Human rights defender Khalef Khalifa from Kenya in the spotlight

July 9, 2015

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped in its July 2015 Newsletter puts the spotlight on Khalef Khalifa, Executive Director of the NGO MUHURI in Kenya.


On 8 April 2015, the official Gazette notice listed 85 companies and organisations, including MUHURI and Haki Africa, as suspected of having links to terrorism and linking them as specified entities. On 20 and 21 April, the police raided the offices of both organizations, disabling their servers, carrying away hard disks and documents, allegedly to determine whether they had been involved in tax evasion. On 28 May, the Non-Governmental Organisations’ Coordination Board announced through the media that they had de-registered the organizations. On 12 June the court dismissed all charges against MUHURI and Haki Africa on the basis that there was no evidence against them.

Khalef Khalifa (KK): As you know, on the 12th June was a good day for us as both MUHURI and Haki Africa, were entirely vindicated in court. The judge dismissed all the charges against us and said that there was absolutely no evidence to link us to terrorism in any form and specifically forbade the police or even the Minister to make any such reference in the future. However the outstanding difficulty is that he refused to unfreeze our bank accounts on the basis that we had failed to include the Central Bank in our case against the state. They have now agreed to join our case calling for the accounts to be freed but we have to wait for another hearing before the judge makes his ruling and we can begin getting back to normal.

FLD: Given the various lines of attack that were opened against MUHURI it seems as though the government was out to get you?

KK: ...we were targeted on three fronts: by the police, the Revenue Commissioners and by the NGO Board. So while the government accused us of terrorism, the Revenue Commissioners descended on our office and took away all out financial documentation to look for evidence of tax avoidance and the NGO Board lodged a complaint that we had not kept them properly informed of our activities, and in particular that we had not informed them of new appointments to our board, as required by the NGO Law. In the final verdict, while the judge said there was no evidence of involvement in terrorism, both the Revenue Commissioners and the NGO Board had to concede that we were 100% compliant with the regulations. The only thing the NGO Board could trip us up on was that while we had notified the NGO Board of the new appointments, we had not used the appropriate, and newly introduced, form. What is interesting is that in the early stages of the case the government was totally focused on pursuing a case on the basis of terrorism, but they quite quickly changed tack and started looking for any small technical failures they could find to try and make a case against us. But they failed because we have always operated in an entirely open and transparent way.

KK: The real reason for their animus against MUHURI is that we are critical of the police and have investigated their involvement in extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances. There have been at least 52 such killings and disappearances in the Mombasa region in the last two years. The police claim to be fighting terror but in fact terror is a more accurate description of the way the police themselves work. In one incident 8 people were shot dead in a church. The police claimed that it was an attack by Al Shabaab. However when the perpetrators were arrested it was clear that they were not Muslims and in fact had no affiliation to any particular group. The police then hid the names and tried to maintain the fiction of an Al Shabaab attack.

FLD: Will the work of MUHURI get back to normal now?

KK: ...As soon as the accounts are unfrozen we will continue out work as normal. For us it is clear that the government wants to intimidate and frighten MUHURI but we will not be intimidated – we will not give up.

for full interview see: HRD Spotlight: Khalef Khalifa, Kenya | Front Line Defenders.

The more general backdrop can be found in earlier Front Line messages, the 5 June appeal by the Observatory [] and the statements made by NGOs on 26 June 2015 at the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of the report of the Universal Periodic Review [UPR] of Kenya:

– International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) : Kenya should create an enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders – including repealing restrictions on NGO access to foreign funding and amending or repealing the Information Communication Amendment Bill and Media Council Bill. The statement also emphasised the risks faced by LGBTI people and organisations in Kenya as a result of the criminalisation of same-sex conduct. ‘It is crucial that the voices of human rights defenders are safeguarded and encouraged. This assists to create a vibrant, independent and diverse civil society which is essential to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law’ said Michael Ineichen of ISHR. reports on Human Rights Watch comments: “We note Kenya’s acceptance of some important recommendations such as commitments to investigate torture and extrajudicial killings, including the killing of activist Hassan Guyo, and to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court. But we remain concerned that there has been little tangible progress in many key areas. The ongoing abuses and recent threats to civil society illustrate a lack of commitment to implement these recommendations.


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