Hours after police and Kenya Revenue Authority officers on Wednesday morning raided Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) offices in Lavington, Nairobi, the Government appeared to beat a retreat after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i asked the NGOs Coordinating Board to immediately halt its moves against the civil society.
Matiang’i’s order comes in the wake of criticism by international bodies such as The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International.
The raid came a day after the NGOs Coordinating Board had requested the Director of Criminal Investigations, Ndegwa Muhoro, to halt its operations.
The NGO and the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) challenged President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election in 2013 but the Supreme Court dismissed the suit. Cord had lost the presidential race to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto’s Jubilee Alliance which comprised The National Alliance and United Republican parties.
AfriCOG board member Maina Kiai asked why the tax authorities had to bring three vanloads of police.
“They say they have got a search warrant but the search warrant does not name AfriCOG. The order does not specify what they are coming to do,” he said.
The NGOs Coordinating Board had accused AfriCOG of failing to register as an NGO and operating illegal bank accounts.
The notice to close down AfriCOG came a day after similar action was taken against Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), one of the country’s oldest rights organisations.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticised the clampdown on AfriCOG and KHRC.
Hussein also condemned calls to have AfriCOG directors and members arrested. “The high commissioner wants civil society and media to be allowed to work without hindrance or fear of retaliation,” read his statement.
Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said: “The NGO Coordination Board’s decision must be seen for what it really is – a cynical attempt to discredit human rights organisations. This is an unlawful and irresponsible move in this critical post-election period.”
Just before the August 8 polls, AfriCOG had asked the courts to compel the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to open the voters’ register for public scrutiny.
The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) said the NGO board’s decision to de-register KHRC and AfriCOG was illegal and asked acting Interior CS Fred Matiang’i to rescind the move.
In a statement, LSK President Isaac Okero pointed out that a 14-day notice period was not given, thus making the pronouncement ineffective, as it has no force of law.
Talk is rife that NGOs had planned to file a petition against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election last week.
In a press conference on Tuesday AfriCOG’s Maina Kiai hinted at the reason for the clampdown when he wondered why the government was punishing the NGOs even as it invited dissatisfied parties to file election petitions instead of using extra-judicial methods.