The Human Rights Index research began in July 2021 and this study set out to underscore, and reveal the true state of observance of human rights in the region with focusing on four countries i.e. Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. The findings on the state of human rights observance in these four countries is expected to play a critical role in informing and enriching the work of various stakeholders involved in human rights advocacy and defense, lobbying and policy making on effective measures, policies and strategies required to transform the state of human rights regime in their respective countries. Data collection was done in these countries and ended in August 2021. Data analysis commenced in September, with validation meetings taking place thereafter.
Focus Group Discussion in Kenya.
Focus Group Discussions on Human Rights indexes in Kenya were held in Mombasa and Nairobi on 27th July and 1st September respectively. The Mombasa FGD covered the understanding of participants’ human rights observance in Kenya and particularly in the coastal counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, and Tana River is concerned. Participants of the FGD were from different stakeholder units in human rights practice either as government officials, political aspirants, faith leaders, human rights advocates/defenders, women and youth representatives, peace practitioners, public officials, community leaders etc.
Major issues that emerged from the discourse in Mombasa were the effects of state violence on human rights observance, effects of covid-19 pandemic on development, the need for equitable national development, the impacts of violent extremism and drug abuse in the country. In Nairobi, issues that emerged from the discussion included the state of human rights protection, distribution of resources, state of IDPs, and media freedom and access of information in the country.
Focus Group Discussion in Ethiopia
The Human Rights Indexes Focus Group Discussion (FGD) was conducted on 10th July from 9:30am – 12:30pm. The discussion was graced with a total of 12 participants whose profile included government officials, religious leaders, social workers, teachers, lawyers and from the creative industry. The main agenda of the FGD was to understand to what extent the citizens enjoy rights and freedoms in the country. Considering that the country had its elections in June, 2020, it was a good opportunity to hear from the citizens on their views of the elections.
From the discussions, the respondents acknowledged that the right to live and movement is well respected. However the political atmosphere has affected the right to dignity, speech and religion. Since the state and religion were merged in the past, and later separated, there is no clarity on the implementation of rights of religion thus one has to follow the major religions in the country. The access to information was mentioned as a big challenge since citizens do not know what is happening around them. What came out clearly was that women’s rights are being enjoyed and that there is empowerment regarding the same. The Prime Minister having given women 30% of seats in parliament they can now be elected and get well involved in social and political issues, but awareness still needs to be done for women to be acknowledged in all sectors and different hierarchy systems. From this FGD, participants agreed that the state of human rights observance in Ethiopia has improved remarkably, especially after transition of power that brought Abiy Ahmed to power as the country’s Prime Minister.
Focus Group Discussion in Uganda
Having gathered data from 150 respondents in Uganda, the next step for CRTP was to hold a focus group discussion which was done on 25th August 2021. It targeted 15 respondents and all invited participants turned up for the discussion. They were members from civil society, religious, political, Media, Governmental sectors and the general public. The main objective was to gather information on the status of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in Uganda. The focus group discussion discussed the human rights situation in Uganda with the aim of devising measures to resolve the challenges identified while leveraging on the opportunities discovered.
Respondents highlighted that women’s rights were violated especially during the election period where they were denied to contest for some positions thus ending up not participating. When it came to cases of media and information access there has been infringement. Journalists are also often mistreated and brutalized in the course of duty. In short, the key issues that came out of the discussion was that the outlook of human rights observance in Uganda both historically and presently is by all standards weak. Factors contributing to this include the arrest of opposition members and supporters, abuses by security officers and the curtailment of the freedom of expression and assembly. At the end of the discussion, participants requested for more dialogues, discussions and sensitization meetings about human rights.
Focus Group Discussion in Burundi
Burundi recently emerged from the heavy handed dictatorship of Pierre Nkurunziza’s government that had curtailed political freedoms of majority of dissenting groups across the country. The post-2015 atmosphere that followed the attempted coup led to a tighter political space. Freedom of the press and that of individual citizens to hold government accountable was completely decimated. However, with the transition to the new government of President Evariste Ndayishimiye, circumstances are more optimistic. CRTP therefore held a Focus Group Discussion on 5th August 2021 and conducted several KIIs on 6th August 2021. The purpose of the meeting was to find out the state of human rights in the country, how free and fair their elections are, the state of media freedom and access to information among others.
According to the discussion, it was clear that during elections, there is no transparency which suggests that elections are not free and fair. During the election period, there are reports of massive human rights violations. Participants indicated that political parties are not treated equally to the extent that some are not allowed to organize meetings. On media freedom, participants consistently said that journalists publish news that are only approved by the government which shows that there is no media freedom. The government also does not punish people who ae involved in corruption issues and therefore there are high levels of corruption levels in the country.
Data Validation in Kenya (Mombasa and Nairobi)
In compliance with our institutional research procedures and as expressed in the project schedule, we successfully engaged relevant actors in human rights advocacy and defense, and policymaking across the country in two data validation exercises in October, 2021. Key on our agenda was an urge to obtain a legitimate assessment, valuable input, and feedback on the outcome of our study. We also sought to collect the participants’ views on the areas that our research, which focuses on the evaluation of the status of human rights observance in the country, needed to cover. Contributors during the two events also shared focal areas that actors engaged or seeking to engage in human rights work need to focus on. Emerging issues from the conversations included the need to address socioeconomic inequality and worsening living standards for ordinary people across the country. A rapidly worsening human security environment, coupled with increased police violence and violent extremism, also featured as significant concerns among other issues.
Data validation commenced at the Coast on the 6th of October 2021. Participants included actors in human rights work across the Coast region, drawn from most of the Coastal counties, including Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Lamu. The participants mirrored a diversity of organisations/partners in Human Rights advocacy, including MUHURI, Haki Afrika, Haki Yetu, the Kenya Red Cross Society, IGAD, and representatives from both National and County governments, etc. We also conducted a similar exercise in Nairobi on the 18th of October 2021, hosted at Hekima University College; the validation meeting in Nairobi brought together a plethora of players in human rights work, both across the country and within the county. Key groups represented included the Social Justice Centres, Lang’ata Legal Aid Centre, Journalists, Representatives of Women Networks/Groups, Persons with Disability, Faith Leaders, Haki Afrika, and representatives of National Government. Both exercises were successful and vital in enhancing the quality of our report.
We look forward to furthering engagement and partnership with the stakeholders represented during the exercises, especially in human rights advocacy and other matters of mutual concern.