Tuesday, June 16, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
June 16, 2009

Last week I was equally miffed by the so called African envoys at the United Nations Human Rights Council that purported to have spoken on behalf of the continent regarding Prof Alston’s Report on Kenya.

Now that a new voice is emerging in Africa, where leaders are beginning to dare the devil and in the words of President Jacob Zuma, “name and shame rogue leaders in the continent”, Africa should indeed be prepared for a new dawn in the manner we manage this continent.

Wasn’t it embarrassing enough that the African Group at the United Nations Human Rights Council could taken a stand and condemn a UN Special Rapporteur for merely reporting that there were human rights abuses in Kenya?

After watching news clips on that unfortunate story, many Kenyans were taken aback and asked where these so called African Commissioners at the Council were when Kenyans were being slaughtered and gunned down by militias and the State Police. Where were the African envoys when that harmless and unarmed 15 year old boy in Kisumu was being pursued by a mad policeman with an AK47 in the backstreets of Kisumu?

Where were these Africans when Robert Mugabe was hunting down MDC supporters like wild game across the savannas of Zimbabwe’s farmlands? Whose interests do they serve at Geneva? Do they even know the meaning of human rights if this kind of statement is all they can make after so many years of human rights abuses in Africa?

In equal measure, I tend to buy a number of arguments presented by Mr. Amr Roshdy of Egypt regarding the language that Alston used in his report and the manner in which he released it to the media before giving the accused government a hearing.

However, the contention that Alston relied heavily on our local Kenyan National Human Rights Commission to produce the report cannot stand any common sense argument in any forum.

Yes, Philip Alston should never have rushed to the media to release his findings before discussing it with relevant government officials. Thereafter, he should have had an audience with the President and the Prime Minister to hear their reaction before heading to Geneva with the report.

However, in holding a press conference before consulting with Kenya government authorities, Alston was in the good company of human rights activists including the government’s own National Human Rights Commission. What he did was not different from the numerous press conferences that Transparency International and foreign missions based in Nairobi have been doing with impunity in the last few years.
I see nothing wrong with Alston using Kenya’s NHRC report to compile his report. After all, if Alston found the local report credible enough to form the basis of his findings, this should be seen as a

It confirmed that these extra-judicial killings the KNHRC had been talking about for the last three years have had some grain of truth.

The danger posed here is that the African Group, led by Egypt, is determined to derail democracy and human rights gains we have achieved in the last few years. Egypt in particular is not a very good example of democratic and human rights records. That is the reason political parties and the media are terrorized from time to time by state agents under the pretext of dealing with Islamic extremist groups.

For the African Group at the UNHRC to have attacked the Alston Report the way they did, they destroyed their own case. They should have looked at the substance of the report rather than who wrote it.

Their outbursts showed that the countries they represent at the UNHRC are no different from Kenya, Zimbabwe or any other repressive regime on the continent. The accusations against Kenya starkly reminded them of their situations in their countries; hence attempts to gag the likes of Alston or any other Rapporteur after him.

If the African Group continues to advocate for human rights abuses at the world’s highest forum, then these atrocities that we witness on our borders will never end for many years to come especially now that we know that the AU will never punish one of its own for these crimes against humanity on this continent. Hence we need fresh voices of Zuma, Kagame and like minded Heads of State to break ranks with rogue dictators bent on taking us back to the dark ages.