“I Am My Brother’s Keeper”: The Politics Of Protecting .

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“I Am My Brother’s Keeper”: ThePolitics of Protecting Human RightsDefenders at Risk in KenyaIrina Elena IchimPhDUniversity of YorkPoliticsAugust, 2017

For my Mom2

“But you see, the history of the human rights movement in Kenya is ‘Iam my brother’s keeper’.” (Grassroots human rights defender)“And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, Iknow not: Am I my brother's keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)3

AbstractIn this study, I examine the protection of human rights defenders as a contemporary formof human rights practice in Kenya, within a broader socio-political and economic framework,that includes histories of activism in Kenya. By doing so, I seek to explore how the protectionregime, a globally defined set of norms and institutions increasingly located in the Global South,becomes embedded in a specific setting, and how it is used by relevant stakeholders. Conversely,by drawing on rich empirical data from a given context, I aim to nuance existing theoreticalthinking about protection, and to tease out the implications for the broader political andeconomic processes in which the protection regime is inscribed.By drawing on two years of ethnographic research in Kenya, I show that institutionalizedprotection as an extension of professional human rights can be counterproductive for the goals ofthe protection regime, but also for those of human rights more broadly conceived. Firstly,institutionalised protection entrenches pre-existing power relationships between professionalactivists and grassroots defenders across a class and socio-economic divide. Secondly, relevantactors at times resist this setting by appropriating the protection regime for purposes other thanthose it was intended for. Finally, the ensuing tensions risk eroding the human rights movementrather than strengthening it.This study provides a critique of recent processes of professionalization bycontextualizing them within wider histories of oppression and struggle. Additionally, it showshow economics, power and politics matter within locations (rather than just across theGlobal/South divide). In doing so, it provides a nuanced assessment of the protection regime asthe human rights movement’s primary response to reprisals against civic space across the globe.Finally, this study also adds to the growing body of scholarly work that investigates the effectsthat human rights and related norms and practices have in social life.4

List of ContentsAbstract .4List of Contents .5Preface and Acknowledgments .9Author’s Declaration . 14Chapter 1. Introduction . 151.1. Overview . 151.2. Background and Statement of the Problem . 161.2.1. Human Rights Defenders and the Protection Regime . 161.2.2. The Protection Regime in Kenya . 181.3. Preliminary Theoretical Observations. 201.4. Overview of Literature on Human Rights Defenders . 231.5. Research Questions . 231.6. Methodology, Case-study and Limitations . 241.7. Overview of Individual Chapters . 271.8. A Note on the Title . 30Chapter 2. Methodology and Ethics: (Beyond) the Field and Its Moral Conundrums . 322.1. Introduction . 322.2. A Brief Description of the Research Methods . 332.3. The Ethics of Research Decisions in the Field and Beyond . 372.3.1. Conducting Research “On the Threshold” . 372.3.2. Research and Power Relationships . 412.3.3. Understanding and Writing about the Gap Between Script and Practice . 442.3.3.1. The Potential Costs . 452.3.3.2. Incentives and Obligations in Writing about Bad Practice . 472.4. A Note on References to Empirical Material in Text. 502.5. Conclusion . 52Chapter 3. From Norms to Practice: Alternative Perspectives on Studying Defenders andthe Protection Regime . 543.1. Introduction . 543.2. Delineating a Field of Study: What is the “Literature on Human Rights Defenders”? . 553.3. The Protection Regime as Practice: Perspectives from Other Literatures . 593.3.1. From Normativity to Practice . 593.3.2. Vernacularisation and the Global/Local Problem . 613.3.3. Norms as Practice and Power Relationships .Error! Bookmark not defined.3.3.3.1. Institutions and Power .Error! Bookmark not defined.3.3.3.1. Structural Violence and Power.Error! Bookmark not defined.5

3.3.3.3. The Case for Power as Domination .3.3.4. The Practice of Norms and Agency . 713.4. Conclusion . 72Chapter 4. Continuities and Changes in Landscapes of Activism and Repression in Kenya. 744.1. Introduction . 744.2. Repression and Activism in Kenya: A Brief History . 784.2.1. Post-Independence to 1978: The Emergence of the Authoritarian State . 784.2.2. The Moi Era: Authoritarianism and the Emergence of Human Rights . 824.2.2.1. 1978 to 1989: Kenya’s Descent into Complete Authoritarianism . 824.2.2.2. 1989 to 2002: The Return to Multipartism and the New Violence . 864.2.3. Post-2002, the Illusion of Change, and the New Constraints on Activism . 914.2.4. The 2010 Constitution and the Protection of Human Rights . 984.3. Conclusion . 100Chapter 5. Revisiting the History of Activism in Kenya through a Class and SocioEconomic Lens. 1025.1. Introduction . 1025.2. The Professionalization of Human Rights: Preliminary Considerations from the Literature. 1045.3. The Professionalization of Human Rights in Kenya . 1075.3.1. KHRC’s Rise to Prominence . 1075.3.2. RPP’s Downfall . 1115.3.3. Donors, NGOs, and Professional Human Rights . 1145.4. Professional Human Rights and Implications for the Protection of Defenders. 1175.4.1. The Professionalisation of Protection as a Form of Human Rights Practice . 1175.4.2. Human Rights, Class and Power Relationships . 1215.4.2.1. The Professionals as the Gatekeepers . 1215.4.2.2. The Grassroots as the “Subaltern” . 1255.4.3. Deploying “The Grassroots”: The Launch of a Report on Defenders . 1305.5. Conclusion . 134Chapter 6. Capacity Building, (Dis)Empowerment and the Grassroots . 1376.1. Introduction . 1376.2. Capacity Building: Rationale and Critiques . 1406.3. The Capacity Building of Human Rights Defenders. 1426.3.1. A Brief Overview of HRD Capacity-Building Practices . 1426.3.2. Socio-Economic Issues, Subversion and Disempowerment. 1446.3.2.1. The Consensus on Capacity Building: The Donors and Protection Professionals. 1446.3.2.2. Power and Capacity Building as Expertise . 1496.3.2.3. Resisting the Consensus on Capacity Building: The Role of Material Rewards. 1536.3.2.4. Between Critique and Acquiescence: The New Subjectivities and Power . 1576

6.4. Conclusion . 160Chapter 7. Protection and Opportunism: The Grassroots as the Problem . 1627.1. Introduction . 1627.2. The “Heroic Victim” Paradigm: Virtue and Its Perils. 1657.2.1. Victimhood, Innocence, Agency: Some Preliminary Considerations . 1667.2.2. Defenders, Agency and Innocence: Problematizing the Perfect Victim . 1697.2.2.1. The Human Rights Defender Concept and Its Representational Forms. 1697.2.2.2. The Outcomes of Representational Forms for Protection . 1737.3. Protection Professionals and Their Resistance to Redistribution . 1757.3.1. Resistance to Redistribution Rationalised: The Grassroots as the Problem . 1757.3.2. The Effects of Non-Distribution: Trusteeship and Gatekeeping . 1797.4. Reframing Opportunism as Resistance . 1817.4.1. The Professionals in Grassroots Defenders’ Narratives . 1817.4.2. Opportunism as “Weapons of the Weak” and Protection. 1857.5. Conclusion . 187Chapter 8. Passionate Activism and Protection as a Professional Practice. 1898.1. Introduction . 1898.2. Passion and (Authentic) Activism: A Brief Review of the Literature . 1938.3. Professional Protection and Passion as Risk. 1958.3.1. The Genealogy of Passion as Risk: Early Activism and the International ProtectionRegime. 1958.3.2. Human Rights and the Effects of Passion as Risk: Political Violence and Civil andPolitical Rights. 1998.4. Grassroots Defenders and Passion as Poverty . 2048.4.1. The Genealogy and Claims of Passion as Poverty: Structural Violence and SocioEconomic Rights . 2048.4.2. Careerism vs. Calling: Passion as Poverty and Its Contradictions. 2108.5. Passionate Activism, Professional Protection and the Erosion of Solidarity . 2148.6. Conclusion . 219Chapter 9. The Protection Regime and the Future of Human Rights. 2219.1. Introduction . 2219.2. Contributions to the Literature and Practice on Defenders and Protection . 2229.2.1. Theoretical Contributions: The Constraints of Rigid Categorisations. 2229.2.2. Empirical Contributions: The Importance of History and Context. 2249.2.3. Methodological Contributions: The Importance (and Challenges) of Method . 2269.2.4. Contributions to Other Literatures: Scholarly Linkages Across Fields of Inquiry . 2299.3. Implications for the Protection of Defenders: Socio-Economic Issues and Empowerment. 2329.4. Broader Implications: Universal Human Rights and Its Effects as Power . 2349.5. Conclusion: The Protection Regime and the Future of Human Rights . 235List of References . 2397

List of Interviews Conducted . 2618

Preface and Acknowledgments“On 16 July 2006, a young man died in a district hospital in Narok, a dusty town on theroad to the Maasai Mara, Kenya's most frequently visited safari park. He was only thirty-eight,and the illness which killed him is treatable. But poor Africans, receiving only spasmodicmedical care, often die of ailments that would be beaten off in Western Europe. He left behind awidow and three children” (Wrong, 2010: 317).This is how Michela Wrong starts the Epilogue to It’s our turn to eat: the story of a KenyanWhistle-blower, her eloquent, gripping account of John Githongo’s investigations into the AngloLeasing corruption scandal, and of its repercussions. Based on interviews with Githongo over anumber of years, the book is a persuasive, beautifully written argument that Githongo’s moralconviction and strength of character were key factors in his decision to investigate the affair andrelease his findings, at tremendous risk to his life. However, Wrong is also careful to bringnuance in her analysis of his ability to mitigate that risk when it occurred in the wake of hisinvestigations. Born in London, but raised in Kenya for most of his life, in the upper middleclass neighbourhood of Karen, Githongo hailed from the family of an accountant whose clientsincluded the family of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, and who was a co-founder ofTransparency International. Schooled at the private Saint Mary’s in Nairobi, he later read for aBA in Economics and Philosophy at the University of Wales in Swansea, before he returned toNairobi where, among others, he wrote a weekly column for The EastAfrican, the most reputablenewspaper in the region, and headed the Kenya chapter of Transparency International for awhile. His background, charisma, reputation and connections were pivotal in his ability tomitigate the threats to his life that arose in the wake of his investigations. He first escaped toLondon, where he lived for a while with Michela Wrong herself, and then was offered, thoughPaul Collier’s intervention, a fellowship at Oxford’s Saint Anthony College for a duration ofthree years, where he laid low while waiting for things to calm down in Kenya, where hereturned in 2008 (Wrong, 2010).9

David Munyakei, by contrast, the subject of the first few pages in Michela Wrong’sepilogue from which I quote above, was born an illegitimate child, of a mother who worked atthe Langata women’s prison in Nairobi. In 1991, at 23, he got a job at the Kenya Central Bank,where he was soon moved to the pre-shipment compensation department. There, he would laterobserve irregularities in forms submitted for approval and payment by companies purporting toexport gold. With what Wrong calls a “stubborn mulishness” (2010: 317), Munyakeiphotocopied these forms, sneaked them out and leaked to them to the press in 1992. By doing so,he lifted the lid on one of the biggest corruption scandals in Kenya’s history, known as theGoldenberg scandal. A year later, Munyakei was sacked from his job at the Kenya Central Bank,and was refused a reference letter. This effectively cut off his possibilities for employmentelsewhere. At around the same time he also started receiving death threats. After a stint inMombasa, where he took up a new identity and married, he moved with his young familyupcountry, in Masaai land, where he struggled to live from one day to another and pay hischildren’s school fees. The Kibaki government’s establishment of the Goldenberg C

know not: Am I my brother's keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) 4 Abstract In this study, I examine the protection of human rights defenders as a contemporary form of human rights practice in Kenya, within a broader socio-political and economic framework, that includes histories of activism in Kenya. By doing so, I seek to explore how the protection regime, a globally defined set of norms and .

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