In its deliberate engagement with residents and stakeholders on petty offences in Kenya, International Commission of Jurists –Kenyan section (ICJ Kenya) took its decriminalization and reclassification of petty offences campaign to Kisumu.
Radio Nam Lolwe hosted ICJ Kenya’s Human Rights Programme Manager, Edigah Kavulavu and Moses Okinyi—the Communications Officer to a dialogue on decriminalization and re-classification of petty offences. The live radio call in show was held on Saturday 17th March 2018 at radio Nam Lolwe studios in Kisumu.
During the live radio interview the two ICJ Kenya officials expressed concern over the continued enforcement of laws that criminalize petty offences in Kenya and which has over the years provided a basis for gross violation of the human rights of poor and vulnerable populations especially those in cities and major urban centers of Kenya.
Mr. Kavulavu expressed concerns that these violations have continued unabated even after the promulgation of a progressive and rights based Constitution of Kenya 2010. He also informed listeners of the high number of the poor, vulnerable and minority groups such as hawkers, touts, sex workers and street families who face arrest, pretrial detention and punishment through exorbitant fines and sometimes jail terms, extortion, and violence meted out mainly by law enforcement agents of the National Police Service and County Government Enforcement Officers commonly known as askaris.
“As ICJ Kenya, we believe that certain laws that hinge on petty offences should be outlawed and that we work towards legislating on better constructive laws that will push this nation forward,” Kavulavu added.
Mr. Okinyi further informed listeners that ICJ Kenya has been at the forefront of this national campaign for decriminalization and reclassification of petty offences, as a lasting solution to address the plight of vulnerable groups and minimize resulting human rights violations from the enforcement of these laws and that ICJ Kenya works hand in hand with all the duty bearers concerned including the national and county governments, County Assemblies Parliament and the Judiciary to review laws that infringe on the rights of citizens.
During the dialogue, it was evident from the calls that there are many county by laws that victimize and target poor citizens. One caller raised concern over being arrested for loitering saying that it’s an offence which should never be in existence and one that has led to an increase in corruption and receipt of bribes by the police and county askaris.
Notably from the show was the fate of hawkers, drunkards and mostly poor petty offenders and the stark difference in the way the wealthy are handled when arrested. A hawker who deals in tomatoes, for example, will even have the product that they are selling snatched from them besides being beaten by the County Council askaris, their wares confiscated and slapped with huge fines not equal with their offence.
The radio show is part of a series of many that is one of ICJ Kenya’s strategic fo
cus in the campaign for decriminalization of petty offences this year which is meant to maximize the use of media as a platform to increase visibility, generate more interest and support and influence action by stakeholders.
This is all aimed at enhancing awareness amongst members of the public on the prospect of the petty offences campaign, existing gaps in legislation, resulting human rights violations arising from their continued enforcement and legal protections from such human right violations.
“There is so much we have done. We want to do more,” noted Kavulavu.