Kenya Authorities Seen Stepping Up Bid to Quell Vote DisputeBy and
Police raid group that planned lawsuit over vote procedures
Government suspends closure of rights groups following outcry
Kenyan authorities tried to raid the offices of a civil-rights group planning to challenge last week’s election results in court, the latest move in what activists say is a campaign to quell dissent over the vote that returned President Uhuru Kenyatta to power.
Police and tax officials arrived at the offices of the Africa Centre for Open Governance, or AfriCOG, in the capital, Nairobi, on Wednesday morning with a warrant authorizing them to seize computers and documents. The group’s staff, most of whom are lawyers, disputed the warrant’s validity and refused them access. A two-hour stand-off ensued before the authorities backed down.
The unsuccessful raid came a day after the NGO Coordination Board announced that AfriCOG would be shut down for operating without a registration certificate and banned the Kenya Human Rights Commission for allegedly failing to remit taxes, concealing transactions and employing foreigners without work permits. The groups denied the allegations and said they were being intimidated into accepting the election results. The government relented following a public outcry, with Fred Matiang’i, the acting interior secretary, saying they’d be given 90 days to get their affairs in order.
Kenyatta, 55, secured a second term after being declared the winner of the Aug. 8 vote, which the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, 72, and some civil-rights groups have alleged was rigged because proper counting procedures weren’t followed.
The authorities’ actions “after the conclusion of a highly contested election and against two organizations that have been vocal about concerns during this period is extremely concerning and demonstrates bad faith,” Isaac Okero, president of the Law Society of Kenya, said in a statement. “The existence of a vibrant, independent civil society is the hallmark of a democratic and free nation.”
Kenya’s High Court on Wednesday afternoon barred the NGO board from interfering with AfriCOG and the KHRC’s operations, Citizen TV, a Nairobi-based broadcaster, reported.
Clashes between security forces and supporters of Odinga’s five-party National Super Alliance have claimed 24 lives since the results were announced, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. The opposition, which says more than 100 people died, is due to announce its next step to overturn the outcome later on Wednesday.
The police say 10 people, most of them criminals, were killed in Nairobi, and it is still collating fatalities in other areas. Kenyatta has called for calm and urged those who’re aggrieved about the election results to protest peacefully and seek redress in the courts.
In a separate development, the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission said airport authorities tried to stop one of its commissioners from traveling to the U.S. before allowing her to continue on her journey.
Officials at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi delayed Roselyn Akombe, a dual U.S.-Kenyan citizen, before apologizing, the commission said in a statement on its Twitter account. Akombe, who’s visiting the U.S. for an official meeting, will return to Kenya on Sunday, it said.