Monday, 18 August 2014

One year after the TJRC Report findings “quest for justice goes on”


President Kenyatta with TJRC Chairman Bethwel Kiplagat when he received the final TJRC Report at State House Nairobi.

Kenya marked one (2014) year since the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) presented its report findings and recommendations over to President Uhuru Kenyatta on 21st May 2013.

The now defunct commission was born from the 2007/2008 Post Election Violence and a desire of Kenyans to see a process, which would address deep seeded grievances and historical injustices.

Since the Presidential Assent to the TJR Act on 28 November 2008 and coming into operationalization on 17 March 2009, the Kenyan citizens saw it as a means through which historical injustices can be addressed and to propose sustainable solutions including redress for victims.

Across the four counties of the Former Western Province, Busia, Vihiga, Kakamega and Bungoma, victims came forth to present their views to the commission and exercise that was done nationally.

In Vihiga County, Pius Ahenda Ogalo is one of the 28 families who were moved to pave way for government offices and bringing up of schools in Mbale and Vokoli.

“We were ejected from our land in very colonial way being told to move out without even being told where we were to settle, we wondered how it would be but we were told to go look for the land we were to settle in ourselves,” said Pius Ahenda Ogalo before the Commission in 2011.

“We were moved in the year 1986 and we were taken to that place where there was no land but stony place, no fertile soil would be seen but small stones that nothing would grow on, even if I took you to the place, you will be full of mercies, you could even run away if you looked at the water we use,” said Ogalo

“We are very peaceful and we need justice to be done and now that you are part of the government please help us we don’t want to act like we want to fight the government we are part of it and there is no need of seclusion,” narrated ogalo.

In Kakamega, Daniel Mukabi was short in his leg joint by a General Service Unit officer during the Post-Election Violence period

“I saw people running from where I was going and I wondered what was happening I continued with my journey not far had I gone that I was shot in my leg and just fell down, I was in form two and the following year I had so many problems while undertaking my exams because of the pains,” said Mukabi as he witnessed during the hearings.

Mukabi said the officer would not listen to any explanation since they acted at a cocked gun to whomever they met along the road as reported by West Fm’s reporter John Kabaka.

“You could not understand what was going on, they would shoot anyhow without knowing whether one was innocent or not, dead bodies flood the road with blood all over, it was terrible. I did my KCSE exams last year (2010) and for the whole time I have been on crutches.”
 
The TJRC commissioners (left) General Rtd Ahmed Farah, Presiding Chair Tecla Namachanja Wanjala, Margaret Shava and Ambassador Berhanu Dinka in Busia County
In Busia, the commission received 30,000 statements recorded and 600 memorandums from victims on issues related to land boundary demarcation disputes, discrimination of women and children.

The commission through Mrs Tecla Namachanja said, “We are struck by how poverty increases people’s vulnerability to abuse Human Rights. We are encouraged by the number of witnesses who have courageously testified to the commission and willing to move forward in healing and reconciliation.”

The Pokot community had spoken of how they had experienced massacres including the famous kolowa Affay that was orchestrated in 1950 during the colonial era leading to the death of over 1000 in the Pokot East region. Further some had spoken of the 1984 Kacheliba massacre committed by the military and police and needed closure of the event.

Consequently, Western Province still reminisces the year 1982, when the late Titus Adungosi then a third year student in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Development at the University of Nairobi and the first Chairman of the University of Nairobi Students Organization (SONU) was arrested and convicted by the then Chief Magistrate Mr. Abdul Rauf for 10 years imprisonment for sedition on the September 24, 1982 after the failed Kenyan military coup of August 1, 1982 attempt against the former President Moi’s regime.

Wednesday 9th February 1983 when a Court Martial sentenced Corporal Fenwicks Chesoli Odera Obedi to death sitting at Langata Barracks Nairobi for committing treason during the 1st August 1982 coup attempt in Kenya. Others who were killed include: Hezekiah Ochuka, Pancras Oteyo Okumu, Charles Oriwa Hongo, Robert Odhiambo Ndege, Bramwel Injeni Njeremani, Fenwicks Chesoli, Joseph Ogidi Obuon, Charles Mirasi Odawa, Walter Odira Ojode, Edward Adel Omollo, James Odemba Otieno and George Akoth Otila.

The family of the late Adungosi has failed to pursue any civil claims for compensation for its son and the family of the late Chesoli did not know whether they had to make any case for their son before the truth commission.

Questions still linger among the people who seek redress. How can truth give amnesty? These were some of the questions the civil society organizations were asking themselves in a series of meetings held last week under its thematic, “Breathing life into reparations”.


“The National Assembly recently amended the TJRC Act, which created the TJRC, to give itself powers to ‘consider’ the report and oversee the implementation of the recommendations it contains,” said Chris Gitari the head of the ICTJ.

“Although Parliament amended the law to give themselves power to have the report tabled for consideration, there are certain things within the original Act that remain unchanged. One is the timeline of six months. So the question to be asked is, one year down the line, how come that timeline has not been obeyed?” Human Rights Lawyer Njonjo Mue questioned.

Gitari, however, notes, 
“The TJRC Report is in some ways a fair reflection of the mandate and the commission itself. It has many imperfections but also some positive points. It stands as an official record of the state’s complicity in serial human rights violations, a state whose institutions are frequently exposed as corrupt and in callous disregard of the fundamental human rights of citizens.”

“In Kenya already there exist programmes that support vulnerable groups. We have orphan cash transfer programmes; we have programmes that help people with serious physical disability, hunger relief programmes. So already there are mechanisms to draw from and these victims are known. They are in the report,” he added.

Mue differs, “We seem to think we’re at the mercy of Parliament or the AG’s timetable because they’ve talked about considering the report but he will never move. Kenya has a way of translating rights into favours”

“What powers does parliament have with regards of the TJRC report? The government thinks it can re-open the report this is a violation of separation of powers? Parliament does not care about fundamental legal principals. One year down the line, why has the report not started to be implemented? It is legislated that it is the AG's responsibility to make sure this happens,” he posed

“And it would also be good to get the court’s interpretation of the word consideration as amended onto the TJRC Act by Parliament,” he added.

“World over, once an independent commission of inquiry tables its report, it goes to Parliament just for Parliament to take note of it; mainly because government will come back to Parliament for it to vote monies for implementation. But it does not go to Parliament for Parliament to reopen it, to re-examine it and change things they don’t like,” Mue expounded.

Wachira Waheire, one of those who would qualify for reparation according to the TJRC report on account of being a Nyayo House torture victim, chose to go the litigation route as opposed to waiting for the implementation of the TJRC report.

“I lost hope in the report ever bringing me justice. I mean how many reports have been written in this country? All about historical injustices, land or otherwise. And what if anything becomes of them? They’re gathering dust on a shelf somewhere yet there can be no true peace without justice,” he said.

“Just look at the 1992, 1997 and 2008 post-election violence. Just because the violence skipped an election year doesn’t mean anything. Let’s not forget that history has a knack for repeating itself and the only way to truly be rid of a weed is to pull it out from the roots,” he opined.

“I represent 1982 coup detainees and often the victims of historical injustices lack the resources to mount a formidable case and the threshold of proof of torture is higher than the ‘more likely than not’ required by the TJRC report,” he testified.

He noted that, the greatest challenge is the political will to implement even the court decrees.

“I have court awards worth Sh100 million sitting in my office for 20 of the 100 detainees I represent that have never been paid out. The Attorney General is quick to call for the payment of the Anglo-leasing monies so why should we have to hound him to honour the directions of the Kenyan courts in making rights our betrayal? Isn’t that a violation in itself?” he posed.

Christina Alai from the Physicians for Human Rights shared similar sentiments arising from the ongoing Sexual and Gender Based Violence before the Constitutional court representative of eight women who claim to have been sexually violated during the 2008 post-election violence.

“Since the filing of the petition in February 2013, it is when the court said the hearings will begin, then, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney General filed their response in January 2014.”

“This action is the first of its kind. Holding the government responsible for the delay in responding to the sexual and gender based violence offences in the PEV period even after the Waki report had recommended,” she said.

“In terms of precedent, this case seeks to set standards: the eight survivors will be a representative of the many who were sexually violated; it will set standards that will obligate the state to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators and it will make the state to appreciate the aspect of comprehensive justice.”

As a way forward in ensuring the implementation process begins, Helen Scanlon, Gender Justice Specialist said there was need to change the institutional culture of the police.

“South Africa has great laws but, still has the highest rate of gender based violence during peace time in the world! Violations are ongoing. Reparations should not solely look backwards but should address current and ongoing violations of gender based violence.”

Going forward she said it was necessary to manage expectations in addressing concerns of secondary victims.

Can money alleviate harms? How much is enough? Can secondary victims get compensation while victims are alive/after they're deceased?”
        
Cristian Correa, the ICTJ Senior Associate Reparative Justice Program added that there was, “Need for a process of acknowledgement. Why this happened? It is not about sweeping problems under the carpet with some money.”

“Reparations are in its very nature political and requires compromise. This must sometimes happen even by sacrificing strict fairness. Reparations need to communicate to victims that they are valued as members of the community. Think about reparations as both symbolic and material rather than either/or.” 

ICTJ now calls up to civil society and organized groups to engage with the National Assembly in a bid to discuss and agree on an effective and accountable implementation process.

“Kenyan society as a whole needs to discuss these recommendations and use them as a platform to build a stronger society,” says Gitari.

“Let’s hope the glass box in which the TJRC report was presented to President Kenyatta won’t end up being like that glass that’s broken open only in the event of fire,” Njonjo Mue concluded.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The critical role markets play in access to information in the Agricultural Value Chain

A food's stall. Photo I Leonard Wamalwa

Open air markets in the hinterlands of Kenya are not just venues for transacting business. Unlike, the ones within Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, they are also meeting places for relatives, friends who end up passing information about their members from the extended family.

They are a stopover market for fruit and vegetables - these are delivered round the clock from all over the neighboring regions and indeed even neighboring countries for those situated along the borders.

A similar scenario that is always witnessed is that, before dawn, retail traders and the owners of small stalls around the market arrive in to buy their provisions for the day and take them back so as to be able to sell from opening time.

There is great competition for the freshest, the tastiest and the cheapest produce, especially, vegetables and fruits because, most of the small stallholders have developed a keen eye for what are best to buy.

The vegetables are cultivated in kitchen gardens for domestic use, a practice that has persisted over several generations.

Surpluses are sold by small scale female farmers mostly in rural markets to raise cash income to meet household needs. Most of these purchases are done by the female folk who act as brokers, intermediaries who also end up to sell the same to other places.

Closer look at most rural open markets justifies that agriculture plays a critical role for the rural economies.
Markets Supply Chain via Booniyaad Project Report June 2013

Wangare Mumbi, a fresh fruit’s seller at Kamkuywa market in Bungoma County who has been into the business now 20 years, say business is good however, because of the market dynamics they have to sell at a low price to their disadvantage.

“There are so many sellers of the same product; I am forced to reduce the price, every month there are so many bananas, this makes me sell at a loss.”

Leafy vegetables have to be produced close to consumers due lack of facilities to preserve and transport perishable produce to the markets. The supply of these vegetables is also limited during the dry months.

Markets contribute to the four pillars of food security namely food availability, food access, food stability and food utilization.  In Kenya, open-air markets play a fundamental role in ensuring food availability and accessibility especially in the rural areas.

However, market liberalization has left many poor farmers in marginal areas with poor infrastructure and few marketing outlets which have put them at a disadvantage. Farmers are unable to sell their produce at good prices and are unable to buy for food due to high prices during the deficit or dry seasons. This has eroded most farmers’ ability to cope with incidences of food insecurity. This is according to Ken Gatobu Mwithirwa‘s Thesis Influence Of Integration Of Open-Air Markets On Food Security In Meru South And Mbeere Districts, Kenya.

Nduta Kweheria, writes, why are farmers poor if agriculture is Kenya’s golden-egg layer?

She says, First, small scale farmers as taxpayers are paying Value added Tax (VAT) each time they buy seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, any food stuff or other commodity they use buy their homes. They are also paying for licenses and various services and are taxed before they are paid for their produce. So there is no doubt that small scale farmers make up the taxpayers that contribute to the GDP, which explains the statistic that says that over 45 percent of Kenya’s Gross domestic product (GDP) is from agriculture. Despite having contributed close to half of their monthly pay, the agriculture extension officer doesn’t show up to advise the farmer; granted that often it is due to lack of transport or poor supervision.

Secondly, when a private company sends a technical adviser to the farmer to offer the same advice that an agricultural extension officer should have given, the cost of this advice is hived off before the farmer is paid for her produce.

Naomi J. Halewood and Priya Surya in, “Mobilizing the Agricultural Value Chain,” they argue that:

“Improving efficiencies in the agricultural value chain is central to addressing these challenges. Increasing productivity in agriculture is also critical to reducing poverty. Greater productivity can boost farmers’ income, especially for smallholder farmers and fishers, who have limited resources to leverage in growing and marketing their produce. Creating a more efficient value chain also requires engaging many stakeholders, from farmers growing crops and raising cattle to input suppliers to distributors.”


Farmers need access to reliable communication facilities and must meet high costs that come with large business operations such as loss from spoilage, brokerage charges and strict food safety standards.


“As information becomes more accessible through the use of mobile devices for stakeholders throughout the agriculture value chain, people are gradually moving toward more efficient ways of producing agricultural products, increasing incomes, and capturing more value by linking fragmented markets. Key benefits include increases in productivity and income for farmers and efficiency improvements in aggregating and transporting products. Although elements of the mobile agriculture platform are emerging in developing countries, the full potential has yet to be realized.”
Kenya Seed Company displays information on how weed control improves the crop yield.

The agony many traders undergo is an eye opener to the concerned parties in government to know that:
Without good access to markets, a poor household cannot market its produce, obtain inputs, sell labor, obtain credit, learn about or adopt new technologies, insure against risks, or obtain consumption goods at low prices.

The key to doing this is having access to new market opportunities as well as the complementary assets needed to take advantage of them while at the same time confronting new challenges.

The public sector has key roles to play as a legislator and regulator, to ensure that markets do not discriminate directly against the poor, women, ethnic minorities, or other groups; combating corruption; creating a stable political and macroeconomic environment in which economic activity and trade can flourish; and ensuring the provision of key public goods, including rural transportation, communications, marketing infrastructure, market information, and rural education.

A small fruit farmer cannot increase the value she creates and takes home from the market unless the trader or processor who buys from her is also part of a higher-value chain.  The projects that have been most successful at raising small farmer incomes have involved creating a new equilibrium of interests along the market chain, in which the farmer is a participant.

The informal nature of the trade complements government initiatives to create jobs for those who were denied formal education or have been forced out of other employment. But will the informal nature of the trade be its downfall?

Whilst it is true that agriculture and livestock products provide society with employment, this is not reflected in revenue for government. Put quite simply – it is not the government that reaps the many benefits of Kamkuya market, it is the people.

This has also been well reflected in, The Farmer’s Perspective: Bridging the Last Mile to Market,” a Team Booniyaad Project Report June 2013. The report findings state that:

“The farmer’s existing knowledge and expertise, or their experience in the context of the local operating environment is rarely taken into account when programs or solutions are designed.”
One, the farmer is an entrepreneurial businesswo/man:
“Every actively engaged farmer we met, whether big or small, growing cash crops or mixed use, already upwardly mobile or just taking the first steps out of subsistence level survival, first and foremost think of themselves as entrepreneurs. The farm is their livelihood, a business activity whose returns must be weighed against the investments made in time and money.
And as businesspeople, farmers will grow what sells, hence the prevalence of maize and beans seen in the majority of the lower income farms in Kenya. Demand is guaranteed for these staples in the local market.”
Two, the farmer is a customer, not beneficiary, of innovation:
“Mobile solutions seem to lack contextual relevance or value, they are less likely to be adopted, again acting as their own barrier to local impact.”
Subsequently, Naomi J. Halewood and Priya Surya say the mobile services cited here are simply tools, and without the proper supporting pillars:

  • Business models – There is a need for increased funding to make business models until they can become financially viable.
  • ICT skills - Information needs in developing countries are highly localized; therefore, nurturing a domestic ICT skills base in the workforce is crucial to the development of mobile applications and services in the agricultural space.
  • Supporting infrastructure - To make the more powerful mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, more accessible and affordable, governments will need to ensure that the private sector is capable of offering mobile broadband services at affordable prices.

A woman selling her produce at a local market in Bungoma.

If well managed, by serving the interests of the farmers and traders, open air markets can play a valuable role in promoting and facilitating economic efficiency, by facilitating exchange and the coordination of many different kinds of resources, goods and services.

The Booniyaad Project Report reiterates that and for the information to be of value to the farmer, it should be one that leads to rational choices.
"What the farmer needs is 'relevant information that empowers him to make rational choices'
 However, they note that most technological models face different hurdles:
"Many projects still seem to struggle with defining information that is actionable to the farmer and her context, and thus raise a barrier to understanding the intent and value that the service can provide."
This can only be achieved when the government will provide avenues to help the producers to find ways to engage in agricultural markets on more favorable terms, specifically: Moving into new high-value agricultural market chains.

This includes both access to new markets and capacity to enter them and making use of existing agricultural markets; both access to agricultural input and output markets and the capacity to use them.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Satao: Kenya’s biggest elephant killed by poachers

Satao, the world's biggest elephant, with his family in the Tsavo National Park in Northern Kenya. Photograph: © Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 2014
Satao lived in Tsavo East National park in northern Kenya and was celebrated as one of the last surviving great tuskers, bearers of genes that produce bull elephants with huge tusks reaching down to the ground. This news follows hard on the heels of the slaughter of another legendary tusker, Mountain Bull, deep inside the forests of Mt. Kenya .

Of all the elephants that have died in Kenya, these deaths are the hardest to bear. The grief in Kenya at the slaughter of our iconic elephants is translating into floods of tears, emotional poems, and outrage on Twitter and Facebook.

I had suspected for days that Satao was dead. The rumours were too many and they came from too many different people for them not to be true. Bad news travels fast in Kenya. Moreover, like everyone who had ever heard of Satao, I was already concerned for his safety.


I am appalled at what that means – that the survival skills that the bull has painstakingly learnt over half a century have been rendered useless by the poachers’ use of mass-produced Chinese goods; GPS smart-phones, cheap motorcycles and night vision goggles.
I think the old bull knows that poachers want his tusks, and I hate that he knows.
More than anything, I hate the thought that poachers are now closing in on one of the world’s most iconic elephants.  - MARK DEEBLE