US Senate bans aid to Kenya military, police over Mt Elgon
THE US Senate is about to slap a ban on funding, training and technical help to the Kenyan military and police personnel involved in recent human rights abuses in Northern Kenya and the Rift Valley. The proposed ban is contained in the Appropriations Bill report submitted by the Senate's Appropriation Committee and now awaiting the Senate's endorsement.
Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont submitted the committee's report on May 24th calling on Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to effect the ban. “The Committee directs the Secretary of State to take steps to ensure that no US training, equipment, or other assistance is provided to any Kenyan military or police personnel who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights,” the report said.
It listed abuses reported in Mount Elgon in March 2008 during the Operation Okoa Maisha to rout out Sabaot Land Defence Forces as well as operations to deal with suspected al Shabaab sympathizers in Garissa, Wajir and Mandera between November 2011 and January 2012 and several operations carried out at the Dadaab refugee camp at different times since December 2011. “The Secretary shall submit a report to the Committee on steps taken by the Government of Kenya to conduct thorough, credible investigations of such violations and the identification of military units responsible.”
Although it is yet to be officially passed into law, the report is as good as passed. In the committee, the report was passed by 29 senators while one voted against it. A day before the committee's report was tabled, Human Rights Watch released a report on alleged arbitrary arrests, beatings and detentions in Daadab refugee camp following discovery of explosives in the camp in mid-March.
Earlier in January, Human Rights Watch had condemned similar abuses in Daadab following the killing of a police officer by an explosive on December 5th last year. Early last month, the same organization released a report detailing Kenyan security agencies alleged excesses against ethnic Somalis in the ongoing war against Al Shabab.
Yesterday, Human Rights Watch's researcher Neela Ghoshal told the Star that her organization had been sharing its reports with the US authorities as well as the Kenyan government. “For us here at HRW, we consider the proposal a big step forward in the promotion of human right. It signifies that there are people out there watching and listening, people who not only want to be part of the abuses but who are also determined to stop it,” she said.
Ghoshal said the ban is a reminder to the Kenya Defence Forces that it must be accountable in its operations and act within the law. In October 2010, the government established a team to investigate state security agents abuses in North Eastern. The team conducted an investigation and drafted a report, which was submitted to the Ministry of State for Internal Security, but never made public.
In October last year, Human Rights Watch petitioned the ICC to broaden its scope of crimes against humanity investigations to cover the operations carried out in the Mount Elgon area. The organization claimed that over 300 people were still —199 in the hands of the military and another 126 were disappeared by the SLDF. In the report called “‘Hold Your Heart’: Waiting for Justice in Kenya’s Mt. Elgon Region,” the group petitioned the Kenyan government to open an inquiry into the matter. In the Appropriations Bill, the committee recommends allocating Sh508 billion to foreign military financing program.