Activists question state preparedness to handle SGBV cases during polls

They are worried lessons have not been learnt despite history of sexual violence

In Summary

• The NCIC released a report of hotspot areas that may experience violence during the polls.

• Joan Wacuru said NCIC had not highlighted on what it was doing to prevent SGBV cases.

Kiambaa church in Eldoret during the 2007-08 post-election violence
Kiambaa church in Eldoret during the 2007-08 post-election violence
Image: FILE

Lobby groups are concerned that the government is not doing enough to make sure there is no repeat of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) during the coming polls.

In an online engagement on the social media platform Twitter, rights groups and activists said that they needed to know that more was happening on the ground to prevent human rights violations.

Joan Wacuru of the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) said that despite the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) identifying hotspots of violence, the commission had not highlighted on what it was doing to curb SGBV.

“We need to see a multi-stakeholder engagement take place in these areas identified as hotspots so that no violence of any kind may be witnessed,” she said.

The NCIC report named Nairobi, Nakuru, Kericho, Mombasa, and Uasin Gishu as the counties with the most likelihood of experiencing electoral violence.

Past reports assessing the outcomes of elections in Kenya have shown that the country is prone to skirmishes and sexual violence is used as a form of violence against vulnerable groups in the community.

A report by Kenya Human Rights Commission released in January showed that 900 cases of SGBV were recorded in 2007 by the Commission of Inquiry into the Post Election Violence.

In 2017, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) documented at least 201 cases of sexual violence.

George Otiga, a Human Rights Defender, said that the lessons the country ought to have learned are numerous so the authorities ought to be well prepared.

“First and foremost, there can be no vacuum in power in the event that violence occurs. We need to have someone to be held accountable,” he said.

The report had also said that the Police Officers were the main perpetrators, according to survivors.

Otiga said that even the authorities are not immune to accountability by the law, including the Police.

Gitonga Murang’a, a member of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Kenya, said that a National Policy on how to handle electoral-related sexual violence should be adopted.

In 2013, eight survivors of sexual violence during the polls that year went to court to sue the state for failure to prepare for the chaos.

The court finally awarded Sh4 million compensation to the survivors, four of them have already received the money.

“There are so many technicalities that have to be addressed during such cases so, there needs to be a special tribunal with special regulations to address sexual violence cases during elections,” he said.

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