President William Ruto with the President of Indonesia Joko Widodo during a meeting at State House Nairobi. PHOTO/PSCU
By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN
President Wiliam Ruto’s utterances that seemed to suggest he was going to deal ruthlessly with people claiming a stake in Mumias Sugar Company have put him in the spotlight over his respect for human rights and the rule of law.
The Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Amnesty International Kenya, Kenya Human Rights Commission and Haki Africa have questioned the government’s commitment to upholding the right to life and protection of persons against cruel and inhumane treatment following the President’s utterances.
While on a tour western Kenya President Ruto was recorded saying; “Hawa wakora wote watoke. Hio kampuni ni ya wananchi na tutaipangia upya. Hakuna kesi tutaentertain hapo. Kesi watoe na wao wenyewe watoke.” He said adding, “Wakitaka kuniletea kisirani either wahame Kenya ama nitawaweka jela ama wasafiri waende mbinguni.”
The words uttered in Swahili can be loosely translated in English thus; “All the crooks must leave. That company belongs to the public and we are going to re-organise it. We are not going to entertain any court cases there. They should withdraw the cases and leave. If they try to disgrace me, they should either flee the country, or I will jail them or they travel to heaven.”
“The words, taken in their literal sense, constitute a threat to persons who are currently involved in court cases over the ownership and control of Mumias Sugar Company,” the statement by the human rights lobbies said.
The strong warning by the President came against the backdrop of the reported abduction and subsequent release of, Mr Jaswant Singh Rai, one of the parties involved in a court dispute, over Mumias Sugar Company.
“The unfortunate statement by the Head of State, call into question the Government’s commitment to upholding the right to life and protection of persons against cruel and inhumane treatment, as well as the right to equal treatment before the law and the right live anywhere in the Republic of Kenya, and to own property,” the human rights bodies observed.
The joint statement was issues by Law Society of Kenya, President Eric Theuri, Amnesty International Kenya, Executive Director Irungu Houghton, Haki Africa, Executive Director Hussein Khalid and Kenya Human Rights Commission, Executive Director Davis Malombe.
They noted that the enumerated rights are guaranteed to every person by the Constitution and cannot be taken away, unless as decreed by the laws of Kenya.
“It is regrettable that the utterances by His Excellency, the President, seem to suggest that he can disregard constitutionally guaranteed rights, at whim,” they added.
The human rights group said the constitution guarantees every person the right to access courts and the right to have every dispute determined in accordance with the laws of the land.
The remarks by the President have triggered a storm among Kenyans with a section of leaders and civil society organisations demanding he rescind the remarks.
LSK President Eric Theuri addressing the media on August 29, 2023 together with officials of human rights organisations. PHOTO/UGC
LSK President Eric Theuri while addressing a press conference said President Ruto should apologize to Kenyans for his unfortunate utterances.
“The demand that we want to make on the President is to not only withdraw and apologize for those very unfortunate remarks but also to allow the due process of law to take its cause to its logical conclusion,” he said.
LSK President added; “In a court of law, we have laws that ensure equality of parties that appear before it and each party has an opportunity to present the case they have before an impartial arbiter who is the court, to interfere in those processes before the court has made its determination is to undermine the rule of law and authority goes against the constitution.”
Mr Theuri said the President chilling utterances constitutes; a threat to the right to life, a threat to access to justice and the right to seek judicial intervention and a threat to the independence of the judiciary.
Human rights organisations said they are deeply concerned with the President’s statements as they are consistent with a growing culture of impunity, as demonstrated by the increased misuse of police power during the last riots and cases of police being used to aid and abet land grabbing.
“The statements also undermine the authority of the Court and signal a departure from the use of legitimate dispute resolution mechanisms in favour of abrogation of constitutional rights, threats and intimidation,” they added.
They noted that for several years, professional organisations, media houses, religious leaders, human rights organisations, and oversight state agencies have demanded an end to extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
“We have campaigned for police officers to be held accountable for enforced disappearances of Indian nationals Zulfiqar Khan, Zaid Kidwai and Kenyan driver Nicodemus Mwania, as well as 39-year-old Ethiopian businessman and Kenya resident Samson Tecklemichael, abducted in broad daylight on 19 November 2021,” they said.
The rights lobbyists said over the last three years, over 150 families continue to grieve over the loss of their loved ones, who have disappeared or died in police custody.
The Law Society of Kenya said it is apprehensive that Advocates will be the next target in an attempt to intimidate those who are representing the various parties in Court disputes over Mumias Sugar Company.
“The Law Society of Kenya is also aware of the plans to cripple its operations through unwarranted tax audits and investigations by the Kenya Revenue Authority,” Mr Theuri said.
He said the Society remains resolutely steadfast in upholding the rule of law and will take all reasonable measures to challenge any steps taken to intimidate advocates or the Society from discharging its mandate.
“We urge His Excellency, the President, to retrace his steps and reverse the growing culture of impunity and misuse of state raw power. We remind the President that, indeed, he was the subject of such schemes and hence the need to return to the path of the Rule of Law and upholding the Constitution, as this is the only safe route to building our Country and keeping everyone safe,” Mr Theuri added.
They urged members of the Law Society of Kenya and other human rights organisations to remain steadfast in the defense of the Constitution and the rule of law in tribute and respect to those who fought for the liberation the country currently enjoy through their blood and lives.
“We implore on the religious leaders and all Kenyans of goodwill to come out and condemn the attempts to return our country to the dark ages and departure from the rule of law,” they added.
The human rights organisations reiterated the need for the Government of Kenya to respect the rule of law and the Constitution reminded the state of the urgent need to accelerate the ratification and domestication of the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
“Kenya must take its rightful place within the community of nations as a Country that respects its law and is governed on the basis of respect for the universal fundamental rights and freedoms,” they emphasized.