4 November 2017

Kenya: NGOs Targeted in Fresh Crackdown Linked to Petition

Photo: Capital FM
Non-Governmental Organisations Coordination Board Executive Director, Fazul Mahamed.

The State has launched another round of crackdown on non-governmental organisations deemed to be opposition-friendly with some of those targeted linking the latest move to a bid to pre-empt the filing of any petition challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election before tomorrow's deadline.

Acting on intelligence that some civil society groups would be moving to court with just under 48 hours to the Constitutional deadline for lodging such petitions, the NGO regulator has stepped up what looks like a campaign similar to one carried out after the August 8 election that targeted the Kenya Human Rights Commission and Africog.

PRO-OPPOSITION

Already, the NGO Co-ordination Board has summoned officials of Inuka Kenya whose chief executive officer is former Permanent Secretary Ethics John Githongo, Katiba Institute which is associated with Prof Yash Pal Ghai and Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) -- groups that have been critical of the Jubilee administration. The affected organisations are all viewed as pro-opposition.

Detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and officers from the Kenya Revenue Authority are expected in Monday's meeting.

An official of one of the organisations confided in the Sunday Nation that they were indeed preparing to move to court tomorrow to challenge the October 26 polls boycotted by opposition leader Raila Odinga, claiming that the electoral commission had shown open bias in favour of Mr Kenyatta, among other grounds.

On Saturday, Prof Ghai said the Board had no such authority to summon them.

"Katiba Institute is not an NGO. For regulation purposes, we fall under a different legal regime," he said without disclosing whether they were planning to challenge Jubilee's win.

COMPLAINTS

A letter addressed to Prof Ghai on Friday requires him, and other senior officials, at the Board's offices at the Cooperative Bank House at noon.

"The NGOs Board is in receipt of complaints against your organisation to the effect that you could be involved in activities that border on money laundering. Under the Money Laundering Act, the Board is obligated to report such cases to the Financial Reporting. We have further noted that you have foreigners in your service without valid work permits," the letter says.

Muhuri chairman Khelef Khalifa said the summons were part of the schemes by the state to silence dissenting voices.

"They are intimidating me through Muhuri. This is the same tactic used against other agencies. It is because of cases we filed at the High Court and Supreme Court. This is nothing but intimidation," he said.

Mr Khalifa believes he is being targeted for asking the court to postpone the repeat presidential elections on October 26. His case, a day to the elections, was not heard after a curious lack of quorum at the Supreme Court. Mr Githongo promised to get back to us but had not done so by the time of going to press.

LAW

The Board had told him that his organisation was engaging in activities that fall within the mandate of the NGOs Act yet it is not registered under the said law.

"The Board would therefore like you to confirm and clarify your legal status in the country," he was told.

While the executive director of the Board Mahamed Fazul denied reports that his actions had everything to do with plans to challenge Mr Kenyatta's win, the timing of his actions raise eyebrows.

"These are regular compliance visits. People are reading too much into them," he told the Sunday Nation.

Jubilee is convinced that there are such plans to file a petition before midnight Monday.

"Nasa is working with two NGOs and they are getting a citizen to go to court represented by both organisations. They have asked them to sue IEBC, Jubilee and include Nasa as the respondents so that it looks like they are not part of it," Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen said on Friday.

His counterpart in the National Assembly Aden Duale said he was also aware of plans by the Kenya Human Rights Commission to file a petition.

SUPREME COURT

Perhaps to avert one of the possible grounds of such a petition, Pokot South MP David Pkosing (Jubilee) has moved to the Supreme Court with prayers to rule that the election of President Kenyatta was legitimate even without some of the opposition strongholds casting their vote.

A number of constituencies heeded Mr Odinga's poll boycott call with Siaya, Kisumu, Migori and Homa Bay leading the pack.

A petitioner would, predictably, therefore want to argue that since the Constitution requires that presidential election be held in the entire 290 constituencies, Mr Kenyatta's win falls short of this.

It is such a big deal for lawyers with each giving conflicting interpretation of this.

The general feeling in the ruling party is that there is need for closure so the country can return to normalcy following a protracted tussle between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

Kenya

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