Civil Society Groups Advocating for Enforcement of Human Rights and Peace in Mathare Informal Settlement
04 October 2021
Residents grappling with Police brutality, effects of COVID!( Pandemic, and tensions ahead of 2022 elections
Civil Society Groups Advocating for Human Rights and Peace in Mathare Informal Settlements
‘Sometimes it feels like being a youth, with dreadlocks and living in the slums is a crime’ said Paul Irungu, a member of the Mathare Social Justice Center. He was describing the situation that most youth in the informal settlements have to deal with, when found by the police..
“We have been profiled, and termed criminals, so whenever an incident occurs, we are the first ones to be picked up and charged with crimes that we have not committed” he added.
Irungu was among members of the Mathare Social Justice Center, who met with the UN Resident Coordinator Dr. Stephen Jackson and the Senior Human Rights Advisor at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Li Fung, on a familiarization visit to Mathare. It is one of the oldest informal settlements in Kenya, with a population estimated at about 500,000 people.
With a network of 19 Social Justice Centers across the country, the members have been advocating for their rights, documenting cases of extra judicial killings enforced disappearance and police brutality as well as advocating for residents to speak up and stand up for their rights.
“Sometimes we speak up as human rights advocates, but instead we become targets. We have friends who have been killed for speaking up and advocating for human rights.”
According to Missing Voices data, January to April 2021, 25 people were killed by police, majority of victims were young men.
After hearing the stories told by the Human rights activitist, the UN Resident Coordinator, sought audience with the Nairobi Deputy County Commissioner, Mathew Wambugu and the Officer Commanding Huruma Station, Mr. Njeru. They both acknowledged that there are afew rogue police officers, who take matters into their own hands, and called on residents to establish networks that can encourage them to speak up and report such incidents. The OCS has often sought dialogue with communities, in a bid to build confidence among residents that they can always reach out and report cases.
“Sometimes I remove my uniform, and go to meet the residents, to show that we are a friendly service, that has been spoilt by afew rogue officers, that we are determined to weed out” said OCS Njeru.
There have been efforts over many years to enhance accountability for human rights violations committed by police officers; however, progress in terms of successful prosecutions remains slow.
COVID 19 also adversely affected people in the informal settlement the most. With the lockdowns, most small scale traders were not able to buy or sell their wares, living most of the residents to stay in the houses, This compounded the problem and caused flair up at home that often degenerated to gender based violence.
The Defenders Coalition mobilized members in its network to support their communities by regularly feeding up to 600 vulnerable families during the pandemic.They also worked towards enhancing their skills in implementing essential measures to try to limit the spread of virus and provide human rights defenders personal protection equipment, including facemasks and gloves, for their safety when conducting outreach work
Residents of Informal settlements also know that they become targets during elections. The youth are often
Through organizations such as Footprint for Change and Mathare Peace Initiatives, young people are coming out strong to encourage peaceful coexistence and end to violence during elections. The organizations aew providing mentorship programs and equipping young people in the community to be self reliant so that they are not paid little money that would cause th
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