Wednesday, June 10, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
June 10, 2009

So, the African Group in the UN Human Rights Council has finally taken a stand. They want not only the Philip Alston’s Kenya report trashed but also to get the bagger fired.

This development must be music to the ears of a section of the Kenya coalition government back home that has all along been apprehensive about that report even before government ministers trooped to Geneva to defend themselves against it.

In retrospect, 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. I expect the UN Human Rights Council to rubbish that claim if indeed it intends to remain credible and impartial.

Yes, Philip Alston should never have rushed to the media and CSOs to present his findings before showing it and discussing it with relevant government officials such as the Minister for Justice, the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner to get their take and input. Thereafter, he should have had an audience with the President and the Prime Minister, present his findings to them and hear their story before heading to Geneva or New York with the report. After all, being a special Rapporteur of the UN, he obviously enjoyed diplomatic immunity and heavy state security. Nobody would have dared harm or arrest him. More importantly with the present technology, no government operative would have snatched and trashed the report even if political operatives thought it was negative to the government.

But again, Alston did what all these types of people do best. They are all activists in one form or another only that some like Alston enjoy higher status in life than our Bunge la Wananchi or Mars group; courtesy of the generous UN Packs and brand name.

Alston was not alone in doing what he did in Kenya. He was in the good company of human rights activists including the government sponsored National Human Rights Commission. What he did was not different from the numerous press conferences that the KNHRC, KHRC, Mars Group, TI and foreign missions have been doing with impunity in the last few years.

Having said that; I see nothing wrong with Alston using our local KNHRC report to compile his report, considering that he was here for just about ten days. After all, if Alston found the local report credible enough to form the basis of his findings, this should be seen as a credit to our local institutions rather than reason to blame the outsider.

It confirms that these extra-judicial killings the KNHRC has been talking about for the last three years have had some grain of truth. And the beauty about Alston is that he used the report and publicly acknowledged it.

If truth be said; no credible foreign individual or institution would claim to know a country like Kenya better than locals. This is the reason intelligent persons like Alston tend to rely more on locals to get information in the fastest way they can. This is what he did.

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. The country is a repressive dictatorship whose president brooks no opposition politics or dissenting views. 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. The bottom line is; Hosni Mubarak cannot afford any challenge to his imperial powers for as long as he lives.

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

The truth of the matter is that these African countries represented at the UNHRC are no different from Kenya. The accusations against Kenya contained in the Alston Report starkly reminded them of their situations in their countries; hence attempts to ensure their countries are never investigated by either Alston or any other Rapporteur after him.

If the African Group continues to advocate for human rights abuses at the world’s highest forum, it will send a sad message that these atrocities that we witness on our borders will never end for many years to come especially if now we know that the AU will never punish one of its own for the atrocities committed on this continent.