NAIROBI – Leading global and regional civil society groups have strongly condemned the targeting of two Kenyan national human rights organisations by the authorities.
The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya (NCHRD-K), DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and Civil Rights Defenders condemn the de-registration of the NGOs and an attempted raid on the offices of one of them.
On 16 August, in the wake of general elections, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), accompanied by Kenyan police officers, attempted to gain entry to the offices of the African Centre for Global Governance (AfriCOG) without notice and with a defective search warrant. The attempted raid came two days after AfriCOG, together with the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), was served with a notice of deregistration by the NGO Coordination Board.
The Board has accused the organisations of operating “illegal bank accounts”, employing expatriates without the necessary permits and tax evasion, among other offences. KHRC denies the allegations.
The attempted raid was eventually prevented by instructions from Acting Interior Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiangi, who called for the formulation of an inclusive and representative committee to work with the NGO Coordination Board to ascertain the compliance of the two organisations with NGO regulations. Secretary Mitiangi’s instructions suspended any actions against AfriCOG and KHRC for a period of 90 days to enable the committee carry out its functions.
The accusations in question had already been adjudicated before the high Court of Kenya in 2015 (KHRC vs. NGO Coordination Board 495 of 2015) when the KHRC was first deregistered by the Board. On April 2016, Justice Louise Onguto entered that the adverse actions taken to deregister KHRC and freeze its bank accounts is unconstitutional, null, and void.
Said Kamau Ngugi, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya: “The persistent harassment of civil society organisations at the hands of Fazul Mahamed, the Executive Director of the NGO Coordination Board, is unacceptable. CSOs should be able to take part in public affairs and hold government to account without fear of reprisal.”
Further, in a letter dated 15 August 2017, the NGO Coordination Board wrote to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to order it to close down the operations of AfriCOG and arrest its members and directors for contravening section 22 (1) of the NGO Coordination Act, which requires any person operating an NGO to be registered under the same Act. It further called on the Central Bank to freeze the accounts of the organisation.
Civil society is free to select under which regime to register an association and AfriCOG is registered under the Companies Act as a company limited by guarantee. Therefore, the NGO Coordination Board has no mandate over the operations of the institution. Furthermore, such direction is in contravention of Article 47 of the Constitution of Kenya that provides for fair administrative action and contravenes the fundamental right to freedom of association protected by Article 36 of the Constitution of Kenya as well as under international treaties to which Kenya is a State Party.
The move against the two organisations comes a week after the 8 August national elections, which were contested by the opposition. Throughout the electoral process, KHRC and AfriCOG have been vocal in their demand for transparency and have acted as monitors of the elections. KHRC Executive Director George Kegoro told Capital FM news in an interview that moves to deregister his organisation aimed to prevent it from issuing a legal petition challenging the recent election results in the Supreme Court.
The undersigned organisations hereby call on the NGO Coordination Board to:
- Desist from harassing civil society organisations and immediately lift any restrictions on the activities of KHRC and AfriCOG until they are given the right to due process;
- Respect Article 47 of the Constitution of Kenya, which provides for the right to “administrative action that is expeditious, efficient, lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.”
- Publicly acknowledge the important role played by civil society in promoting rule of law and accountability; and ensure an enabling environment in which human rights defenders and civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Civil Rights Defenders
DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya
For more information contact:
Executive Director, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya
Telephone: +254 712 632 390