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Kenya delivers constitutional betrayal of minority and indigenous peoples

5 September 2005

The Kenyan government has reneged on previous promises and removed all references to marginalized groups, minorities, pastoralists and hunter-gatherers from the proposed new Kenyan constitution document. Important gains for Kenya’s poorest and most vulnerable peoples achieved during a three year constitutional review process have now been stripped from the document leaving them furious and betrayed.

Representatives of minority and marginalized groups called for the reinstatement of important provisions and warned that they would refuse to be governed by the present constitution if enacted. They have threatened to vote ‘NO’ in a referendum planned for November and have asked how their communities can recognize or be bound by the outcome of a ‘fraudulent’ process. Unrest flared in Nairobi in July when Parliament amended the draft document to ensure that extensive executive powers remained in the hands of president Mwai Kibaki. Kenyan rights groups see this as undermining the pursuit of equality, social justice and participatory democracy.

References to minority and indigenous groups have been removed from provisions that had previously satisfied their demands for recognition of their identity and rights in chapters on values and principles of nationhood, a bill of rights, representation of the people, and devolution of power. The Centre for Minority Rights and Development (CEMIRIDE) had previously welcomed provisions that, if implemented, would have promoted their rights, including through affirmative action programmes. Land rights protection and clear anti-discrimination provisions allowing full participation in public, economic and social affairs have all been removed despite previous guarantees.

A joint statement signed by representatives of Kenya’s minorities and marginalized groups stated: ‘While a good constitution should be a bastion for the marginalized, vulnerable and the weak, this proposed new constitution ensures that the lot of the poor remains unrecognized and further exposed to the whims and machinations of the mighty’.

A 2005 report by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and CEMIRIDE, Kenya: Minorities, Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Diversity demonstrates the growing inequalities between communities and the intolerable situation faced by some communities including the Turkana, the Endorois and the Ogiek. They are often unable to gain access to resources and opportunities, cannot own land and are the frequent victims of development policies. Minority Rights Group International supports the call of Kenyan human and minority rights groups and communities for the Kenyan government to halt the planned November referendum process, establish a national platform to urgently review amendments and resolve potential conflicts, and to reinstate all provisions relating to the protection of minorities and marginalized groups.

Notes for editors

Download ‘Kenya: Minorities, Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Diversity