, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 15 – The Kenya Human Rights Commission, backed by a collective of Civil Society Organisations on Tuesday gave a more substantive response to their deregistration by the NGOs Co-ordination Board.
The Commission represented by its Executive Director George Kegoro and board member Maina Kiai not only described the action as baseless but illegitimate.
Kegoro said it was not the first time the KHRC was battling allegations leveled against it by the NGOs Co-ordination Board’s Executive Director Fazul Mahamed, which was given as the basis for their deregistration.
“KHRC in fact sought legal redress on these matters specifically in 2015 and obtained a clear judgement. It is therefore a travesty of justice that the NGO Co-ordination Board and in particular Fazul Mahamed would insist on flagrant abuse of office in total disregard of KHRC’s constitutional rights and authority of the courts.”
The timing of this, the most recent action taken by the NGOs Co-ordination Board against KHRC, has led them to conclude that is politically motivated given they are mulling filing a presidential petition calling into question the credibility of the August 8 elections.
“We have been meeting here at Kenya Human Rights Commission, there is no secret about that, and there is thinking looking at whether we should, we should not (file a petition) because we have until Friday to make a decision on what to do.
“Now here we are, being told to go to court and then those people who may go to court are being deregistered.”
Just hours after KHRC was deregistered, Fazul wrote to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations urging that it shut down the operations of the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) and arrest its board of directors of which Kiai is one.
An act which, Kegoro submitted, evidenced a dangerous pattern of an Executive clamping down on perceived dissenters.
“Which ones has he (Fazul) banned? The Kalonzo Musyoka Foundation, the Evans Kidero Foundation, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, AfriCOG. Do we need to say more about that method of regulation?
“Uplifting entities that are state leaning and appearing to punish those entities that he imagines are enemies of the state.”
KHRC therefore challenged Fazul to prove his claims that they had evaded paying Sh100 million in taxes, received Sh1.2 billion in income which they’ve failed to properly account for, produce the permit-less foreigners he claims are working for them and provide evidence their board has received illegal remuneration.
“If we had Sh1.2 billion we would be a very very happy organisation. We don’t have that level of income unfortunately,” Kegoro said.
KHRC not only challenged the veracity of the accusations but the very legitimacy of the NGO Co-ordination Board and Fazul’s role therein.
“His purporting to deregister organisations is not founded on any law,” legal counsel Harun Ndubi submitted. “There was enacted more than a year ago a law called the Public Benefits Organisation Act which repealed the NGO Co-ordination Act that Fazul is obsessed with.”
The person of Fazul also came under attack with the CSO pointing out that the Ombudsman found him lacking in integrity, unqualified and recommending that he be removed from office.
They also pointed out that Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, on assumption of office in the Devolution Ministry, dissolved the NGO Co-ordination Board sending Fazul on forced leave.
“The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission did publish in a gazette notice dated March 31 that corroborated the findings of the Ombudsman that Fazul possesses fraudulent academic documents,” Kegoro added.
As with any self-respecting public cry for justice in Kenya, KHRC and its supporters ended the press conference in song. But not before Kiai expressed determination in the face of arrest.
“I’ve been involved in this struggle for many many years and we do this work not because it’s got any benefit to us but because we believe. If they’re going to arrest me, I’m here.”