Kenya: Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders
Download PDF of UA 198/17 Kenya
Kenya’s NGO Coordination Board threatened to arrest George Kegoro, Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Gladwell Otieno, Executive Director of African Center for Open Governance (AfriCOG) and Maina Kiai, former UN Special Rapporteur and a member of AfriCOG’s Board of Directors on 16 August.
George Kegoro, Executive Director of KHRC, Gladwell Otieno, Executive Director of AfriCOG, and Maina Kiai, former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and a member of AfriCOG’s Board of Directors, came under attack from Kenya’s NGO Coordination Board on 14 - 16 August.
The NGO Coordination Board is responsible for registering, facilitating and coordinating all national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Kenya. The NGO Coordination Board accused the two organizations, KHRC and AfriCOG on 14 and 15 August respectively of financial and regulatory impropriety. The Board called upon the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to take actions against them. The actions include freezing their accounts and arrest and prosecution of AfriCOG’s directors and board members.
On 16 August, KRA officers, accompanied by police, raided AfriCOG’s offices and showed warrants that were inconsistent with the accompanying affidavits. The officials stated they were seeking to conduct an operation pursuant to the NGO Coordination Board’s directive. The Acting Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government called the raid off as it was being conducted.
On 20 August, Maina Kiai was briefly detained at Jomo Kenyatta airport for approximately two hours and had to seek clearance from the Director of Immigration to be able to travel out of the country.
Amnesty International is concerned that the threats to shut down these leading human rights and governance organizations, and the continued threats of arrest of human rights defenders, is intended to intimidate and harass them in an attempt to silence them and prevent their legitimate human rights work.
Please send a letter, email or tweet without delay.
* Start with a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
* Urge the authorities to rein in the NGO Coordination Board in order to stop all forms of harassment, intimidation and attacks on civil society organizations and human rights defenders.
* Call on them to effectively implement the Public Benefits Organization Act of 2013 to ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society to be able to work without fear of reprisals.
* Insist that they refrain from bringing criminal charges or any other proceeding against human rights defenders that stem solely from the peaceful exercise of their rights.
Address your appeals to:
Acting Cabinet Secretary
Dr Fred Matiang’i
Ministry of Interior & Coordination of National Government
Harambee House, Harambee Avenue
P.O. Box 30510 - 00100
Salutation: Dr Fred Matiang’i
President of the Republic of Kenya
Office of the President
P.O. Box 62345-00200
Salutation: Your Excellency
Please send a copy to
His Excellency John Lepi Lanyasunya
High Commissioner for Kenya
415 Laurier Avenue East
Ottawa, K1N 6R4
Fax: 1 (613) 233-6599
Dr Amina Mohamed
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Old Treasury Building
P.O. Box 30551 - 00100
On 8 August, Kenya held general elections. The results were contested by the opposition coalition, National Super Alliance (NASA). The two organizations under attack, KHRC and AfriCOG, are part of a coalition of civil society organizations in Kenya, ‘Kura Yangu, Sauti Yangu’ [My Vote, My Voice] working on and monitoring the elections. They have released reports and findings that have called into question the election processes and outcomes.
Kenya’s NGO Coordination Board announced it was deregistering the KHRC on 14 August, accusing the organization of operating illegal bank accounts, failing to pay its taxes, employing foreigners without work permits, and making secret payments to its board members, one of whom was the outgoing director of Amnesty International’s East Africa regional office. The NGO Coordination Board previously tried to deregister KHRC in 2015, accusing them of the same offences. The High Court in petition 495 of 2015 found that “the adverse actions taken by the respondent (NGO Coordination Board) in commencing the deregistration of the Petitioner (KHRC) and further in ordering the freezing of the Petitioner’s bank accounts … is unconstitutional, null and void.”
On 15 August, it sent a separate letter to the Director of Criminal Investigations accusing AfriCOG of failing to register as an NGO, and asking him to close it down and arrest its directors and members. On 16 August, AfriCOG was raided by KRA officials accompanied by police. The two organizations were not able to respond to the accusations, a right protected under Kenya’s Constitution and international treaties to which Kenya is a party. AfriCOG is a company limited by guarantee and is under no obligation to register with the NGO Coordination Board. The two organizations have since challenged these directives in court.
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