The Status of Refugees in Kenya

UNHCR E Hockstein Kenya1

Source: UNHCR in Kenya / E. Hockstein

A refugee is defined as a person who has fled his or her own country to seek refuge in another country for the safety of his/her life and limb because of a well-founded fear of persecution. The definition of a refugee also covers those who are compelled to leave their domicile or place of habitual residence because of among other things, ‘events seriously disturbing public order in his or her country of origin’. The main sources of International Law on refugees are the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the OAU Convention of 1969. Kenya acceded to the 1951 Convention but has not ratified it (according to the UNHCR website in 2014). The obligations under these documents include not sending a person back to a country where he or she may be persecuted, and in the case of the OAU convention where his or her life is threatened because of the threats to public order which form the basis for refugee status; not discriminating among groups of refugees; the right of refugees to freedom of movement and to work in the country (though a three year limit on the right to work can be imposed to protect the local labour market); the same right to basic education as a national; the duty of refugees to obey the law in the country where they are received. The OAU Convention adds that members states shall ‘use their best endeavours’ to receive refugees and ensure their settlement. Continue reading

The Importance of Transitional Justice

justice africaWhether for welcoming a newborn or mourning the loss of a relative, every society has and dearly holds onto its own forms of traditions. But in times of emergency such as civil war and genocide, those atrocities not only disrupt current community life but also affect future generations, with such death and destructions, no country is prepared to face the crises aftermath, let alone having a “Recovery toolkit” or a “Reset button”. Therefore, countries look for new ways to mourn their dead, commemorate the events, preserve the memory and move forward.

Since independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most Africa governments have been undemocratic, repressive and authoritarian. This has often been marked by serious violation of human rights. These attempts to move away from dark eras of dictatorship with the advent of the so-called “Third wave” of democratization in the 1990s has been accomplished by numerous challenges, one of which is how to deal with the trauma and wounds of the past by ensuring that human rights violations are accounted for in a manner that respects and protects the dignity of survivors and their relatives without threatening future peace and security. The movement from repressive to democratic systems of governance is a worldwide phenomenon and therefore, the transition in Africa has learnt from the inspiring experience of other transitions in Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America. The transitional challenges have usually been enormous. The question is HOW DO YOUTHS DEAL WITH PEOPLE WHO RULED ON A DAILY BASIS BY VIOLENCE, TERROR, INTIMIDATION AND DIVISION? HOW DO YOUTHS BRING BACK TRUST, ECONOMIC PROSPERITY, POLICAL STABILITY AND CONGENIAL SOCIAL RELATION? Continue reading