Documents on Democracy

Issue Date July 2013
Volume 24
Issue 3
Page Numbers 183-87
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Kenya

In the March 4 presidential election, Uhuru Kenyatta, deputy prime minister and son of Kenya’s first president, won 50.07 percent of the vote, edging out his competitor Raila Odinga and avoiding a runoff by 8,400 votes. Prior to the election, Kenyatta had been charged by the International Criminal Court for his role in the violence that followed Kenya’s 2007 elections. On April 9, he delivered his inaugural address, setting the agenda for his term. Excerpts appear below:

Today, I am humbled and honored to accept the mantle of leadership that the people of Kenya have bestowed on me. I will lead all Kenyans—those who voted for me and those who voted for our competitors—towards a national prosperity that is firmly rooted in a rich and abiding peace in which unity can ultimately be realized. Peace is not simply about the absence of violence. It is defined by the presence of fundamental liberties and the prevalence of economic opportunities. We will not settle for a perfunctory peace that is disrupted every five years by an election cycle. Rather, we are calling and working towards a permanent peace through which democracy is glorified rather than undermined—a peace that fosters unity.

Indeed, national unity will only be possible if we deal decisively with some of the issues that continue to hinder our progress. It will come through job creation. It will be founded on economic growth. It will be strengthened by a globally competitive education system: by the building of more schools across the nation and by ensuring that we have well thought-out curricula that prepare our children for the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

It will be upheld when all citizens are able to access affordable healthcare and protect themselves and their children from preventable diseases that still wage war on our populace. It will be strengthened through the promotion of public-private partnerships and through the [End Page 183] creation of a friendly and enabling environment for business. It will be reflected in our men and women working side by side as equals to move our country forward. It will be realized when we become a food-secure nation by investing in and modernizing the agricultural sector by equipping it with the relevant information and technology that it needs to grow.

It will be confirmed when the rights of all citizens are protected through legislation that upholds the spirit of our constitution; when women and young people are both seen and heard at the decision-making table, at national as well as devolved levels of government; when all communities in Kenya are confident that they have a government that listens to and addresses their needs. Achieving peace and strengthening unity will be the goal of my government. This work begins now. We welcome all Kenyans to hold us to account. . . .

My government will immediately begin the process of supporting devolution and enabling county leadership to carry out their constitutional mandate and fulfill the pledges they made to the Kenyan people. Let us be clear: supporting devolution is not a choice, as some claim it to be. It is a constitutional duty—one that I have sworn to uphold. . . . I urge all Kenyans to be persistent, pragmatic, patient, and non-partisan as we pursue the promise of devolved government. . . .

One of the biggest challenges to national unity is the feeling of exclusion in the decision-making process—hence, our desire and need for devolution. That notwithstanding, my commitment to Kenya is that our national government shall and will reflect the true face of Kenya with the clear understanding that as we bring decision making and services closer to the people, the integrity and solidarity that binds us as citizens of one nation must not only remain but must be strengthened. . . .

The time has come not to ask what community we come from but rather what dreams we share. The time has come not to ask what political party we belong to but rather what partnerships we can build. The time has come to ask not who we voted for but what future we are devoted to.

United Nations

On April 24, Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, presented his second annual report to the Human Rights Council. The report criticizes the tightening restrictions placed by some states on civil society organizations. Below are excerpts:

The ability to seek, secure and use resources is essential to the existence and effective operations of any association, no matter how small. The right to freedom of association not only includes the ability of individuals [End Page 184] or legal entities to form and join an association but also to seek, receive and use resources—human, material and financial—from domestic, foreign, and international sources. Legal frameworks and policies related to resources have a significant impact on the freedom of association; they can strengthen the effectiveness and facilitate the sustainability of associations or, alternatively, subjugate associations to a dependent and weak position. . . . Despite these clear legal obligations that not only call upon States to avoid placing restrictions, but also to facilitate access to funding, civil society actors are in too many instances subject to regulations put in place to control, rather than enable access to funding. . . .

In recent years, civil society actors have been facing increased control and undue restrictions in relation to funding they received, or allegedly received. Combined with the global financial crisis that has compelled some donors to reduce funding, this situation has, in many instances, led to a decline in the number of associations and a decrease in or readjustment of the activities of existing ones, or in worst cases, to the extinction of some associations. This problem is not isolated and exists in all parts of the world, usually as a result of undue restrictions occurring when an association: (a) seeks; (b) secures; or (c) uses financial resources; and these measures aim, in many cases, to silence the voices of dissent and critics. . . .

In recent years, the protection of State sovereignty or of the State’s traditional values against external interference has also been increasingly invoked to restrict foreign funding or to launch slander offensives against those receiving foreign funding. Foreign funding to civil society has been deliberately depicted as a new form of imperialism or neocolonialism and recipients have been subject to defamation, stigmatization and acts of harassment. This tendency has a serious impact on the work of civil society actors, not to mention their ability to access funding, as it deters them from seeking foreign funding. This situation is particularly alarming for associations promoting human rights and democratic reforms who have been accused of “treason” or of “promoting regime change.”. . .

It is paradoxical that some of the States stigmatizing foreign-funded associations in their own countries are receiving foreign funding themselves (in the form of loans, financing or development assistance), often in substantially greater amounts than that flowing to CSOs in their country. Others are the very same States providing funding to associations abroad, while rejecting foreign funding for associations in their own countries. But what is clear is that these new trends have a dramatic effect on civil society, as they have not only resulted in restrictions to the enjoyment of freedom of association, but also led to further human rights violations. . . .

In addition to the fact that justification on the grounds of State sovereignty [End Page 185] violates international norms and standards related to freedom of association, the Special Rapporteur is extremely concerned about increased denigration and unfounded accusations against individuals and organizations receiving foreign funding. . . . Allowing or inciting public discredit on individuals’ or organizations’ honour and reputation or inciting nationalist and xenophobic sentiment is likely to cause associations to engage in self-censorship and, more gravely, to incite hatred and fuel further human rights violations.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur is concerned that in most cases, States which restrict or stigmatize foreign funding under the guise of preservation of sovereignty are also those which limit access to domestic funding or which subject associations to discriminatory treatment due to the thematic area they focus on. Where domestic funding is scarce or unduly restricted, it is critical for associations to be free to rely on foreign assistance in order to carry out their activities. . . .

In relation to freedom of association, the Special Rapporteur calls upon States:

Cuba

On 22 July 2012, Cuban democracy advocate Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, along with youth activist Harold Cepero, died in a suspicious car crash that many have blamed on the Cuban government. On April 9, the National Endowment for Democracy hosted an event entitled, “Democracy and Human Rights in Cuba: The Legacy of Oswaldo Payá Sardi~nas.” During the event, Payá’s daughter Rosa María criticized [End Page 186] the Cuban government’s token reforms, called for a referendum on human rights, and demanded an investigation into her father’s death, which she called no accident. Lightly edited excerpts from her statement appear below:

My father Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero dedicated their lives to the fight for democracy in Cuba. They were working on effective and peaceful alternatives—instruments that could be implemented during the transition process. They strongly denounced the fraudulent change taking place on the island. . . .

The fraudulent change is this big process in which the Cuban government and its accomplices have developed a series of legal reforms and public messages designed to preserve its power and authority. It is trying to sell to the international community a false impression that it is opening up the country, yet its violent aggression against opposition members and their families has increased. . . .

Economic reform by itself, without the recognition of rights, does not bring democracy. . . . There are enough Russias and Chinas in the world. We do not want this future for our nation. We want to participate in the design of our future. . . .

Cubans have enough resources, capacity, and imagination to build a prosperous nation but they need the human-rights protections to be able to do it. My country does not have to depend on Venezuela or any other powerful sponsor. What we need is democracy.

The Cuban people have a proposal to obtain it. More than 25,000 Cubans have for ten years been demanding a referendum to ask the people if they want rights, free expression, free association, freedom for political prisoners, freedom to open their own businesses, and free elections. But the Cuban government violates its own constitution and ignores the call of the people. . . .

We are looking for a real transition to democracy and we are working for a reconciliation process to guarantee that this process be peaceful and beneficial to all. But this cannot be built on the forced oblivion of the past. We must start with forgiveness and the necessary recognition of the whole truth.

We have confirmed facts that indicate that my father and my dear friend did not die as a consequence of an accident. We have already published text messages from the survivors that say that another car hit them from behind. I have already seen the young man who was driving and he confirmed to us that it was not accidental. We are calling for an international investigation because we have the right to know the truth, but also because we have to prevent similar tragedies from happening again. . . .

It is time for a referendum. It is time for the truth. It is time for democracy. It is time for liberation. [End Page 187]