Today, the world is celebrating the 74th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

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By George Biruri

In Kenya, we have had the painful experience of violation of human rights.

The colonial regime brutally violated the Kenyan people’s rights for over 70 years. The colonialists killed many people.Many were arbitrarily arrested, charged on flimsy grounds and jailed or detained. The people’s in Mt. Kenya region were forcefully gathered and put in enclosed villages that were surrounded by deep trenches which the Africans were forced to dig. Many women were raped by colonial police, soldiers and their collaborators. The colonial collaborators were notorious for abducting MAU MAU fighters wives and marrying them forcefully! The colonial regime violated the peoples land rights, by expropriating and dispossessing them off their land. They renamed the lands : ” White highlands!’ This violations forced Kenyans to take up arms and fight under the Kenya Land and Freedom Army, led by Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi.

Kenya gained her independence in 1963. However, the new Independent governments of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi  continued the colonial oppression of violating the political rights of their perceived rivals. The opposition leaders were arrested and jailed or detained. The government banned publications that they claimed were seditious. Meetings were strictly controlled and many times denied or violently dispersed by the dreaded General Service Units. In the Northern Kenya, the governments used the colonial emergency laws to oppress the people. Many were massacred.

The Inter-Parliamentary Political Parties Group (IPPG) narrowly opened the window of freedom when some draconian laws like the Chiefs Act, the Sedition and Detention without trial laws were repealed.

The space for rights and freedoms were widely opened after the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) came to power in 2002. The emergency laws were repealed. The ban on MAU MAU was lifted. And the people could talk and express themselves freely, without fear of intimidation or arrest.

Kenyans have continued to enjoy their rights and freedoms, especially of speech and expression. The Ruto government has tried to muzzle the opposition and others who disagree with them by trying unsuccessfully to control freedom of assembly, demonstration and picketing. Kenyans should not allow the Ruto regime to limit our rights and freedoms or take us back to the dark days of draconian laws and brutal oppression! Let us be vigilant and protect our rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

The writer is an enthusiastic political analyst in Kenya and also contributes to The Diaspora Times weekly newspaper.

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