Joint Press Statement on the need to prevent Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the runup to the August 2022 Presidential Elections in the Republic of Kenya
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), through its Country Rapporteur for the Republic of Kenya Honourable Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa Honourable Commissioner Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie, are following human rights issues relating to the electoral process in the Republic of Kenya.
The African Commission commends the preparations that are under way towards ensuring that the national elections scheduled for 9 August 2022 are free, fair and credible, and also notes the enthusiasm of the electorate for exercising their sovereign right through participation in the electoral campaign process and balloting.
The African Commission is however alarmed by reports of increasing political tension and risks and incidents of violence, hate speech and the production and circulation of content for inciting division and violence during the electoral campaign.
We particularly underscore the urgency and need to prevent the incidence of acts of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women, to prevent the recurrence of such violence reported during earlier electoral disputes in the Republic of Kenya.
The perpetration of brutal acts of sexual violence and rape that is weaponized in the context of electoral disputes in Kenya involving in particular, law enforcement personnel constitute serious breaches of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which it has severally reiterated to Member States. These include the rights to dignity, personal security, bodily integrity, personal liberty, peace and security, the right to participate in political and decision-making processes, as well as freedom from discrimination, torture, and inhumane or degrading treatment
During the last 2007 and 2017 Presidential Elections in Kenya, the Commission received several reports about the perpetration of brutal acts of violence and rape, weaponized in the context of electoral disputes in Kenya, involving in particular, law enforcement personnel engaged in dispersing election protesters, with a very low record of accountability accorded in justice to the victims. The African Commission notes that such acts constitute a serious breach of the rights, and freedoms guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which it has severally reiterated to Member States. These include the rights to dignity, personal security, bodily integrity, personal liberty, peace and security, the right to participate in political and decision-making processes, as well as freedom from discrimination, torture, and inhumane or degrading treatment.
The African Commission also notes that trust issues relating to the integrity of the electoral process, the electoral management institution and the judiciary can affect not only confidence in the electoral process but also, as previous experiences show, can create the conditions that precipitate violent contestations.
The African Commission would therefore like to seize this opportunity to remind the Government of Kenya of its obligations under the above instruments, to recognize and guarantee the enjoyment of all the rights therein, through the adoption of appropriate measures to sanction SGBV in order to ensure that women participate fully in the electoral process without fear of any form of violence.
The African Commission urges the Government of Kenya and the Opposition, especially the presidential candidates to not encourage any form of violence and to initiate dialogue and use established dispute settlement mechanisms with a view of resolving any differences or disputes.
It also calls on all parties taking active part in the electoral process including political parties and their supporters to fully refrain from any use or circulation of inciteful expressions that have the effect of subjecting any one or group to any attacks or discrimination.
It also reminds the institutions entrusted with the responsibility of conducting and overseeing the elections, of ensuring the security of the electoral process and of certifying the compliance of the electoral process with applicable laws and standards to ensure that they discharge their responsibilities independently, impartially and professionally and are seen as such by the electorate.
The African Commission urges the Government of Kenya to respect and guarantee the freedom of opinion, of expression, of assembly and the freedom of peaceful demonstration, as well as civil and political rights of all citizens during this electoral period in conformity with the Constitution of Kenya.
The African Commission further urges the Government of Kenya to guarantee the security of all citizens in general and all candidates in particular.
Finally, the African Commission calls on the Government of Kenya to work with all relevant stakeholders during this 2022 Presidential elections period, to ensure that all necessary measures are put in place to guarantee a non-occurrence of elections-related SGBV against women and that in the event this occurs, the perpetrators are put to account, with adequate relief granted to the victims where applicable.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.