Kenya moves against NGOs mulling legal action over election

Picture: AFP
Picture: AFP

Nairobi - Kenya's government moved to shut down two rights organisations who said Tuesday they had been contemplating court action over last week's disputed presidential election.

On Tuesday morning, the interior ministry's NGO Board asked police to shut down the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) and arrest its members.

Already late on Monday, the NGO Board said it was withdrawing the registration of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) over alleged irregularities.

KHRC board member Maina Kiai said on Tuesday it was "no secret" they had been considering lodging a complaint at the Supreme Court over "inconsistencies" in the election process.

And AfriCOG, which had filed several court petitions challenging the electoral commission ahead of the election, said it was also weighing a complaint over the poll.

"Going to court was one of the options we were discussing with other organisations. But we had not taken a decision yet," said the group's executive director Gladwell Otieno.

According to Kenya's electoral laws, complaints about the election must be submitted to the Supreme Court by Friday.

Raila Odinga, the defeated opposition leader of the National Super Alliance (NASA), has denounced the result of the vote as a fix, but has so far resisted calls to challenge it in the courts.

But civil society organisations can also file legal petitions challenging the results or conduct of the vote.

The interior ministry's NGO Board said it was acting against the KHRC over unpaid taxes, a lack of work permits for foreign staff, and illegal bank accounts.

It had said it had moved against AfriCOG because it was not properly registered as an NGO and was illegally operating as a "charitable organisation".

"These people who may go to court are being de-registered," Kiai said.

"There has been a lot of emphasis across the country urging people to go to court if they have any grievances," he added.

"We have been meeting here... there is no secret about it... there is thinking about whether we should or should not" go to court, he added.

"Once you close off avenues for legal, non-violent peaceful redress, you open up a can of worms, and the state needs to be very clear about what it wants to do."

Odinga has claimed he was the rightful winner and not President Uhuru Kenyatta, and NASA said a major hacking attack manipulated electronic results sent in from polling stations.

The disputed election have already sparked protests that at times turned violent over the weekend, leaving at least 16 people dead and 177 injured.

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