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Kenya rights activists allege threats

October 8, 2009 by

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 8 – Members of the Kenyan civil society on Thursday claimed they were being intimidated and harassed by state security agents over their persistent demands for accelerated reforms in the country.

A joint statement issued by Transparency International (TI), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya) and the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) said civil rights activists “were being harassed as a way of silencing them from pressing the government over the reform agenda.”

The statement signed by the ICJ’s Executive Director George Kegoro, TI’s Job Ogonda and their KHRC counterpart Muthoni Wanyeki said they had reason to believe acts of intimidation and harassment reported by rights activities were perpetrated by state machineries although they did not specify particular incidents.

“The intimidation and threats have included threatening telephone calls, exposing information about the individual’s previous conversations and movements that could only have come from public institutions charged with surveillance, and attempted carjacking clearly not of a criminal but a political nature,” they said.

They blamed a section of high ranking State officials opposed to the reform agenda as outlined under the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation framework for the frustrations facing activists.

“It is clear that some public officials are opposed to various reforms. Their opposition has apparently now been extended to acts of intimidation and threats targeting individual’s vocal in advocating for institutional, legal and constitutional reforms,” they said.

The statement did not name any of the activists who may have been harassed or intimidated but indicated the acts were directed at human rights defenders.

Such intimidation and threats they said, erode the gains registered in increasing citizens’ involvement in the ongoing reform process.

The statement was released a day after the chief mediator of the 2007 Kenya crisis Kofi Annan addressed an international press conference in Nairobi to highlight the status of the reform process in the country.

Mr Annan met with representatives of the civil society but it was unclear if they informed him of the alleged harassment and intimidation by State actors as indicated in their statement.

As members of the civil society they said “it is our core duty to monitor and report on the delivery of reforms to increase democracy, equality, accountability and transparency.”

“We affirm our commitment towards the protection of the human rights of all Kenyan citizens, despite efforts to stifle the freedoms of assembly, association and expression and instill fear in the Kenyan civil society.”

The statement did not also state if the civil rights activists affected had made filed formal reports with the police or other government agencies.

Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe denied knowledge of the allegations by the rights activists but assured that “investigations will only be carried out if formal reports are filed.”

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