Last week was difficult for the human rights community in Kenya, after the NGO Board purported to deregister the Kenya Human Rights Commission, of which I am the Executive Director, and also recommended another organisation, the Africa Centre for Governance (Africog) for prosecution and deregistration.
The board claimed that Africog is operating under an illegal registration.
Simultaneously, Africog became the subject of an attempted raid by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
Arriving at the premises of Africog in three vans, complete with armed policemen, the KRA had obtained a warrant authorising it to cart away everything from the office, except furniture.
If the raid had succeeded, it would have pulverised the organisation.
Since the raid, the government has not attempted to justify or explain these actions.
Their timing could not have been more inappropriate.
The burial arrangements for Chris Msando, the stricken elections official, forms the backdrop, together with the post-election violence that has been witnessed in parts of the country, following the declaration of the presidential results in the just-concluded elections.
The government is not without blame in the violence.
Civic groups have produced evidence of high-handed official responses to the violence, and have also shown that official figures on casualties may not be reliable.
The crackdown on the two organisations has opened a new frontier of controversy in an already divided country, heightening the anxiety arising from another disputed presidential election.
Clearly embarrassed by the negative attention that these actions attracted, the government has retreated for now, with Interior Cabinet Secretary establishing a committee that is meant to bring a less strong-arm method of dealing with whatever matter the NGO Board and the KRA wanted to achieve.
In what has become its modus operandi, the NGO Board acted arbitrarily again, proceeding on the very false premise that it is the sole regulator of all non-profit organisations, and that all alternative forms of registration constitute a crime.
Also, conducting its purported regulatory action through social media, and without bothering to provide the two organisations with an official communication, was another standard transgression that the board employed last week.
In its attempted raid on Africog, the KRA was trying a repeat of what it did in May 2015, to two Mombasa-based organisations, MUHURI and Haki Africa.
The tax authority raided the premises of the two organisations, which the government had accused of supporting terrorism, and carried away everything they found in their offices, thus paralysing their operations.
While the country is now used to the omnipresent repression by the NGO board, the fashioning of tax collection powers into a tool of oppression is a relatively new, but more potent, development.
How the KRA would justify its willingness to move in and disable an organisation whose tax status it had not even tried to establish, is the most naked exercise of repression, and signals the start of a new chapter of political persecution in the country.
Working in unison, the KRA and the NGO board will now become a lethal combination going forward.
The question, though, is why the government decided to close the two organisations at this time.
It is not a secret that the KHRC is the secretariat for Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu, a coalition of civil society organisations that has been promoting political dialogue in relation to this year’s election.
Having decided to deploy a number of field staff to monitor and report on the just-concluded election, the coalition then established an elections centre at the KHRC, which has been receiving and analysing the field reports.
Kura Yangu emerged as the only voice that has contradicted the rosy characterisation that both the international observers and the domestic observer ELOG had given to this election.
Kura Yangu pointed out that the international observers had spoken precipitously, when they came out so soon to pronounce that the elections had been successful.
Following the rejection by the opposition, of the presidential election results, it then became plausible that a legal challenge of the results would be staged in court.
Because the NASA coalition had initially indicated that it would not go to court, it began to look like the only remaining group that could challenge the results in court was Kura Yangu or one of its members.
Not surprisingly, the attempt to close down the KHRC and Africog is largely viewed as forming part of the government’s reaction to the possibility of a challenge to the electoral victory that was declared in favour of Jubilee.
The actions against the two NGOs coincided with the confounding arrest of Roselyn Akombe, a commissioner at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, as she was trying to leave the country.
Given her position in the government, and the fact that she had been an important member of a group that declared the results of an important election, the decision to arrest her could only have been made at the highest levels.
Whatever the reasons for her arrest, and especially since this remains unexplained, it does not add to a picture of legitimacy on the part of the government in power.
Having won so handsomely, Jubilee should be more comfortable in its place, should be more tolerant of criticism and the possibility of an electoral challenge than has been the case so far.
The pervasive nervousness in the corridors of power goes to question Jubilee’s claimed victory in the elections, and already signifies that a legitimacy deficit will hobble President Kenyatta’s second term.
Elections are supposed to clean a country’s politics, separating winners from losers.
It seems, however, that these last ones have not done so.
The use of regulatory power to lash out at its perceived opponents is an attempt at post-election power consolidation.
Fazul Mahamad, the ill-educated charlatan that runs the NGO board, had already shown himself as willing to do anything to please his political masters.
The fact that even the supposedly independent tax authorities so easily agree to be used in this same manner should worry us all, and is an indication that few institutions remain untouched by our national decay.