We have failed our fellow citizens
The late Prof. Wangari Maathai once said; “Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect.” Today, Kenyans are challenged to fight for the Right to Adequate Food for all, with an estimated 3.5 million people facing severe food crisis and 11 people having died due to starvation according to reports by the media.
The inclusion of the Right to Food in the Kenyan Constitution remains one of its biggest gains, yet its realization seems far, 12 years after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. The Constitution’s text explicitly expresses this right under Article 43 1 (c): “every person has a right to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality.”
The Right to Food provision places upon the state – the government and all its agencies- the obligation to:
- respect existing access to adequate food by its citizens.
- protect its citizens from any negative impact on their Right to Food by third parties (institutions, businesses or individuals).
- fulfil or facilitate by pro-actively engaging in activities intended to strengthen people’s access to and utilisation of resources and means to ensure their livelihood, including food security.
As Civil society, we are concerned that 12 years later, Kenya has not enacted a law that would operationalize the Right to Food. Kenyans should not rule out the possibility that the delay to enact this legislation is intentionally designed to maintain the status quo where the government and its officials are not held responsible in situations like what we are experiencing today and other forms of violations.
As Civil Society, here present, we are happy to support in spearheading a national framework law on the Right to Food, that way, the government can be held accountable for the chronic hunger in the country.
On September, 8 2021, HE President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the ongoing drought a national disaster. He further announced that his government had allocated 2 billion Kenyan shillings to address the hunger crisis caused by the drought. However, further statements by the government on the drought issue, including the latest update by the government spokesperson, Col. (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna were devoid of clarity on how the government is supporting Kenyans in need of food.
Therefore, we, the undersigned organisations, advocate for the realisation of the Right to Food as espoused in the Constitution of Kenya, demand that:
- The government provides a detailed report on its interventions (shared publicly) – the severity of the situation, including a clear report/clarification on the report about possible deaths due to the hunger situation in the ASAL areas should be explained to all Kenyans. The number of people reached so far with government interventions should be made clear, and what measures have been put in place to avert further suffering of these honourable citizens of this country. This is the government’s responsibility to provide adequate information on use of public resources and the management of national disasters.
- The government should take practical steps to avert any further deaths from now onwards. Through ministries and state agencies involved, we remind the current government that they have not made adequate investments until the situation is averted, or until they have used the last coin of public resources to address the hunger crisis.
- That the government and National Assembly prioritize the development, enactment and rollout of a right to adequate food bill with the requisite policies, accountability and redress mechanisms, institutional arrangements, and resources. The process should be governed by human rights principles of participation, transparency, equity and inclusion of all relevant stakeholders.
We urge Kenyans to join in demanding that the plight of our brothers and sisters, young and old in the affected counties is addressed. We cannot afford to continue with business as usual when our fellow country-men are starring at starvation.
Let us demand that our Right to Adequate Food as people is upheld,respected and protected by the government. The lives and wellbeing of Kenyans in Kwale, Lamu, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Turkana, Samburu, West Pokot, Baringo, Kajiado, Narok, Laikipia, Nyeri, Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Makueni, Kitui, Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera depend on our collective voices.
We also note that the entire country is staring at a food crisis. Our exposure to the current global crisis is another clear indicator that our investments in food security are missing the target. It is time to re-evaluate our food and farming systems, audit our investments in the sector and start an honest conversation on how to address food and nutrition security in the country- and build self-sufficiency.
In the budget read a few days ago, a paltry 2% was allocated to Agriculture despite the Kenyan government being a signatory to the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, committing to allocate up to 10% of its budget to Agriculture. We cannot continue denying the Agricultural Sector and food- related sectors funds, at the expense of sectors like infrastructure.
The Right to Food is a claim we have on the government. Having food is something we are entitled to – it is not a token.
Signed 13th April 2022 by:
- The Route to Food Initiative (RTFI)
- Rural Outreach Africa (ROA)
- Kenya Parliamentary Human Rights Association (KEPHRA)
- Consumers Grassroot Association (CGA)