FREEDOMS ARE INALIENABLE

Youth need to stand up for their rights

They bear the brunt of most human rights abuses.

In Summary
  • They are victims of extrajudicial killings, rape, femicide as well as torture by security forces.
  • To change this situation, it is crucial to engage them at the core of rights fortification.

Human rights are defined as entitlements owed to a person by virtue of being human. It matters not whether the person is black or white, tall or short, rich or poor. As long as they fit the description of a human being, then they have rights.

Across the world, rights are universal and guaranteed to everyone in equal measure. They are inalienable, meaning a person is born with them and not the State or any other entity can take them away. Although certain rights can be limited by law, there are those that cannot be limited and these include freedom from torture. Human rights are sometimes referred to as freedoms.

On December 10, the world celebrated International Human Rights Day. In all countries around the globe, events and activities were held to commemorate the day and bring more attention to human rights. The United Nations announced the theme for this year to be ‘Youth standing up for human rights’.

This theme is informed by the need to ensure youth are mobilised, educated and empowered about their rights and how to promote and protect theirs and the rights of others in the community.

The theme also recognises that the world over, it is the youth who suffer most human rights abuses and as a result, it is imperative to have them at the centre of the advancement of fundamental rights and freedoms. Whether in Africa or America, Asia or Australia, youth face serious challenges and are often on the receiving end of human rights violations.

While the Constitution has conferred and guaranteed rights, in the last few years Kenya has taken backward steps that have diminished rights enjoyment. Key amongst these is the entrenching of impunity in the security forces. The police have time and again been accused of extrajudicial killing of youth, particularly those from the slums.

They are victims of extrajudicial killings, rape, femicide as well as torture by security forces. To change this situation, it is crucial to engage them at the core of rights fortification.

In Kenya, over the last decade or so, major strides have been made in the progression of human rights. Key among these being the adoption of the 2010 Constitution with a strong Chapter on Bill of Rights. This is the biggest chapter in the Constitution, signifying the importance of human rights to Kenyans. The Bill of Rights not only makes rights justiciable but also places a duty on the state to guarantee human rights.

Article 21 (1) states that “it is a fundamental duty of the State and every State organ to observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights.”

While the Constitution has conferred and guaranteed rights, in the last few years Kenya has taken backward steps that have diminished rights enjoyment. Key amongst these is the entrenching of impunity in the security forces. The police have time and again been accused of extrajudicial killing of youth, particularly those from the slums.

In a video that went viral a few years ago, a known policeman was recorded shooting a youth suspect in broad daylight in front of hundreds of onlookers. To date, no action has been taken against him. In another incident reported in El Wak, Mandera county in late 2018, KDF officers descended on a village and went on a torturous spree beating up and whipping villagers, including medical officers at the local dispensary.

 

In the wake of the atrocities, at least one person lay dead with many others injured. Despite reports being made to the authorities, no action has been taken to bring those responsible to book. Such acts entrench impunity in our security agents, who then feel they are untouchable and can abuse rights at will.

The recent census showed that up to 70 percent of Kenyans are youth. According to Haki Africa’s records, it is the youth who presently bear the brunt of most human rights violations, including physical as well as psychological torture.

To reverse the trend of violations, it is therefore prudent that youth take up the mantle of ensuring full respect and enjoyment of human rights. It is only by doing so will we as a country begin to appreciate the Bill of Rights in our Constitution and the realisation of the potential of all Kenyans.

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