High Court revokes NGO Coordination Board's move to deregister CSO AfriCOG

A critical report issued by the European Union’s (EU) observer mission on last year’s presidential election highlighted concerns over the improper use of state resources as well as “intimidation by politicians from both sides of independent institutions, such as the [election commission] IEBC and the judiciary, some violence by opposition protesters and the use of disproportionate force by security forces”. Furthermore, it also concluded that:

"Key civil society organisations and networks were subject to intimidating state actions just before each of the two deadlines for lodging presidential petitions (in August and November). The media provided increasing scrutiny of the process, but could not always report freely and attempts were made to restrict live coverage of disturbances".

In a statement, Johnson Weru, Kenya’s ambassador to Belgium and the EU, swiftly condemned the report as dishonest, claiming that lead investigators had breached a memorandum of understanding. As previously reported on the Monitor, last year’s election period was marred by violence and reports of excessive violence by the security forces that resulted in a number of deaths. In the concluding chapter of the report, "Mirage at Dusk. A human rights account of the 2017 General Elections", the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) documented 35 deaths during post-election violence from 1st September to October 2017, the time around the re-run of the presidential elections on 26th October, as well as 57 deaths during the first round of elections on 8th August 2017. 

A report issued by Privacy International alleges that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election campaign hired Harris Media LLC, a Texas-based digital media company, to create a series of anonymous propaganda websites that were widely circulated before the August 2017 elections. One of these sites, “The Real Raila”, featured videos depicting a post-apocalyptic future in which presidential challenger Raila Odinga’s victory would lead to an ethnic civil war and economic chaos, and that his administration would remove “whole tribes,” – the site has since been taken down.

Social media played a key role in the Kenyan elections, and a study by GeoPoll and Portland released in August found that nearly half of Kenyans used communication platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, to access information about the election, with 87 percent of respondents claiming that they had been exposed to fake news or disinformation before the vote.

Association

On 18th December 2017, Kenya's High Court revoked the decision of the NGO Coordination Board's Executive Director Fazul Mahamed to deregister the African Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) for allegedly operating illegally. The decision also prohibited the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) from investigating and prosecuting the directors of AfriCOG, and it also prohibited the Central Bank of Kenya from freezing AfriCOG's bank accounts. The Court's decision was based on the lack of evidence. As reported previously on the Monitor, on 15th August 2017 the NGO Coordination Board ordered the DCI to immediately shut down AfriCOG and arrest its directors.