Amplifying Community Rights Through Social Media in Kenya

By Ashnah Kalemera |


Human rights violations incidents are on the rise in Kenya with extrajudicial killings and police brutalityamong the cases reported recently. Social media has enabled quick reporting of such cases while also creating increased awareness of the reported incidents. Through a mix of Twitter, radio and physical engagements, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is improving its effectiveness in promoting human rights and documenting violations in the lead up to the 2017 national elections.

The commission is seeing success in mobilising citizens for protests and marches, as well as getting stakeholders to participate in debates related to human rights. Through quarterly Twitter chats, the KHRC is popularising various human rights issues and bringing to the fore struggles faced by communities that have little online presence and who have limited avenues for participating in community affairs.

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Using Technology to Advance Human Rights in Kenya

By Catherine Kamatu |

Joseph Kitaka, a resident of Yatta in Machakos County, Kenya, has always had an interest in defending human rights. His community is faced with numerous challenges, including gender-based violence, police brutality and many other human rights violations. Mr. Kitaka had little hope of utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to advance his ambition in bettering his community, until he was elected the chairman of Yatta Paralegal Network, a local Human Rights Network (HURINET). Read more

ICT4Democracy in East Africa: Promoting Democracy and Human Rights Through ICTs

Established in 2011, ICT4Democracy in East Africa is a network of organisations working to promote democracy and human rights through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Across the three countries, partners are leveraging on mobile short message service (SMS), toll free call centre, FM radio, social media, crowd sourcing platforms and direct community engagement to implement projects that tackle issues such as corruption, service delivery, respect for human rights, freedom of expression and access to information.

The projects are driven by the shared vision of the immense potential that ICTs have in increasing citizens’ participation in decision-making processes and strengthening democratisation.

The partner organisations are: the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), iHub Research, Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Toro Development Network, Transparency International Uganda and Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET).

The network is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider). CIPESA is the network regional coordinator.

Read more about the network in the profile publication here.


Project Results and Lessons Learned 2011 – 2013

We are pleased to share some of our partner project results for the period June 2011 – December 2013. For purposes of communicating the results from these projects as well as The Swedish Programme for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider)’s own experience with working with catalytic seed funding modality, evaluations of all partner projects are under way.

Three partner  evaluations subjected to theoretical readings have been finalized and we are pleased to publish these reports for the purpose of furthering the growth of the field of ICT4D.

  1. Results and lessons learned iHub Research December 2013
  2. Results and lessons learned Kenya Human Rights Commission December 2013
  3. Results and lessons learned Women of Uganda Network December 2013

More reports are in the pipeline.

Expanding Outreach for Citizen participation and Improved Service Delivery in Uganda

WOUGNET with financial support from the Swedish Program for ICT support to Developing Countries (Spider) conducted awareness raising meetings in the District of Tororo and Busia in Eastern Uganda from the 23rd -27th of September 2013. The awareness meetings was aimed at introducing the new project to the district and mapping stakeholders and partners to be involved in the Project.

The Senior Program Officer, Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy, Ms. Goretti Z. Amuriat met a number of District leaders including the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and the Chief Administrative Officer of Busia, Mr. Okumu Christopher. Ms. Amuriat briefed them about the SPIDER Upscale project in their offices last week and Mr. Okumu said that he believes that it will be one of the best projects in his district and since it is targeting mainly women, he is so happy about it and welcomes it to Busia

Meanwhile, the Resident District Commissioner, Tororo decried the state of Corruption and mismanagement of public resources in the district as well as poor active engagement of local people in holding their leaders accountable and welcomed the new project with open arms.

WOUGNET received financial support from Spider to implement projects aimed at promoting Citizen participation for improved social service deliveries through use of ICTs. This Project was originally piloted in Northern Uganda districts of Apac, Kole, Gulu, Oyam and Amuru.

Press statment on integrity and accountability in Kenya’s March 4, 2013 General Elections

The KENYA HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (KHRC) has released a statement calling upon Kenyans to ensure the integrity of and accountability of candidates for the upcoming general elections, 4th March, 2013.

Below are the links to the press conference broken down into three segments:

1. Implications of the High Court ruling on the eligibility case against Uhuru and Ruto’s candidature.

2. KHRC’s Position on Integrity and Accountability of Candidates for the General Elections.

3. Q & A on Integrity and Accountability of Candidates for the March 4, 2013 General Elections.

ICT4Democracy East Africa October Newsletter

The October Newsletter of the ICT4Democracy East Africa Network can now be downloaded HEREThis brochure covers the activities of the network partners and focuses on how they are leveraging different ICT platforms to enhance transparency and civic empowernment. The utilized technologies include crowd sourcing platforms like Ushahidi; social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter; and digital and traditional media like websites and radio.

Highlights in the newsletter include details of KHRC’s human rights violations monitoring, CHRAGG’s progress with the complaints handling system, iHub Research’s MGovernance Field work update, TI Uganda’s toll free line, a report on citizen journalism training by CIPESA and ToroDev and WOUGNET capacity building activities during the month of October.


Kenyan Human Rights Networks Deploy ICT Platforms in their ICT4Democracy Work

Two Human Rights Networks (HURINETS) working with the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) to improve grass roots based organisations’ and their memberships’ understanding of the commitment to building a human rights society have deployed a crowd map, blogs and social media tools to promote their work.

Laikipia HURINET located in Laikipia in the South Rift Region of Kenya works to empower the Laikipia County Community through promotion of human rights, free information dissemination, training, and networking. The HURINET, also known as the Vision Facilitators Network (VIFANET) in June launched


Meanwhile, Kwale HURINET is documenting its work on child rights at Kwale HURINET is located in Kwale on South Coast of Kenya. Their work focuses on civic education on the implementation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 with special emphasis on the Bill of Rights, devolution, leadership and integrity among other constitutional provisions; para-legal services on child rights and labour; security, equality and justice.

Read the full report here.

East African Region New Media and Human Rights Institute workshop

In collaboration with the African Human Rights Consortium, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) conducted a four-day new media, research and advocacy workshop aimed at scaling-up the use of ICTs in human rights and democracy within East Africa. The workshop attracted 14 participants drawn from civil society and media in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Burundi. During the workshop, KHRC took the opportunity to share information on the activities of the ICT4Democracy in East Africa network attracting a lot of interest from participants. Emphasis was placed on the importance of involvement of civil society actors in various ICT forums and projects.

Civil society organisations in East Africa were urged to embrace ICTs in their advocacy interventions.

Unchartered Waters: ICTs in Human Rights

Founded in 1992, the Kenya Human Rights Commission is one of the oldest and pioneer human rights organizations in Kenya and indeed a premier human rights body.  The organization has often taken on difficult human rights initiatives mainly in the first generation rights of civil and political rights. Some of these initiatives include transitional justice such as detention without trial, torture, unexplained disappearances and assassinations. All of the KHRC’s human rights and democracy work has been carried out through various innovative strategies using methodologies of the prevailing times. These include advocacy and policy influencing, documentation, mass media, publications and materials production. Thus when the KHRC was invited to a workshop by the Swedish Programme for ICTs in Developing Regions (Spider), it was another great opportunity for the organization to not only take lead in the civil society sector in non-traditional methodologies but also to learn new and innovative ideas in the sector. 

What Have We Been Up to Lately

One of the earliest and easiest platforms that the project deployed is social media. While the KHRC already had Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, they had not really been well utilized. However, since the commencement of the project, things have been turned around such that information published on the website can now be pushed further by sharing through Facebook and Twitter. For instance, in August 2011, the KHRC published a book on corruption and impunity of past injustices. The book, titled “Lest We Forget: The Faces of Impunity in Kenya,” was launched through the traditional mass media and sold out. The online copy hit a record 1,000 downloads on the day it was first uploaded and 13,780 downloads in the first month. There was a Facebook link created for it as well which helped further push the publication but also drew public interest in dialogue. It is a document which the public can use to audit who should not be eligible for elections based on corruption records.  The book is available for download here.

The KHRC has also been sharing documentary videos through YouTube as part of educating the public on human rights and governance issues. Recently, during the celebrations of the 2012 International Human Rights Day (IHRD), the KHRC held a series of community outreaches in Nairobi which included public forums and legal aid clinics. This culminated in the Annual Human Rights Lecture whose theme was “Judiciary, a Bastion for Constitutionalism”. Snippets of the event were uploaded on YouTube with the hope that it will stir up conversations about the implementation of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, a process which is currently under siege from anti-reform forces in and outside the Government.  One snippet features judicial and legal experts as well as some human rights activists while the other features the views from the participants during the question and answer session. The snippets are available here.

Finally, the KHRC was privileged to host a team from the Commission on Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), which is the national human rights institute of Tanzania. The team from Tanzania visited in order to learn how the bulk sms system works. The KHRC system is not yet up however we were able to have our service provider conduct a demo for the Tanzanian team. This was a shared learning experience for the two organizations as it was a challenge for the KHRC to ensure its own deployment is up in order to be able to share with CHRAGG how the system works.

Wilfred Warioba, (centre) Head of ICTs at CHRAGG together with his colleagues pay close attention as George Mburu, bulk sms service provider demonstrates how the system works 

The Learning Curve

Since the project began, it has been an exiting journey of learning a lot of lessons. It is also interesting to note that there are quiet a number of individuals and organizations interested in the project and an opportunity for the KHRC to showcase this new area of work, should it succeed. So far KHRC has been able to learn a lot while implementing the project. As an organization that is not technologically oriented, the project required quite a bit of research in order to find out what technologies to deploy. This has been through workshops and bi-lateral cooperation with other organizations and individuals.

One key area of learning has been in the area of policy development. Any organization venturing into ICTs as a tool for engagement with the public ought to have an ICT or social media policy. This is crucial because the dynamic of how one runs an individual’s own account is different from those of how runs or manages an organization’s online presence and a simple mistake can have a serious impact on how the organization deals with its publics. For instance, there are all sorts of people out there and when an individual or organization joins any of the social media platforms, one should be prepared for all manner of responses and attacks from the people. There people who speak from a point of ignorance while others are just out rightly rude, arrogant or malicious. It is imperative that the organization has a policy that provides guidelines for online behavior of the staff managing the platforms it uses otherwise it is easy to be drawn into unnecessary exchanges that can give the organization a negative image.

Since ICT4D is a relatively new area of work for most civil society organizations, there needs to be a lot of information sharing within the civil society so that the sector can embrace the changing engagement landscape. Besides information sharing amongst the CSOs it is also important to have multi-sectoral forums which include developers, CSOs (user side), development partners and beneficiaries in order to identify gaps and best practices that can be related.

As an organization, we have learnt too that when utilized well, ICT4D can complement the traditional methodologies and cascade its work. A case in point is using YouTube to share videos, where we have learnt that it helps drive traffic to our website and vice-versa. However we have also learned that long videos take long to download thus not too many people watch them, especially if they are not necessarily entertaining, thus we are working on getting shorter versions of key messages even though it is not easy to reduce complex human rights issues on documentaries to  two-minute versions.

Finally, we look forward to having all our platforms up and running soon where we expect more public dialogue to take place. For example, the citizen participation website  once complete will further help the public debate issues that the human rights networks raise in a community paper called Mizizi Ya Haki (Roots of Rights) that now will be uploaded on the site. This is indeed very exciting as now much of what we do shall be scaled up to reach audience not reached before and therefore we must exploit every opportunity it has afforded us.

Hurinet regional Mizizi Ya Haki editors planning for the next edition in Nairobi at the National editorial meeting. Through ICT4D, the community newspaper will find a wider audience than it currently does

“If you are not on these platforms (social media and other web tools), where are you?” – Ally Khan Sachu, a Nairobi Economist, commenting  during a TV interview on reports that Kenya is top in use of Twitter, only second to South Africa,  AFRICA: Kenya is second most active on twitter.


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