The assault on civil society spells doom

The country has started on a dangerous path: The dismantling of a democratic system built over 20 years.

In just two days, the government has purported to shut down two leading human rights organisations on suspicious grounds, without subjecting them to due process.

This is totally unacceptable, especially coming against the background of claims by some senior Jubilee politicians that they also intend to remove the auditor-general.

Kenyans should reject this attempt to roll back democracy and build a totalitarian system where the government is above sanction.

By taking these bad decisions, the leadership is telegraphing an unhealthy willingness to intimidate a robust civil society, even before the dust has settled on last week’s elections.

Among the institutions targeted are the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the African Centre for Open Governance (Africog).


Jubilee may have no use for democracy — and all the noisy institutions which make it work — but totalitarianism is not what the rest of Kenyans want to bequeath to their children.

For the avoidance of doubt, as a democracy, this is a big house.

There is room for all ideas and freedoms, including the right to file petitions challenging elections.

It has taken pain and toil to build that house. It is not for nothing that Kenyans, who are not the richest people in the world, were only too happy to pay for the most expensive election on the continent.

It is because it was a vital step towards improving that house.

The Jubilee government cannot just wake up a week later and try to tear down the house.

The government — any government — is created by the law. When government, or its officials act illegally, it delegitimises itself. And that can be a recipe for chaos.

For the benefit of NGOs Coordination Board CEO Fazul Mahamed and other government officials who are of little understanding, the centrality of our civil society is such that if we didn’t have one, we would have to create it. Some things are negotiable. This just isn’t one of them.

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