Governance Assessment
Kenya: January 2013 – July 2016

This special Freedom House report focuses on political developments in Kenya beginning in 2013 – when the country held its first general elections under a new Constitution that was designed to improve protection of basic rights, constrain executive power, and devolve some powers to newly created country governments.

Key Findings

  • Civic Space: Protections for civil society, the media, and individual rights exist and are taken seriously but the watchdog role of CSOs has led to tensions between them and government. Political and bureaucratic corruption and regular state overreach prevent the full promise of Kenya’s legal and institutional framework from being realized. Remedial action to rebuild the credibility of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is needed.
  • Security and Human Rights: Persistent and serious abuses by security forces impair Kenya’s democracy. Despite constitutional and other legal safeguards against violence and ill treatment, civilians experience regular hostility from state authorities, most frequently the police. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the Commission on Administrative Justice have been successful in highlighting human rights abuses, but lack the prosecutorial powers necessary to curtail them.
  • Rule of Law and Independence of the Judiciary: Kenya’s Judiciary is robust and has made strides toward greater independence, effectiveness, and fairness in recent years. The courts have been a critical defender of civil rights, blocking implementation of repressive legislation and ruling in favor of individuals and CSOs in their disputes with the government. However, high court fees and allegations of corruption within the judiciary undermine judicial independence and effectiveness. Executive interference in the judiciary also remains a challenge. The executive routinely disregards binding court orders.
  • Corruption and Accountability: Kenya continues to struggle with significant political and bureaucratic corruption. Scandals involving embezzlement, misallocation of funds, and distribution of patronage have implicated elected officials, cabinet secretaries, the tax authorities, and other state agents. The chair of the EACC revealed in early 2016 that up to one-third of the annual budget is lost to corruption. Whistleblowers, anti-corruption activists, and investigators lack necessary protections.