Kenya’s police invited entities suspected of association with the Islamist militant group that killed at least 147 people last week to argue their cases in person.
“Entities suspected to be associated with al-Shabaab” should attend the National Counter-Terrorism Centre in the capital, Nairobi, “to demonstrate why they should not be declared a specified entity,” police Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet said in a statement Friday on the Interior Ministry’s Twitter account.
Members of the public with “useful information” on any of the entities “suspected to be associated with terrorist organizations” are also encouraged to visit, Boinnet said.
The East African country on April 7 published in its official gazette a list of 85 companies and individuals “suspected to be associated” with al-Shabaab and whose assets have since been frozen. The al-Qaeda-linked Somali group raided a university in northeastern Kenya and slaughtered students five days earlier, in the nation’s worst attack in almost 17 years.
A group of non-governmental organizations with operations in Somalia on Friday criticized the decision to revoke the licenses of 13 Nairobi-based money remittance providers.
“Somali families are losing their only formal, transparent and regulated channel through which to send and receive money,” the Somalia NGO Consortium, which includes Oxfam, Mercy Corps and Adeso, said in an e-mailed statement.
“Aid agencies working in Somalia also risk losing their only means of transferring money to sustain their daily humanitarian and development operation,” they said.
Muslims for Human Rights, a Mombasa-based group named in the government gazette, said it had no association with al-Shabaab.
“I think the main reason the government targeted us was because of its failure to deal with or control the outbreak of terrorism and other acts of violence visited on our people,” Khelef Khalifa, the organization’s chairman, said by phone.
“The government was reacting to this failure and was looking for a scapegoat and we were a perfect target.”
Another designated group based in the port city, HAKI Africa, said its accounts were frozen because of its work defending human rights, including of those the government suspects of terrorism.
“We have never associated ourselves with any group or people involved in criminality,” group CEO Hussein Khalid said by phone. “We collude with government agencies when doing our work.” He said they had given the inspector-general the group’s audited annual returns and other legal documents as evidence of their non-involvement.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said the government’s move “raises more questions than answers.” Those it listed “including licensed agencies providing essential funds, have a right to transparency and due process,” the group’s deputy Africa director, Leslie Lefkow, said in a statement.
The inclusion of the two Mombasa human-rights groups “who have done excellent work documenting abuses by security forces, also raises the suspicion that this may be backlash for their critical work,” she said.