Updates – #JusticeForLiz

Many thanks for all the support, the love, the solidarity and outrage for #JusticeForLiz. Unbelievable how far a petition that had an initial target of 1000 could go – now at 1.3 million and counting.

This story has gone global – with vast media coverage from Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC, RFI, AFP, Reuters, and numerous other media platforms#JusticeForLiz has also trended globally. (Media Coverage Mapping)

Yesterday, we managed to mobilize at least 500 people including 100 FEMNET members – African women from across the continent –  to come to the streets to say “Enough is Enough” to demand Justice, Dignity and Respect – for Liz and all other survivors and victims of violence.

We presented the 1.3million+ petition to the Office of the Inspector General, along with a list of our key demands.  Although the Inspector General wasn’t there to receive us himself, the Chief of Staff received us, took his time, answered our questions and asked us to come back today for a private meeting.

The way we were received today – starting at the gate (with soldiers greetings us warmly with smiles, telling us “you’re the ones from yesterday!” and introducing themselves to us, taking us to the office) – the Chief of Staff and his fellow officers taking over 2 hours to sit down and discuss our concerns and demands and to be able to come up with a number of immediate and long-term strategies including; revising the police curriculum and service standards to ensure gender sensitivity across the board,  guidelines on how to handle gender crimes and the establishment of gender response units.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has also referred this case to the National Council for Administrative Justice, top-level oversight body which brings together the judiciary, the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General.

We’ll be following this up – we will not stop until there is a precedent set with this case and due diligence is followed through and Liz’s case becomes a turning point for the way such crimes are handled, in Kenya and across the region.

The culture of violence, impunity and lack of accountability must come to an end.

Are “Women’s Rights” Dirty Words?

I was talking to someone about what I do.  I told him I work for a women’s rights organization. He raised his hands and backed away. We began to discuss why.  He told me he has nothing against “women’s rights” but that sometimes we go overboard. We should take it slow, and go with culture.

But culture is dynamic I told him. It’s not static. Culture is learned, and so it can be unlearned.

You may have heard of Liz, a 16 year old who was gang-raped on her way back from her grandfather’s funeral in Busia, Kenya. She was dumped in a pit latrine. She is wheel-chair bound and has the worst case of fistula, a condition that doesn’t allow her to control her urine and feces. Though she recognized three of her rapists and reported to the police, the police caught them, ‘punished’ them by ordering them to cut grass and then let them go. A campaign to get #JusticeForLiz has been launched – to address the wider issues of patriarchy, impunity, lack of public accountability and the culture of violence that permeates. Please sign the petition and engage in the conversations. Liz is one case – there are countless more like her.

I see my world – and among all the beauty, I do see ugly. I see a culture of violence, a culture of impunity, a culture of disrespect, a culture of absolute injustice. So my question is, do we wait for culture to catch up or do we do whatever we can to make sure that the culture our kids and their kids grow up is a culture that encourages integrity, accountability, respect and justice that allows people to live dignified lives?

At the end of the day, I think we all want respect and we all want dignity. That’s it. And my struggle for women’s rights is to do that.

If this is crossing the line, then yes, watch out – we are crossing lines.

My Take: Africa & the ICC

The African Union had a special session this weekend to discuss Africa’s stance on the ICC, with a possible withdrawal on the table. Although the withdrawal wasn’t agreed upon by all parties, the resolution that emerged stated that 1) Uhuru should not honor his appointment at the ICC and that 2) Sitting heads of state and those in acting capacities should be immune from any indictment amongst other points. Although this resolution is not legally binding, it does have political implications.

The argument for the second point is that Europe has provisions for immunity of its sitting heads of state – so why not the same in Africa? When are we going to stop comparing ourselves to others? If others have backward policies, must we adopt the same? Why do we continue to set the bar low for ourselves? Do we not, as Africans deserve better? Do we not deserve the highest standards possible? Do African citizens not deserve not just rulers but leaders who not only preach but practice integrity? Leaders who truly lead and are transparent and accountable to their people? Not simply because it is a donor requirement, or isn’t but just because that’s the least we deserve?

I hear the complaints that most of the cases being investigated by the ICC are from Africa. Yes, I understand that the US and others should also be held accountable for their crimes and pressured to sign on to the treaty. However, I am very disappointed with the African Union. First of all, why waste money convening a special session to discuss this? Second, while the African Union protects and pushes for the interests of the heads of state – who may or may not deserve to occupy their seats, who stands for the interests of the African citizenry??

We must also remember that at least 20 African signed on to the Rome Statute which brought the ICC into existence. Additionally, we have Africans at the highest level of judges and the Chief Prosecutor is an African woman.

If Uhuru and co are innocent, then why are they worried? Why not prove their innocence in court? Second, the argument that is being shared by the Uhuru government, that there is no other country who’s sitting president is being tried is nonsense. The ICC indictment happened before Uhuru was elected to presidency. As a leader of integrity, he should’ve sat this election out (whether or not he was innocent), cleared his name (if he is) and then come back to run at the next opportunity. Kenyans should not have voted in someone who is wanted on the international scale. Although he claimed ‘it was a personal challenge’ it is no longer personal when public funds are used to fund trips for him and his entourage to the Hague.

Plus, I don’t know if anyone can explain to me why we excuse our sitting presidents? Why is that if a ‘leader’ has abused his or her power that we don’t have the power to hold them accountable – while they’re in power and not wait until they no longer sit on their thrones?! Why do we want immunity for individuals who commit grave and war crimes?? Why would we still want those kind of individuals ‘leading’ our people? I ask again –  do we not deserve better?

If we are to move forward, we must think paradigm shift. We must think revolutionary. We must think transformative. Isn’t that what Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance and Agenda 2063 are meant to be about? Are all of these delusions? Can the next generation not expect anything different? Will we continue on the trajectory that we have been on for the past 50 years?

I feel this is a ploy by our ‘leaders’ to once again not be held accountable for their actions. Yes, I do agree – ICC should be a last resort. That doesn’t excuse us from pulling out. We must strengthen our indigenous, internal, national, sub-regional and regional courts – such as the African Court – which has only been ratified by less than 10 of our nations, limiting its effectiveness. So the message that we’re getting is that our heads of state don’t want to be held accountable – at any level – either at the international, the regional or national levels.

Well, true leadership is about scrutinizing yourself – making sure that you adhere to and listen to the calls of your people, you don’t flaunt your power and you don’t break your commitments, that you respect and uphold the rights of others. If this is not the case, then you shouldn’t be leading.

Gado’s cartoons on the ICC say much more than I can. In any case,  either step up or step down.

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