Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Discrimination must stop at the bottom and top.

The theme for this years International Human Rights Day is Speak Up....Stop Discrimination.

Well if discrimination has to stop it has to start at the bottom. In our offices, homes, villages, social clubs, village barazas, matatus, planes, the list is endless. In addition we must also address discrimination by the state. This approach is well captured by Article 27 (3) and (4) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

In the past more effort has been directed towards addressing discrimination by the state. The government was active in violation human rights. State machinery was used as a tool to oppress and suppress the voice of reason. Torture by the state was the order of the day. Tribalism and nepotism was allowed. Corruption gained popularity.

Article 22 of the Constitution allows individuals to take a case in court if their fundamental rights are or likely to be violated. The article also allows the court to listen to cases where informal documents are presented eg letters. This moves away from the procedural requirement of using pleadings only. It accommodates the illiterate.  Article 23 allows parliament to make a law to give subordinate (read magistrates) courts power to listen to cases on enforcement of fundamental rights. In the past this power was only given to the High Court.

The letter and spirit of the constitution is that rights should be realised at the lowest level of society. Individuals should be to speak up. If we fail to realise this, i believe human rights advocacy in Kenya will be less effective. We must tell both individuals and the state to Stop Discrimination.

Partly, i say this because i am looking for placement to further my training as an advocate. A friend warned me that i should never apply in certain offices since they are obviously biased. I casually ignored since i believe i can work any where and any time and i am the best at what i do. Latter a friend narrated how he had been frustrated by the obvious discrimination as he looked for the same opportunity.

That is why i dare say that if individuals do not stop discrimination, the state wont either. The state is not run by animals or robots, it is run by individuals. Discrimination by the state is perpetuated by individuals.

Good people stop discrimination.