Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. PHOTO/JEAN-MARC FERRE-UN
By PATRICK MAYOYO
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has commended the peaceful voting in the recent presidential election in Kenya but urged Kenya’s political leaders “to take the responsible path and exercise their leadership to avoid violence.”
The UN Human Rights Chief expressed concern about reports that Kenyan security forces used live ammunition against protesters, and about reports of police brutality, leading to several deaths and injuries, including children.
Protests erupted after the announcement of results on 11 August, with instances of individuals resorting to stone throwing, looting and destruction of property.
“Kenya is at a critical juncture,” Zeid said. “The country’s political leaders must do their utmost to calm a volatile political climate. If there are claims to make about the conduct of the elections, they should be made through constitutional and legal means.”
FILE PICTURE: A man raises his arms in surrender as security officers contain skirmshes during the 2007-2008 post-election violence. PHOTO/COURTESY
“People have the right to assemble and protest peacefully, and the authorities have a responsibility to ensure they can do so. The Government also has a responsibility to ensure that security forces prioritize dialogue, non-violent means and exercise restraint, using proportionate force only when unavoidable,” Zeid said.
“Protesters should never resort to violence and political leaders should send clear messages to their supporters urging peaceful conduct. All acts of violence, including the serious allegations of excessive use of force by security forces, must be promptly and independently investigated,” he added.
As part of that effort, the High Commissioner called on the Government to make an immediate announcement that it will cooperate fully and unequivocally with the Independent Policing Oversight Authority and with subsequent efforts to ensure accountability.
Zeid also expressed deep concern that Kenya’s NGO Coordination Board today called for a prominent NGO, the African Centre for Open Governance (AFRICOG) to be shut down and for its directors and members to be arrested.
This comes after yesterday’s decision by the NGO Coordination Board to de-register another well-respected NGO, the Kenya Human Rights Commission. The High Commissioner called for civil society actors and media to be allowed to work without hindrance or fear of retaliation.
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