Missed opportunities: Reflections on the Amnesty Kenya scorecard

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President Willian Ruto during the launch of the Jubilee Party manifesto in 2017. [File, Standard]

According to the 2022 human rights scorecard by Amnesty Kenya, the Jubilee administration scored an underwhelming 46 per cent. Human rights are at the heart of human dignity. The lowly score points to a wimpy focus on the wellbeing of the citizen. A lot of political energy was lost in transmission and did not arrive to light up the lives of the people as per the promises of the outgoing government.

Because humans are created in the image of God, human rights affirm and tend that divine image. They constitute the firms pillars that affirm humanness. Governments have a duty to create environments where all rights of human beings exist freely. In the case of the scorecard in focus, five areas were assessed: liberty and security of persons, civic freedoms, right to the highest standards of healthcare, right to adequate housing and right to adequate food. To be against these rights is to be against the people.

Different contexts stir unique rights assertions. Reverend Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement was anchored on the premise that all human beings are created equal, to which he added that people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Governments have struggled instituting certain rights due to some internal resistance often informed by a need to hold a particular power over the people. This makes frequent external rights audits necessary.

Rejection assessments

In the Holy Scriptures, assessment begins right at Genesis when the Creator looked at the work of each day and scored it as good. At the end of the creation process God “saw it was very good.” The role of human systems is to sustain this goodness with a spirit of creativity. In the Bible, even prominent leaders found themselves wanting when placed on God’s scale. This makes human rights a journey where even the best has steps to make, trends to check and fissures to fix.

While Kenya’s human rights score is underwhelming by itself, it is complicated by the fact that despite all the optimism on sale by aspirants of the incoming government, all is not well: “In just under two months, new national and county governments will face a debt-distressed and defaulting economy that is too weak to absorb the shocks of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. The cost of living will rise as the economy and National Treasury coffers shrink…”

Kenyan leaders are in the habit of rejecting assessments that are not in their favour. Opinion polls are quickly discredited as cooked by the camps depicted as losing. But no sooner does a different poll favor them than they run with the figures as bushels to dim their opponents. Amnesty scorecard’s title “Missed Opportunities” depicts a government that had chances before an open goal but foiled them. There were glaring chances to make lasting rights impressions but those concerned were too distracted to notice. This brings to mind the words of Jesus as he wept for Jerusalem, “If only you knew the time of your visitation!”

Sadly, the report is dedicated to the “those who did not live to read it.” King David missed out on the honor of building the Temple even when he had the plan, the wealth and the will to do it for the reason that his hands were “full of blood.” Innocent blood mounts barriers that stall even the grandest of states. Where too many Abel voices cry from the ground, a country experiences a haunted existence. Kenya must drain its swamps of innocent blood by investing heavily in the safety of each person. Every Kenyan’s life matters.

Politically weak or wrong

Rights should not be dispensed as if they were privileges. In a leader-centered governance, people become peripheral. They exist to serve the leaders and those who rebel are punished. Because the biblical Mordecai could not bow down to Herman, Herman was so infuriated that he planned for the extermination of an entire people. Some communities in Kenya are pushed into punishment mode because they are considered to be politically weak or wrong. It is this punishment mode that made Reverend Daniel Wario, an Anglican cleric in Marsabit speak truly though bitterly: “Is there life for the people of Marsabit? CS Matiangi, IG Mutyambai, if you guys delay a bit come and bury us with tractors.” The infamous statement “Kenyans do not eat roads” should be understood to mean that Kenyans do not need the same things.

Some right strides have been made but at a reluctant pace. The great pandemic among leaders keeps holding Kenya back. Even food meant for the drought knitting is itself stolen! It is such unbelievable deeds that prompted the Apostle Paul to ask “You foolish (Kenyans), who bewitched you?” Food is a big deal. “Plenty be found within our borders” was not meant to be a line in a song but a full-belly state of the nation. A government that cannot feed its people makes no sense. Basic food being out of reach is a sign of a regime that is out of touch with the people. It is a shame that campaigns have been running during a drought yet no voices offer express solutions to the situation. Instead, solutions are zipped into a promise mode and posted into the future as the venue where wit will be unleashed!

The incoming government should pin the 46 per cent score on its wall. This poor score should form the absolute floor below which we must not sink. Kenyans should not fear the State. Fear makes it difficult to hold government officers accountable. In a country where leaders expect praise songs with their names as the refrain, it takes courage for a leader to stand up to criticism. Yet this is where we must go. Standing up to oppression just as embracing constructive criticism is what it takes to be a friend of dignity.

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