NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14 – Kenya rights groups condemned Tuesday the suspension of two key Muslim civil society organisations for suspected links to Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab, saying it will damage efforts to counter extremism.
Kenyan authorities last week put HAKI Africa and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), two Mombasa-based civil society groups, on a list of 85 individuals and organisations accused of supporting the Islamists.
The list, which also froze key money transfer companies vital for impoverished Somalia, was part of a crackdown on alleged Al Shabaab supporters following the massacre of almost 150 people at Garissa university by the extremists.
But rights groups said both blacklisted bodies were key organisations trying to combat extremism, not foment it.
“Counter-terrorism can only succeed if both civil society and the government work together,” the group of 15 organisations said in a statement.
It pointed out that HAKI Africa’s chief Hussein Khalid spoke in February in Washington to the US Congress on efforts to counter extremism.
“The Kenya human rights community is extremely concerned,” said Atsango Chesoni, from the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC).
“While we support the government’s efforts to also counter violent extremism… we consider the listing of MUHURI and HAKI Africa to be an unthinking reaction to intimidate not only the two organisations, but all civil society,” the statement added.
The statement was also signed by international organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Kenya has also asked the UN refugee agency to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees by July in the wake of the Garissa university massacre.