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20 August 2017

Front Line Defenders Condemns Harassment of Maina Kiai

Front Line Defenders has strongly condemned the Kenyan authorities' harassment of renowned human rights defender Maina Kiai as he attempted to board a flight at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Sunday morning, 20 August 2017. Immigration officials stopped and questioned Maina Kiai, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, ahead of his scheduled flight to Amsterdam. Maini Kiai is currently the director of the Kenyan NGO InformAction, which uses multimedia campaigns for human rights education.

"Harassment and restrictions on the movement of internationally respected human rights defenders like Maina Kiai follow a pattern of threats to defenders in Kenya, and indicate that the government has something to hide," said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders.

In 2017, Front Line Defenders has reported numerous cases of government harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Kenya, including the African Centre for Open Governance, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and HRD Stephen Kinuthia Mwangi, a coordinator for the Mathare Social Justice Centre. 

On 16 August 2017, Kenya Revenue Authority officials attempted to raid the African Centre for Open Governance’s offices, one day after the Executive Director of the NGO Coordination Board notified the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the African Centre for Open Governance that the Board would cancel their registration. The Board also called for the freezing of their accounts and the arrest of affiliated HRDs. Board members of AfriCOG include the Vice Chair of the United Nations Convention against Corruption Coalition Coordination Committee, Gladwell Otieno, former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai and John Githongo, the founder and former Executive Director of the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International.

On 25 June 2017, plain clothes police officers intimidated and threatened to detain Stephen Kinuthia Mwangi outside his home. After refusing to go to the station, the officers threatened him with references to murdered human rights lawyer Willie Kimani. Earlier that same week, Stephen Kinuthia Mwangi was stopped and held for four hours by police on the side of the road while traveling home at night on a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) on 20 June 2017.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Kenya, which is aimed at limiting their peaceful struggle for rights in the country.