Accusations of Gross Human Rights Violations, Suspension of Civil Liberties, Torture, Extra-judicial Executions and Abrogation of the Peoples’ Freedoms Guaranteed by the Constitution of Kenya by the Kenyan Military in Mount Elgon Are Real and Must Be Investigated

Accusations of gross human rights violations, suspension of civil liberties, torture, extra-judicial executions and abrogation of the peoples’ freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of Kenya by the Kenyan Military in Mount Elgon are real and must be Investigated

Source of the conflict

In the recent few months there have been several reports from Human Rights groups detailing the violations of human rights and torture in Mt Elgon. The military have been in the area to curb the work of the ragtag militia group the SLDF in the Chebyuk Settlement Scheme.

Chebyuk, located in Kenya’s Western Province, is part of what used to be known, in the colonial times as North Kavirondo, a region covering the valley of the Nzoia River, Western slopes of Mt. Elgon and the northern coast of Victoria Nyanza. Located in the Mt. Elgon District, to the West of Trans Nzoia District and North of Bungoma, Chepyuk is at the foot of Mt. Elgon in an area that was formerly a Forest Reserve. The area is predominantly inhabited by the Sabaot community. Other communities that live within the larger Mt. Elgon area are the Kalenjin to whom the Sabaot have close linguistic and cultural links, various Luhya sub-tribes and the Teso.

The problem in Mt Elgon begun in 2006 and the State did absolutely nothing about it. The Mt. Elgon land problem is a clear pointer to the fact that the people and institutions that control land and natural resources are also the ones who control political decisions. It is also a pointer to the fact that access to land is very much a political issue, often linked to historical injustices such as discrimination against indigenous populations.

The contention and reason for current bloodletting is the Chepyuk settlement schemes and the apparent manipulation with which it was done, leaving one clan thoroughly dissatisfied with the exercise. The SLDF was formed in 2006 to seek redress for alleged injustices during the land distribution in a settlement scheme with the conflict pitting two main clans of the Sabaot against each other. Many people instead suffered the attacks from the militia.

Operation Okoa Maisha – Kenya Army Expedition 2008

In early March 2008, the Kenyan army launched an operation dubbed okoa maisha (Life Saver) targeting the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF) which was accused of carrying out an increasing number of attacks on villages, killing people, stealing cattle and destroying homes. Members of SLDF claim to be fighting for land which they say belongs to the Sabaot clan of the Kalenjin Community.

Upon deployment the military immediately sealed off Mt Elgon from the media, the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies and human rights organizations.

Reports of torture

Now reports coming out of a region that has been virtually declared a military operation zone are too frightening to ignore. Cases are being documented of arbitrary arrests and detention, systematic torture, killings and other abuses on a vast scale. Among the reports are an investigation by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

The military and the Ministry of Defence have routinely dismissed the reports but the tales coming out of Mt Elgon are too consistent to be just ignored.

Thus far the official response has been muted and insufficient. While trumpeting SLDF abuses, government officials have persisted in denying reports of torture by the security forces even as the evidence has piled up, with reports and publicity in recent months from local human rights organizations, local media, Human Rights Watch, the Nairobi-based Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), and the constitutionally independent state human rights organ, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Local human rights activists and journalists who have investigated and exposed abuses by both the SLDF and the security forces have been hounded.

Recently the Kenya Police charged a medical doctor who examined torture victims in Mt Elgon This is meant to suppress independent investigations into the conduct of the military in the operation area.

In a report the police absolved themselves of any blame for the torture in Mt Elgon.

The violence predates the turmoil that followed December’s disputed election, but shares many of its root causes – land disputes, ethnic rivalries and the neglect of outlying areas.

All reports of torture and killings must be investigated thoroughly and any organ or individual found culpable made to face the law.

Kenya Government ratified convention

Kenya ratified the UN Convention against torture in February 2007.

Torture is prohibited by the UN Convention against torture, Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and peoples’ Rights and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all three international instruments ratified by Kenya. Section 74 of the Constitution of Kenya also prohibits torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.

It is time to act

Complaints have been made of atrocities committed by Kenyan soldiers and, as expected, they authorities have answered with acerbic denials. With due respect, both the army and police should immediately be subjected to independent (perhaps international) investigations and face the full force of the law in the near future.

It is only when there is independent verification of what exactly is taking place in the area that the Government’s denials can be taken seriously.

Kenyan authorities are duty bound to prevent criminal actions and to secure peace for its citizens. But strong, firm and decisive action to fulfil the State’s obligations under Kenyan law does not translate into a licence to commit gross human rights violations, suspension of civil liberties, torture, extra-judicial executions and abrogation of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of Kenya as contained in Chapter V – the Bill of Rights of the Individual.

Kevin Cheruiyot

Mars Group Kenya

Watching out for you

Related Links

Medico-legal investigation of torture by the military at Mount Elgon – August 2008

Human Rights Watch Report – July 2008:

MSF Report – May 2008

Medico-legal investigation of torture by the military at Mount Elgon – April 2008

and

Preliminary Report Of Medico-Legal Investigation Of Torture By The Millitary At Mount Elgon “Operation Okoa Maisha”

Citizen TV -16 March 2008

Kenya army accused of killings, torture in Mt Elgon – ABC News

Kenyan army accused of mass torture in Mt Elgon – Mail and Guardian Online:

Kenyan army accused of mass torture in Mt. Elgon – Reuters

Kenya Army Accused Of Killings, Torture in Mt Elgon – The Epoch Times

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6 thoughts on “Accusations of Gross Human Rights Violations, Suspension of Civil Liberties, Torture, Extra-judicial Executions and Abrogation of the Peoples’ Freedoms Guaranteed by the Constitution of Kenya by the Kenyan Military in Mount Elgon Are Real and Must Be Investigated

  1. Kevin Cheruiyot,

    I find it hard to comprehend why human right organization only knows how to point an accusing figure at the government when a supposedly case of human right violation occurs. The SLDF has been operating in Mt. Elgon since 2006 as you rightfully pointed out. You may be right is arguing out that the state did nothing about it; But that is neither here nor there when we are trying to apportion blame as to who is guilty or not at the moment. The military are never set to arrest anyone that’s why they are used in extreme war situation. Matakwei and whoever was bank rolling him knew far too well that the military was not sent there for a peace keeping mission such the one our army participate in some Africa counties, they went to restore peace Mt. Elgon as attested by the grieved constituent whose voice had been suppressed through maiming, torture and intimidation by SLDF had no human rights. These guys were killed, had their ears chopped off for primitive reasons.

    A GSU battalion sent earlier to quell the situation didn’t yield much except the death of several of them. No human right organization saw it fit to accuse the SLDF for these autocracies. May be I’m not well acquainted with the operations of the human right activist, so allow me to ask; Is a human right violation meted by government agencies only. If a guy is killing innocent civilians and has recruited and oathed a good percentage of his clansmen, how do you stop him. Aren’t you supposed to hunt the fellows down? Kill those who are still determined to fight on so that the region can have peace.

    I believe the human right organization have become western ideologist perpetuators who must show how they use the donor given money which they otherwise use on lousy investigation and expensive life which they enjoy. Remember the denial by Maina Kiai that there was no human right violation in Rift valley until he was out rightly booed and heckled by the victims of the same, yet even then he couldn’t out rightly acknowledge it. Talk about double standard. Most of these guys who now champion of run the so called human right organization are guys who either studied or worked in western countries for a while. They then assumed that they could move with all these western ideologies into our country. You will always here then referring to “as it happen in the US”. It’s not wrong to borrow some good things form the west, but let’s not forget that we are an Africa country with unique challenges and opportunities not to mention that we still have a myriad of challenges which the west long overcame.

  2. Many Thanks for your updates. One thing I will totally disagree with you is the condemnation of the military while no one raised a finger when the SLDF was terrorism innocent Kenyan. I believe there better ways and polite way of telling our service men the wrongs they did while also thanking them for a Job well done. Many thanks
    NJ

  3. Hello Mars Group Thank you for your updates which are an eye opener. However I am very concerned that during the time before the intervention of the Military in Mt. Elgon The Saboat Land defense forces killed, chopped off ear lobes , raped and maimed fellow Kenyans in the region and you guys never said any thing about human rights of those affected nor dared to challenge the SLDF to other different method of championing their cause How come this time you are so vocal???????????
    ATN Nairobi

  4. PKariuki

    I believe the point Kevin makes is that regardless of the criminal situation they are dealing with Kenyan State authorities and security forces are bound under the Constitution, Kenyan law and international law to respect the fundamental rights of the individual.

    I don’t read a defence of the methods of the SLDF in anything he has written. The SLDF is (was) a criminal terrorist gang which committed atrocities faithfully documented by human rights defenders and the State.

    Don’t shoot the messenger – Human rights defenders have condemned the SLDF – see all the reports Kevin has posted.

    In my view, if we tolerate human rights violations by the military in Mt. Elgon the next military operation in your area could cause much the same suffering to innocents. It has happened before and the military got away with it.

    Ask the people of Wagalla what happened to them on the 10th day of February 1984 and they will tell you exactly what to fear from punitive military expeditions. To this day there has been no justice for the perpetrators of a massacre of Kenyan citizens by a military sworn and paid to protect Kenyans from external aggressors.

    Noone even knows how many Kenyans were killed on that one day in Wajir.

    As Kevin says: “Kenyan authorities are duty bound to prevent criminal actions and to secure peace for its citizens. But strong, firm and decisive action to fulfil the State’s obligations under Kenyan law does not translate into a licence to commit gross human rights violations, suspension of civil liberties, torture, extra-judicial executions and abrogation of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of Kenya as contained in Chapter V – the Bill of Rights of the Individual.”

    Our Constitution prohibits collective punishment and requires all State authorities to respect the rights of the individual to due process. It hasn’t been suspended – or has it in Mt. Elgon?

    Accusations of this nature are serious and must be dealt with as urgent national business. The only sure way to determine the truth of things is to subject Operation “Okoa Maisha” to an immediate independent enquiry. Let those with complaints against the military receive a hering and protection from retribution for complaining. Let the military state its case in its defence. In short let us have due process to get to the bottom of this affair.

    But Kevin is quite right to point out the foolhardiness of taking the words of the Ministry of Defence, the Chief of General Staff and the Police Spokesman as the gospel truth.

  5. CEO

    I guess the point we’re making is that there is always hue and cry when any organ associated with the government blunders; we wish the same condemnation wound be extended to other perpetrators of human right violations. I’m not defending the military I surely do not know what they did, but it’s the human rights words against the military. It’s true that we may require investigations. But wait a minute; was Operation Okoa maisha such a hoax? It definitely wasn’t. Many innocent citizens particularly women, children and old men that had nothing to do with the Matakwei war were mimed and killed by SLDF. As for the military, I’m yet to hear complains of rape and killing of people who were otherwise not members of SLDF. It’s true the villagers are complaining that some of their kinsmen disappeared, but could it be that they were members of SLDF? Could it be that they were the murderous gang? Let’s give our military kudos for their successful operation in eradicating a killer gang whose regular law enforcers had been defeated. I do respect the views of human right activist; it’s indeed a hard job. But we do not have to paint everything black even when it’s outright a success in eradicating this notorious gang. Of course I know the military at time can be excessive in their use of force, but as I stated earlier they are never sent to arrest, that’s the work of the police. They went to restore peace and that, they did. For SLDF to have continued to war even when the military was on their way there was foolishness to say the least.

  6. PK – I hear you loud and clear- but remember the duty bearer is the State not bandits.
    thanks for the comments they help clarify matters in our minds.

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