The problems that sparked the crisis following last December’s contested Kenyan presidential elections must be dealt with, a top United Nations human rights official said, wrapping up a visit to the East African nation.
Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that there is an urgent need to address issues – such as violations of socio-economic rights, land issues, large disparities between classes, marginalization and exclusion – at the root of the violence after the disputed polls in which President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga.
“Durable solutions to these problems will take the determination and require broad participation from all sectors of Kenyan society,” she said.
Reforming the constitution and the police system, as well as the adoption of new laws including on witness protection, will be crucial, Ms. Kang noted.
“Implementation and action must replace evasion and denial,” she said, adding that she was encouraged to hear during meetings with Mr. Odinga and other senior officials of their commitment to put the recommendations of a report by the Commission of Inquiry on Post Electoral Violence into practice.
Realizing these suggestions, especially the creation of a credible Special Tribunal to bring those behind the most serious crimes committed after the elections, “will be a critical test of the Kenyan political leadership in the struggle to end impunity,” the Commissioner said.
While in Kenya, she also visited Dadaab refugee camp, home to nearly 200,000 people, mostly Somalis fleeing violence in their country.
“Somalia is not a lost cause,” Ms. Kang emphasized. “It is a long-term cause, and one that will require stamina, creativity and a concerted effort by the international community, civil society, and above all, Somali political leaders.”
She pointed to a conversation she had with a 17-year-old who has spent his entire life at the camp in north-eastern Kenya, who told her that “we are the ones” who must solve the conflict in Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991.
“Any lasting peace in Somalia must be based on accountability and justice for the serious violations of human rights committed by all sides throughout the Somali conflict,” the official said.