Strategies and resistance of Human Rights activists in Kenya

This research focuses on the current situation of human right defenders and activists in Kenya. It goes back from to the Independency and the creation of the Republic of Kenya in 1963. It draws on participant observation and in depth interviews with activists of twelve different social movements. All of them took place in Nairobi, tough their activism was not circumscribed to the capital. The study discusses the tensions that these activists face by focusing their struggles on human rights in a continent in which what these mean is subject to debate. The non-full acceptancy of human rights tends to be sustained in two main ways: on the one hand, the concept of Human Rights, and the ways to develop it, are said to come from the Global North, without paying attention to cultural specific contexts, making it easy to interpret the whole frame as an Imperialist trap that aims at destroying non Western cultures. On the other hand, the government implies precisely the argument that Human Rights are not African to evade applying them. This, nonetheless, seems paradoxical in a country fully integrated in Capitalism -an economic system which is also not African. Nonetheless, these activists claim and show how Human Rights are contemplated in African Tradition, even if framed in other ways, as a way to ensure the harmony in their societies.From there, activist claim regret that both governmental and social stratum seems to have accepted the individualist aspects of economic rights and not the social and political rights. Thus, the conflict around human rights is not seen as a cultural one, but rather a strategy to maintain power in the same hands, leaving women and minorities (by origin, ethnic, sexual and abilities) out of the decision making processes.


Ruth Caravantes Vidriales . Tangaza University College of Nairobi (Kenya) .

This entry was posted in Paper and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.