No Man's Land Featured

No Man's Land

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A film produced by IFA Northern Kenya field office in June 2012 and launched on 3 July 2012 at the Maralal Teacher Training College. The film highlights state neglect in Northern Kenya, and the continued arming of communities in the region.

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Project Lamu Featured

Project Lamu

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Explores the mood on the ground where locals feel land money and power always go first to the outsiders people from other parts of the country or other parts of the world In this InformAction film Mweupe Khalfan human rights defender and videographer from Muslims for Human Rights MUHURI takes a trip to the mangrove swamps to talk to those who have.

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Realities Of Devolution

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The allure for devolution, and the advantages brought by devolution, fails to question the factors that ensure devolution as a form of governance is effective and successful. Defined as the decentralization of power in a country from a centralized governing system, to one where power is assigned to a subnational–local or regional administration, the desire for a decentralized government assumes that decentralization is in itself an endogenous solution to societal ills. This turns a blind eye to the disadvantages of devolution which are:

  1. That devolution could reduce the ability a national government has to re-distribute resources to a less developed region or county; and
  2. That devolution would enforce and empower local elites to use local resources as a political took, consolidating their hold on power through patronage, with little or zero checks from the central government.

Decentralization cannot therefore be an endogenous solution to a country's societal ills. Societal ills specific to Kenya are: political instability, conflict, inequalities, rent seeking (increasing ones share of wealth without creating any new sources of wealth), economic stagnation, corruption, and the inefficient use of public resources. Despite an acknowledgment of their existence, the emergent need to find a solution was highlighted during the 2007-2008 Post Election Violence which resulted in 1,133 casualties, at least 350,000 internally displaced person's (IDPs), approximately 2,000 refugees, a significant number of sexual violence victims, and the destruction of 117,707 private and public properties. As a response, and with external pressure from foreign countries a governing system of devolution was proposed, and has since been implemented in Kenya.

The mandate for the decentralization of power in Kenya has been laid out in the 2010 Kenyan Constitution, where power in two arms of government, the legislature and executive, is decentralized to forty seven (47) political and administrative counties, as provided for in Article 6. The expected effect of decentralizing power to 47 counties was that the distribution of authority would make it difficult for official actors to collude and engage in corrupt practices known to have a detrimental effect in fragile and plural societies.

However, outside from this general allure of devolution, we must ask what factors will ensure that the decentralization of power is effective and successful in correcting Kenya's societal ills. Good governance is guided by, and determined by the framework of checks and balances developed to support it. Both vertical and horizontal checks on balances are important. In a democratic government reflecting the ideas of Abraham Lincoln – a government of the people, by the people, for the people – a framework of checks and balances emanating from communities across Kenya is a necessity.

The success of devolution in Kenya lies in the ability and success communities have in holding their county governments accountable for the provision of good governance. To do this, an understanding of what good governance looks like and the steps that need to be taken to keep county governments accountable is needed. Communities must understand that it is their actions of questioning their leaders, and checking to ensure that resources are appropriately made use of, that will yield the kind of positive results expected from devolution. The reality of devolution and the success of devolution therefore lies in the hands of every human being fortunate to live in Kenya.

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The Death Of An ‘Ordinary Person’

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My friend Dorothy died while we were battling to save her. Her life since 2007 had been all about the trauma and resilience of being a victim of post-election violence — brutally gang-raped in Naivasha, followed by a life of poverty in Kisumu as an unrecognized IDP. She was HIV positive and brave enough to talk publicly about it. But Dorothy didn’t die because of that. Her story is probably familiar to thousands of abandoned post-election violence survivors. It will be told this time from the end, not from the beginning. Dorothy, 32, had been admitted to Kisumu District Hospital with a chest infection in August. When I visited her, her calm and charm had been taken over by a wide-eyed fear. She was almost unrecognizable — thin, prone and barely covered in the crowded female ward. The ward was full of acutely ill women — TB, Aids, malaria. Some were lying on the floor. I didn’t see any nursing done by nurses that day.

Relatives and friends did the best they could–cups of milk next to the beds, bowls for vomit, and half-empty bottles of water for cleaning up. The electrical wall sockets didn’t work; there was no water in any of the taps. We bought Dorothy a nightdress and underwear, towels and a pillow, water and milk, and lotion for her body and cracked lips. The swelling up her arm was stiff and shiny — like a hard liquid cushion. I was shown a few packets of injectable medicine next to her bed. Medication, it turned out, was a touch-and-go affair. No consistency There was no consistency in its monitoring or administration. Relatives seemed in fear of the hospital regime rather than reassured by it. They talked of corruption and neglect, with underpaid and under pressure medical staff taking a harsh and dismissive approach to the patients. Dorothy was sick, but clear-minded — she wanted people around her.

That day, the ICC victims’ lawyer Morris Anyah visited her. Dorothy had supported the ICC option since I first met her in 2009. Mr Anyah explained at her bedside that as a victim she would be represented at The Hague, listed as a number to ensure anonymity and protection. We felt nervous as we watched her watch him — nervous about how much the ICC understood about victim protection in Kenya, where politicians operate as a mafia, not as a government. Was Dorothy safe? Very possibly not, as she had been seen on film by millions. I first met her as an IDP in Kisumu when we were making the film Getting Justice: Kenya’s Deadly Game of Wait and See, which was shown on national television and in international film festivals. Dorothy was one of the key interviews in that film, along with Mary, a badly burnt survivor from the Kiambaa Church fire. While it was fitting now that justice had effectively come to Dorothy’s bedside, there was little to feel pleased about. Now was a time of fear and uncertainty, of vitriol and threats against witnesses and “traitors”. The pre-trial hearings of government kingpins were about to be heard in The Hague. Our fears for her, as it turned out, were not without foundation. When Case 2 kicked off in The Hague, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo referred to Dorothy’s case. He talked of a woman in Naivasha who was gang-raped by Mungiki and called “dog” — exactly what she had talked about in the film.

The matter was taken up with the ICC victims unit, and there were promises of help. But it quickly became clear Dorothy was not going to get any immediate protection. We sought the advice locally of those well versed in living under threat in Kenya. These were conversations you felt you shouldn’t even be having: is she a witness? Where does she live? Who’s looking after her? We moved Dorothy to a private wing and found an independent doctor whose empathy and efficiency guaranteed Dorothy’s immediate transfer. I sat in the back of a taxi with her, holding tissue to her bleeding hand where a nurse had unceremoniously pulled out the cannula: no dressing allowed. It was pure relief to reach a ward that was clean and orderly. We felt new hope. Over the next few weeks, Dorothy improved in health, comfort and outlook, although her condition remained precarious because of her HIV status. HIV is not, of course, a death sentence now. With retrovirals and good care, Dorothy still had more years, and a chance, surely, of a better life ahead. We saw the Dorothy we knew re-emerging, that amazing spirit of resilience and hope. She began talking again about going home. But although Dorothy’s health was improving, concerns about her security were not. Dorothy was now exposed in more ways than one. There were new worries about the impact of Case 2. Previously, political threats had focused on “traitor” witnesses in the Rift Valley and “traitor” activists in Central Province. But the dominant narrative had effectively “invisiblised” victims in Naivasha and Nakuru, with powerful apologists peddling the fact that the atrocities were necessary “revenge attacks”. The fact was, they were ordinary civilians, like Dorothy, who played no role in the violence at all.

They were raped or killed simply because of their ethnicity. Now, the ICC pre-trial hearing placed these attacks center stage in a case pitched against the most powerful men in Kenya.Perceived risks So it was decided that Dorothy should remain in the hospital for longer — but not too long. Keeping her in hospital exposed her to infections when her immunity was low and her condition weak. It was a balance of perceived risks. Dorothy’s carers and visitors were limited to a few known and trusted people. There was caution with phones, e-mails and personal contacts. Dorothy remained in the hospital during the ICC confirmation hearings and the week that the government suspects returned to Kenya. During this time, Dorothy’s health improved. By October 13, preparations were made to find her a house. I talked to Dorothy that day, and she was eager to go home — but also worried about a sudden onset of weakness and shaking. Then, early morning October 14, I was told she had taken a dramatic turn for the worse. She was indeed very ill. No more phone conversations with Dorothy. She rapidly developed a severe condition with diabetes and convulsions.

Her bedside was taken over then by people speaking in tongues, casting out the devil, and praying for her soul. I spent Monday and Tuesday with her. She asked me if she was going to die. There was a huge pile of pills next to her she had failed to stomach. But despite the seriousness of her condition, nursing care seemed to be receding rather than increasing. During those last few days, keeping up her glucose levels and medication was critical. Yet sometimes her drip was left out for hours at a time. And — even in the private wing — it was up to relatives and friends to nurse, feed, wash and clean her.

The night I spent there, a nurse came to Dorothy’s bedside just once. At 3 a.m. we needed help — but the nurses were locked in their station, sleeping. There were other worries. Like the way medication was treated as a form of currency rather than a necessity. And traditional herbs were given to her without any control or monitoring — traditional medicine can kill, said one doctor. How would you know if a patient had died from external concoctions? You wouldn’t, explained the doctor. Toxicologists can’t identify plants that haven’t been classified. And too risky to complain about poor medical care, otherwise you might not get any at all. “Better not rock the boat,” the doctor advised. Dorothy died late Wednesday night. Why? What did she die of? One of the last people she asked after was the Kiambaa survivor, Mary, who she met in an outdoor screening of Getting Justice in Naivasha 2010. (WATCH: Mary meets Dorothy) Shoulder to shoulder, the two survivors sat together in the cold and talked about their scars – visible and invisible. It reminded me that although Dorothy always referred to herself as “an ordinary person”, she was clearly not.

By her own account, she was illiterate and poorly educated, yet she was articulate and wise about subjects that are taboo for so many — rape, HIV, and forgiveness. It also reminded me that the fate of every — poor — citizen rests in the hands of their government. Dorothy had been failed at every turn in her life: in the 2007 election; in personal security; as an internally displaced person; as a person living with HIV; in restitution; as a victim of sexual violence; in loss of livelihood; in legal justice and human dignity; and finally, in a fatally corrupt and inefficient institution – the health service. But in death, she had taught me one last thing. I finally understood exactly what is meant by a “failing State”. Dorothy died of failure of State. Dorothy was buried on Saturday.

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Pre-Election Community Screenings

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Throughout the second week of February 2013, InformAction (IFA) hosted community screenings and discussions in Nyanza in areas that are craving access to civic education and empowerment. From 22nd to the 28th of February we covered areas in the north rift and western kenya, reaching communities in Jasho Malele, Makutana (in Eldama Ravine), Jua Kali (in Eldoret North), Kitale and Bungoma. The purpose of the screenings is to generate a knowledge and understanding of the issues tackled in the documentaries we screen and to give a voice to these people who are so often unheard by those who should be listening: their political leaders. Our first stop was Jasho Malele, a mostly Kikuyu-populated village located 12km from Eldoret and not far from Kiambaa church where almost 50 adults and children were burned to death during the 2007-2008 post-election violence (PEV).

Here, we held a screening of Disputed Fields. Narrated by former political prisoner and seasoned human rights defender Tirop Kitur, the documentary focuses on the contentious land issue in Kenya which has contributed to tension between tribes and was a major factor of the violence which savaged the nation during the PEV.Through brutally honest interviews with so-called outsiders and IDPs, the film aims to erode the idea of tribe verses tribe and poor verses poor, in the hope that the 2013 elections will not result in similar atrocities. As always, a dialogue was held after the screening. Led by IFA Director Maina Kiai, the discussion gave individuals the chance to speak their mind on the issues at hand, and the results were fascinating. There seemed to be a running plea for peace from those who spoke. While the years since the PEV has seen a relative calm fall over Kenya, what became obvious was that this calm is existing without the essential reconciliation which would prevent future outbreaks of violence and murder.

There remains a certain level of mistrust among the communities. Indeed, this was evidenced in the fact that the few Kalejins present watched from a distance, hesitant to engage. Were they afraid to speak their mind in this Kikuyu-heavy arena? We encountered a similar response in Makutano in Eldama Ravine, a small town 90km from Eldoret on the way to Nakuru County, where we once more screened Disputed Fields. Here, in addition to the cries for peace, there was a level of anxiety so high that it was almost palpable, as well as a hesitancy expressed by some to discuss the highly emotive and controversial land issue. Those who spoke of the 500+ sought help and questioned why they were being ignored by their politicians. What the IFA team found particularly interesting was that the locals are delaying ploughing their fields until after the elections, just in case there is a recurrence of violence. How can political leaders allow their people to live in such fear? A number of individuals did express their support of the alliance between Kenyatta/Ruto, because they believe their alliance decreases the tension and likelihood of violence between the Kikuyus and Kalenjins in the wake of the 2013 Presidential Elections.

In Jua Kali, IFA facilitated a live screening of round two of the 2013 Presidential Debate; having screened the first debate on February 10th in Chemelil. With the eight presidential candidates facing tough questions on employment, corruption and land-grabbing, it seemed to be Diba who emerged as a clear favorite of the 700+ in attendance, repeatedly attracting applause for his determination and resilience in insisting that his rivals actually answer the questions asked and address the issues and challenges that face Kenya. While he may not be the candidate that they would necessarily vote for come March 4th, he was certainly commended for his courage and effort during the debate; he demanded solutions while his fellow candidates concerned themselves with veiled attacks and vague responses.

Following the screening, members of the community conveyed how riveting it was to see their leaders firmly disciplined by strict and effective moderators; this being but the second time in history that they would have seen their leaders in such a situation. While it remains doubtful that the debate will actually effect how Kenyans vote this time around, it is certainly possible that the concept will allow for more fair and educated voting in future elections. Our next stop was Kitale, where over 600 locals joined us for a screening of Kesho Itakuja (Tomorrow Will Come), an informative documentary narrated by Maina Kiai, which focuses on victims, justice, and how the ICC process affects Kenya. It is essential for the community to see this in the week before the 2013 Elections, given the fact that Kenyatta and Ruto are both vying for political victory despite the charges of crimes against humanity that they currently face. What was special here was the profound desire of the community to be educated on the issues tackled in the film, given that the area is slightly removed from the prime arenas of the 2007-8 violence.

A venue was freely given to us--by a private citizen--for the purpose of screening the film, and over 600 people came to learn and divulge their own personal experiences. There were a substantial number who had been affected in some form or another, whether they had lost a loved one or been forced to flee to seek safety. Kesho Itakuja was also the film of choice at our final destination, Bongoma. The discussion here was perhaps more informative than anywhere else, with a lack of tension in the area meaning that the people spoke freely regardless of their tribal and political associations. Individuals admitted that they had been bribed by candidates seeking political power, offering Ksh. 25 per person in exchange for a vote on March 4th. We faced tough questions from an eager and courageous community. What can be done about politicians who visit areas promising change only to disappear until the next round of elections? How can we tackle the persisting problem of IDPs throughout Kenya? Can we effectively tackle impunity within the police force who have yet to be held accountable for violent behavior during the PEV? These are legitimate questions which must be answered before Kenya can expect to develop as a nation and truly move on from the catastrophe of 2007-2008.

There are problems which have plagued our history which must be addressed before we can grow. It was inspiring was that, following our various discussions, members of the community vowed to spread the word and amplify our message.PRE-ELECTION COMMUNITY SCREENINGS FEBRUARY 2013 From the 7th to the 13th of February, InformAction (IFA) hosted four community screenings and dialogues throughout Nyanza; in Kisii, Migori, Bondo and Chemelil. Since InformAction's inception, we have held community screenings in ethnically diverse communities in both urban and rural areas in an effort to increase awareness on major issues and to facilitate an educated discussion. Kesho Itakuja (Tomorrow Will Come) focuses on victims, justice and how the ICC process affects Kenya after the naming of the six suspects by the ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. Given the fast-approaching 2013 Presidential Elections,now is perhaps a more important time than ever for Kenyans to be fully knowledgeable on the affairs of the ICC, taking into account the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are vying for a political victory despite the charges for crimes against humanity that they face.

We spoke about elections, impunity and our responsibility as voters before March 4th. The documentary, hosted by IFA Director and internationally renowned human rights activist Maina Kiai, was screened in three of the towns; Kisii, Migori and Bondo. At Kisii, a city located in south-west Kenya, the main issue that was brought up in the post-screening discussion related to Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Forced to flee their homes to different areas within Kenya during the post-election crisis in pursuit of safety, these people often find themselves living in campsites or without shelter at all. They continue to be completely ignored by their Government and their political leaders.

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