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Rights, representation and constitutional reform demanded by Kenya’s Muslims

15 March 2004

Despite constituting some 30 percent of Kenya’s 30 million population, Muslims are seriously underrepresented in government and decision making structures and are suffering multiple discrimination and exclusion as a result. The national constitutional review process offers a ‘ray of light’ for the future, but a new era of accountability, participation and practical action is required from current and future governments in order to bring about real and lasting change and equality.

Asiya Mahmood Mwanzi representing the League Of Muslim Women Of Kenya, a broad based organisation that has a nationwide membership of women’s organizations across Kenya, raised a number of issues at the UN Working Group on Minorities. According to this organization, Muslims communities are concentrated in the slum areas of urban centres and face segregation and discrimination in terms of access to employment and socio-economic life and low incomes. Poor levels of political participation were highlighted by the fact that only two of twenty-one cabinet ministers are Muslim in the current Kenyan government.

Ms Mwanzi welcomed the apparently ‘responsive and people centred’ approach of the new Kenyan government and the National Constitutional Review Process which had involved most minority groups. This process, she suggested, offers opportunities to redress the previous imbalances by initiating policies of affirmative action, gender equality, free & compulsory primary education, devolution of power to regions, human rights issues, environment, land rights and cultural reforms among others. However, present and future governments must be ‘kept on their toes’ in order to ensure implementation of progressive policies.

The League of Muslim Women of Kenya proposed a list of practical recommendations including the establishment of programmes to create awareness of rights and to mobilize the Muslim minority to demand their rights through media, public meetings and literature. Training would be required in order to equip the leaders of the new devolved regional governments, as envisaged in the new constitution, to run their jurisdictions effectively and efficiently and with full consideration of the rights and concerns of minorities.

Notes for editors

Download the full intervention delivered to the UN Working Group on Minorities.

For more information, contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].