, NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 5 – The US Senate has banned any funding or training to units of the Kenyan military and police found to have been involved in human rights abuses in Mount Elgon in March 2008.
The Senate has also directed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to also consider similar bans for other units of security forces in Kenya which have violated human rights in operations carried out in Garissa, Wajir and Mandera between November 2011 and January 2012; and in Dadaab in December 2011.
The directive is contained in the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill 2013 that has been seen by Capital FM News.
“The Committee directs the Secretary of State to take steps to ensure that no United States training, equipment, or other assistance is provided to any Kenyan military or police personnel who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights in Kenya,” the Committee on Appropriations wrote in the report dated May 24, 2012.
The report tabled in the US Senate contains appropriations for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013.
The Secretary of State is now required to 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.
The Kenyan military and some units of the police force were accused of having violated rights of innocent Kenyans during an operation to flush out members of the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) in Mt Elgon in 2008, resulting in the killings of an estimated 750 people and disappearance of hundreds more.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that up to 300 people or more are still missing to date.
In March 13, 2012, HRW wrote to Kenya’s Defence Minister Yusuf Haji seeking answers on letters it had written to the ministry previously over violations meted on innocent people in Mt Elgon and latest ones in Northern Kenya during the ongoing ‘Operation Linda Nchi.’
“I would also like to request further information pursuant to our letter of November 18. That letter raised concerns about possible violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Kenyan armed forces during three incidents connected to Operation Linda Nchi,” HRW said in its letter dated March 13 addressed to Haji.
The letter signed by Leslie Lefkow, HRW’s Deputy Director of Africa Division also states that it is in the process of documenting abuses by both the military and Al Shabaab members and their sympathisers both at the Northern part of Kenya and inside Somalia.
It also has annexes of some of the documentations so far but to date, the Ministry of Defence has not replied to HRW’s letter.
HRW has however, welcomed the latest development by the US Senate banning any further funding or support to units in the Kenya military and police found to have participated in the abuses on citizens.
“The US Senate decision to ban funding and training to military and police personnel that took part in recent abuses in North Eastern Province is a step forward for accountability in Kenya,” said Neela Ghoshal, East Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“It will put pressure on the Kenyan military and police to uphold their promises to investigate abuses. For the women we interviewed who were raped or assaulted by police in Dadaab in December; for the elderly men forced to roll in the road in Wajir while being beaten by the KDF, for the children who were beaten by soldiers in Garissa and Mandera, this may provide a glimmer of hope,” she added.
Military Spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir when reached for comment said, “We were not given a chance to respond to the Human Rights Watch report. The whole thing was written and documented without us being given a chance.”
“And as for the US senate report, we will issue a comprehensive response once we study it.”
Earlier this year, the Department of Defence formed a board of inquiry into abuses reported in Garissa, Wajir and Mandera but little has been heard of its outcome, if any.