and the maximum workday is 10 hours. The law provides that the workweek may be extended to 56 hours per week, including overtime, with the employee’s consent. An employee may work more than 10 hours in a single day if the average number of hours over a period of three weeks does not exceed 10 hours per day, or 56 hours per week. For employees who work beyond 48 hours in a single week, the law requires employers to pay a minimum of 1.5 times the employee’s normal hourly rate for the overtime hours, and twice the employee’s normal hourly rate for work on public holidays. The law grants employees a 30-minute break during every eight-hour work shift. For every four months of continuous employment, an employee is entitled to seven days of paid annual leave.

The law establishes occupational safety and health standards and regulations for all workers, enforced by the Ministry of Labor’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health. The law authorizes labor inspectors to access and examine any workplace, issue fines, and mediate some labor disputes. While the law allows workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment, legal protection for such workers was ineffective.

Authorities did not effectively enforce labor laws, due to insufficient resources for monitoring. NOTU reported in 2016 that the government’s enforcement of applicable laws was ineffective due to understaffing, lack of funding, insufficient training, and weak interagency coordination mechanisms. Local NGOs said the Ministry of Labor had insufficient funds to employ and equip the number of labor officers needed to monitor labor conditions nationwide. In 2016 only 49 of the country’s 117 districts had a labor officer, and their training, funding, and logistical support were inadequate. The ministry reported in 2016 that it conducted more than 100 on-site inspections, 120 desk reviews, and 50 routine inspections during the year. According to PLA, many labor officers lacked the funds and resources to inspect work places where child labor and other violations were prevalent. PLA reported that civil society organizations often provided labor officers with transportation to conduct labor inspections.

In some of the districts without labor officers, community development officers, local officials responsible for supervising government-funded development programs, assumed this responsibility. While such individuals were responsible for conducting labor inspections, they often had insufficient training to fulfill this mandate effectively. NOTU officials said in 2016 the government favored investors over workers, rendering it difficult for labor inspectors to enforce the law.

According to PLA, most workers were unaware of their employers’ responsibility to ensure a safe working environment and many did not challenge unsafe working conditions, as they feared losing their job. The Ministry of Labor and civil society reported in 2016 that due to the high unemployment rate and ubiquitous informal economy, workers felt compelled to remain in work situations that failed to comply with labor laws and endangered their health, fearing reprisals if they requested improved conditions.

Labor officials reported that labor laws did not protect workers in the informal economy, including many domestic and agricultural workers. In 2016 the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority licensed a retirement benefits program for the informal sector. The program covers traders and individuals engaged in various forms of informal work. Figures released by UBOS in 2014 estimated the informal sector employed up to 80 percent of the labor force. URBRA reported most of the country’s 13 million eligible workers were in the informal and agricultural sectors. The formal pension systems covered less than 10 percent of the working population.

Violations of standard wages, overtime pay, or safety and health standards were common. Deaths occurred due to unsafe working environments. Local media reported that three staff at two food-processing factories died from injuries sustained at work between May and June.

Human Rights Reports
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select a Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future