|Human rights violations in Kenya became acute in the aftermath of the December 27 election, the US State Department indicates in a report issued on Tuesday.
The Kenya section of the department’s annual global survey of human rights cites several “serious problems”.
They include unlawful killings, torture, police impunity, life-threatening prison conditions, corruption in Government and disrespect for freedom of speech and of the press.
Although it presents a litany of abuses on the part of Kenyan authorities last year, the report says that “the government in many areas respected the human rights of its citizens or attempted to institute reforms to address deficiencies.”
Unlike independent monitoring groups such as Human Rights Watch, the State Department refrains from sharply criticising the security forces’ response to the disturbances that broke out following the election.
“While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, and security forces generally exercised restraint in dealing with protesters and rioters,” the report states, “there were instances in which the security forces, particularly the police, acted independently.”
The State Department takes note, however, of an estimated 700 extra-judicial killings last year. The figure is attributed to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, which indicated that 454 of the fatalities involved suspected members of what the US report refers to as “the Mungiki criminal organisation”.
Hundreds of prisoners died last year as a result of infectious diseases spread by overcrowding, unhygienic conditions and inadequate medical treatment, the report charges.
“Impunity was a major problem,” the State Department adds. “Police officers were rarely arrested and prosecuted for corruption or for using excessive force.”
On corruption in Kenya, the report says, “The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement these laws effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”