Make Human Rights compulsory examinable subject in all learning institutions

There is a strong need to make the concept of Human Rights (HR) more tangible, less abstract and immediate to the lives of the majority of 40 million Kenyans. The struggle for our independence and the new 2010 National Constitution were mainly driven by demand for greater human rights and better democratic, accountable governance practice in our public affairs management structures. That is why the new constitution has such elaborate Bill of Rights provisions, perhaps the world’s most detailed, with some 41 articles. 

The challenge is how to institutionalize human rights values not only in our personal lives but also in the culture and management of the national institutions. Some people even think that HR is a narrow field which is a domain for lawyers. Nothing can be further from the truth. Best of teachers have always reminded us,” Whatever career you may choose for yourself, doctor, lawyer, teacher, military, make a career of humanity, human service professions. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for human rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.” 

By HR we generally mean those rights which we say belong to all people because they are simply humans,  regardless of national origin, race, culture, religion, age, gender, or anything else. Human dignity is first of them. Whereas such rights are universal and apply to everyone, everywhere, some of us argue that human rights is an exclusively western cultural construction, “colonialistic concept and in language”. This is not true.

Though the term  ‘human rights’ may not always be used, as author Jim Ife put it, ideas of human dignity and worth, ideas that all people treated according to certain basic standards, ideas that people should be protected from ‘human right abuse’, and ideas of respect for the rights of others are not confined to the western intellectual tradition.  To assume that they are is to devalue those other religions and cultural traditions that such critics claim to be supporting.

What is more or less given is Africa has the lowest human rights values of the world’s continents. This is so because culturally, apparently African societies have low levels of human right traditions, as Chinua Achebe immortalized in his book, ‘Things Fall Apart’, where all types of human rights abuses were committed and where  twin babies were dumped and killed as evil spirits. Add that to four centuries of slavery, brutal European colonialism, apartheid and post-independent African dictatorships of Idi Amin’s and Robert Mugambe’s proportions and what do we have: the world’s saddest and most pessimistic, stoic people!

In order to make HR practices the norm and be appreciated everywhere in the country, and make Kenya the best in Africa, humans rights should be made a compulsory examinable subject in all our learning institutions. The countries with best human rights records are also the most prosperous. Therefore, from universities and across all faculties, teacher training colleges, Government owned Institutes to police, prison and military academies; human rights subject should be made a must. If not the provisions of the new constitution will just remain that, good sounding, far-fetched abstracts that have little bearings on the lives of majority of Kenyans.        



In spite of the police service being one of the most indispensable
public service for national prosperity, through fighting all
categories of crimes, keeping law and order and protecting people’s
lives and properties, the performance of the police has been under
severe attack for sometime now.  There are all types of public
complaints. From corruptions, unprofessionalism in dealing with
members of the public and crimes, extra-judicial killings, lacking
public trust, to outright indiscipline where in less than three years
we note with grief 15 dedicated police officers being killed by their
own colleagues. Latest are the two officers tragically shot dead in
March by a fellow policeman, Constable Martin Mutwiri at Naro Moru
police station.
Of course, the Government has responded to the public outrage. One of
these responses includes Judge Philip Ransley’s Taskforce which
recommended far reaching reforms in the Kenya police and
Administration police.  Some of the reforms are constitutionalized.
Curriculum and training policy changes and extending training periods
for police recruits to 15 months and the cadets up to 21 months,
apparently are part of other reforms  aimed at making Kenya Police
world class, comparable only with the best, and satisfy deservingly
high expectations  and pride of the Kenyan people.
However, what is being discounted is that problems with our police are
not so much with training needs as it is with institutional
constraints. Police do not operate in vacuum. They are bound by
national laws, internal standard operating procedures and work in a
complex arena, with many budgetary resource limitations and social
systems of accountability.  These are the internal and external
institutional matrixes that have enabling and constraining effects on
the performance of the police.
When for instance, new young police officers who have just graduated
from the college after long, vigorous training, assume their duties,
they will be confronted by their superiors with a time tested, iron-
wall of service culture,” Forget about the academy and your
certificates. These are how things are done here”, attitude.  Through
both aggressive and subliminal socialization, within no time, the
young police officers will get reality check and melt into their new
environment.  That way, if we are not careful, all police reforms will
always remain “business as usual”, non-starter.
Whereas the constitutional provisions of National Police Service and
National Police Service Commission will go along way redesigning and
re-branding the police service, we should be alert to the fact that
significant change will be bottom up, evolutionary, take time, five to
ten years to prove themselves and gain general acceptance.  The
challenges are how to overcome institutional barriers and align the
Kenya Police’s age old culture and its present reform strategies with
the demand and expectations of the public under the new constitution.
We only hope that those Kenyans who will assume the new offices in the
police service commission will be eager beavers, perspective thinkers,
who shall be equal to the tasks. Once started, the momentum of reform
must never be allowed to falter, even little.

Billow Khalid


Wagalla survivors seek reparation

The pain of the human catastrophe plotted and executed by the Government on February 14, 1984, at Wagalla airstrip, a small settlement some 11km west of Wajir County headquarters, will endure forever.

In many regards, the pain is not unlike what was experienced during atrocities visited on Kenyans during the 1950s Mau Mau uprisings. But at least the Mau Mau case against the British Government is before the High Court in London.

What makes the Wagalla Massacre even more revolting and agonisingly traumatic is that it was committed and covered up by fellow Kenyan public officials and security officers.

Security forces rained terror on patriotic, hapless citizens who had not committed any crimes against the nation. Sadly, we may never know exactly what happened on that fateful day and how many people were brutally killed and maimed.

One thing, however, not in doubt is that following flimsy accusations of possession of illegal arms and inter-clan conflict – and acting on irrational "instructions from above" – some 5,000 men from the Somali Degodia clan were forcefully rounded up at night.

Raped women

They were taken from their homes in Wajir town by a joint security team and herded into the barbed-wired airstrip at Wagalla, leaving behind raped, abused women and destroyed homes.

And at the end of four long, hellish days, according to then Internal Security Minister Justus ole Tipis, "only 57" were killed, as if this number was not outrageous enough!

However, the late Hon Ahmed Khalif, at great risk to his life, produced and published in the local papers the names and identity card numbers of some 400 people who were confirmed and identified as part of the crowd that was massacred.

Residents have since then insisted that over 4,000 of their men were unaccounted for. The ratio of those identified by the late Khalif and those said to be unaccounted for by residents is 1:10. This ratio appears to be consistent with historical, conflict situation figures of the dead, missing and injured.

Public inquest

Last year, Prime Minister Raila Odinga instructed the Attorney General to initiate a public inquest into the Wagalla Massacre. While this gesture is welcome, it is not enough and will amount to almost nothing.

This month, members of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) are in Wajir to hear the ordeals the residents here suffered at the hands of the Government.

What the orphans, widows and survivors of the Wagalla Massacre are asking from their Government are simple: a genuine apology, empathy, and financial compensation of, say, Sh3 million for any person who died. Then the healing process will surely start.

One would be tempted to ask, who shall be compensated? A neutral committee can be formed for the purpose and the best place to begin would be with the late Khalif’s list.

In the light of the new Constitution with its elaborate human rights provisions, we cannot afford to have wailing widows year in, year out because of gross abuse of their fundamental, basic rights.



The importance of entrepreneurs to the socioeconomic well being of any country cannot be over emphasized. Entrepreneurs in a country are men and women who are business minded, risk takers, employment and wealth creators and who provide goods and services to the market to satisfy the basic needs and wants of the larger society. Without active, progressive, innovative and ever expanding class of entrepreneurs, any economy stands to shrink and  wither away. Even the national treasury will face severe budgetary constraints due to insufficient tax inflows.

Whereas in our case, the largest percentage of the ordinary tax revenue comes from large business companies such as Safaricom,
according to the Government's Economic Survey of 2010, it is the 2 million small and medium sized enterprises that employ the largest number of workforce. The sector employs 8.3 million people, contribute 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creates 590,000 jobs annually, though representing only about 10 percent of total exports. However, it is imperative to appreciate that the nation's technological progress and the rate of resource discovery-innovations depend on the supply of entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneur is the person who sees the opportunity for introducing a new technique or a new commodity, an improved organization or for the development of newly discovered resource. In our universities, research institutions and government departments are filled with reports and studies for innovations, inventions and Edisonian ideas that never see the light of day. For inventions or resource discoveries to be significant, someone with special talent for seeing their economic potential and bringing them into use must come along. That person is the entrepreneur.

Over the years, what has been recognized is that the supply of entrepreneurs, a factor of production, depends on the expected rate of profits, and what Douglass North of Washington University calls, " The institutional matrix to which organizations owe their existence."
North defines institutions as the rules of the game of society or more formally are the humanly devised constraints that structure human interaction. They are composed of both formal rules such as laws and informal constraints such as cultures.

Introduction of business education in our schools and occupational training for small business owners have been undertaken as one of the streams of  enhancing quality and fostering supply of the country's much needed entrepreneurs.Even though this efforts are laudable , they are not enough to make substantial difference. Our problems are deeper and wider. They are with our institutions, the social climate, which are the entrepreneurs understanding of the rules of the game; the conditions under which they must operate. From demand and taxation levels, security, corruption, licensing procedures, infrastructure, fidelity of employees and the whole lot of general public cultures, attitude and political environment.

In the light of our up coming county governance system, there is strong need to re-evaluate the workings of our formal and informal institutions with the aim of drastically improving the supply of the country's entrepreneurs as a whole and their competitiveness.
Matters that need urgent review to this end include formal regulations and laws as well as informal issues such as traditions and cultures of our communities in the respective counties and districts within counties that are impediments to business start ups and venture creation. That way we would boost both the quality and quantity of the nation's entrepreneurs.

Billow Khalid