CHRI condemns attempt to close down two human rights groups in Kenya

Nairobi/New Delhi,

Aug 18, 2017

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has described efforts by the Kenyan Government to close down two prominent human rights organizations involved in election monitoring in the recent weeks as unacceptable and unjustified.

“CHRI is greatly concerned about misuse of power and attacks on dissenting voices in Kenya. We urge the government to be formed soon to engage and collaborate with, and work alongside, civil society in fulfilling their constitutional obligations,” said Prof Yash Ghai, Chairman of CHRI’s International Advisory Commission.

The NGO Coordination Board on Monday announced the de-registering of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) accusing the rights body of operating illegal bank accounts, failing to pay its taxes and also allowing foreigners to work without valid work permits. It was also accused of making secret payments to its board members.

On August 15, the Board sent a letter to the Director of Criminal Investigation accusing the other group, the African Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG), of failing to register as an NGO. However, AfriCOG is registered as a non-profit company, and could not register under new legislation designed for NGOs. The NGO Coordination Board has no jurisdiction over it. The NGO was asked to close down and Kenya Revenue Authority inspectors attempted to raid its premises.

Following Wednesday’s raid, the acting Interior Cabinet Secretary (Minister) Fred Matiang’i sent a letter to the head of the NGOs Coordination Board suspending any action on the organizations for 90 days. He has asked the organizations and stakeholders to engage with the NGOs Coordination Board to work out noncompliance issues.

While welcoming the minister’s decision, CHRI Director Sanjoy Hazarika in New Delhi called for “solidarity amongst domestic civil society groups in Kenya and suggested collective action against arbitrary measures that seek to curb civil society spaces.”

CHRI is pleased to see that AfriCOG’s immediate response was to seek the assistance of the courts, and also that the court did issue an order barring the prosecution of the raid on the organisation’s premises.

CHRI had earlier, in its press statement of August 16, had commended Kenya on the successful conclusion of the 2017 General Elections and congratulated President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta on winning a second term to office.

As reports of clashes emerged between the police and protesters, CHRI had emphasized the need for the police to abide by the rules relating to the use of lethal force.

Prof Ghai, chairman of CHRI's AC, emphasised that "democracy is not just a matter of winning elections. It is also important to respect the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, whether those freedoms are being exercised by groups of citizens in a peaceful manner or by civil society bodies organising to take advantage of, and protect, the democratic space."

For more information, please contact:

Trinanjan Radhakrishnan

Programme Officer, Strategic Initiatives Programme

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Kavita Bajeli-Datt

Communications Officer

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