16 August 2017

Kenya: Taxman's Raid on AfriCOG Aborts

Nairobi — The Kenya Revenue Authority Wednesday morning unsuccessfully tried to execute a raid on the Africa Centre for Open Governance, a day after the NGO Co-ordination Board advised the police to shut down its operations and arrest its directors.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations KRA police unit which obtained a search warrant from the courts however abandoned their efforts after meeting resistance from a representation of the Kenyan civil society and AfriCOG lawyer Harun Ndubi who took issue with the orders they were served.

"The name of the magistrate who gave the order is not known, it has no heading, it is seeking to collect the entire office of AfriCOG except for the building and furniture because it's saying collect everything without disclosing what offence they're investigating.

"That application is not brought under the revenue law, it is brought under Section 75 of the Criminal Procedure Code so we don't know what it is that your officers are here to look for because there is no order directed against AfriCOG."

The police unit had sought to cart away documents, computers and digital storage devices which they said could contain records crucial to a tax offence investigation into AfriCOG.

AfriCOG Chairman John Githongo backed by fellow board member Maina Kiai and Kenya Human Rights Commission board member Muthoni Wanyeki is however insistent that they are tax compliant and are therefore the victims of a witch-hunt.

"They say it's taxes but here they're quoting the criminal procedure code... I would be really daydreaming if I said it was coincidental. There appears to be a method to this and it's an outrage. It is sad that Kenya has jumped back in time. I remember being victim of this kind of event that we're in, in the 1990s. This is an unfortunate waste of public resources. As Harun said, a simple letter asking for our tax documents and we would have provided them."

Being registered as a company limited by guarantee, Githongo said AfriCOG had no business with the NGO CO-ordination Board Executive Director Fazul Mahamed who put a target on their bank Tuesday.

"On what authority does this outfit purport to send letters around, making allegations, asking for things? That is completely out of order."

He went on to says that Fazul had mis-stepped, if his actions against AfriCOG were informed by a fear that they were preparing to launch a presidential petition.

"As the Chairman of AfriCOG I don't know of anything we were about to do in that direction, even though we have a right to," he quickly added. "So maybe somebody listened to some fake news and responded to it."

Later on Wednesday, AfriCOG and KHRC - which Fazul supposedly deregistered on Monday - sought the court's protection against having their premises raided.

A number of institutions have spoken out against the Executive action in solidarity with AfriCOG and KHRC including the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Law Society of Kenya who have both agitated for the operationalisation of the Public Benefits Organisation Act.

"The existence of a vibrant, independent civil society is a hallmark of a democratic and free nation. The government's failure since January 2013 to bring into operation the PBO Act, in defiance even of the express orders of the High Court, is not in the public interest."

"It leaves in place the absence of a clear statutory framework which encourages oppressive expressions of impunity as demonstrated by Fazul," LSK President Isaac Okero stated on Tuesday.


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