Banned NGOs Invited to Obama Ku Meeting

TWO Coast-based rights organisations blacklisted by the government on allegations of supporting terrorism are expected to meet US President Barack Obama.

Muslims for Human Rights and Haki Africa will be among several civil society organizations that have been invited by US Ambassador Robert Godec to attend a meeting with Obama on Sunday. The meeting, dubbed ‘Conversation with Civil Society Organizations’, will be held at the Kenyatta University Chandaria Innovation and Incubation Centre, according to the invitation letter seen by the Star.

A third organisation from the Coast, Human Rights Agenda (Huria), which focuses on environmental issues, has also been invited. Muhuri and Haki have been non-operational for the last two months, following the freezing of their bank accounts and cancellation of their operating licences by the government.

The two groups were in the forefront in protesting against extrajudicial killings at the Coast, an issue they said led to cancellation of their licences.

In May, the NGO Coordination Board also cancelled the operating licence the Agency for Peace and Development over alleged terrorism links. The three NGOs were among those gazetted by Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett in April, on suspicion of supporting terrorism activities in Kenya.

The decision to publish their names was taken after the April 2 al Shabaab terrorist attack on Garissa University College, in which 148 people lost their lives. NGO Coordination Board executive director Fazul Mahamed said they had established Haki Afica is not registered as a charitable organisation under the NGO Coordination Act of 1990, while Muhuri was accused of illegally operating 13 different bank accounts.

All the organisations have strenuously denied the allegations.

Haki Africa on Tuesday afternoon said the Obama invitation is a good indication of American commitment to working with civil society organisations in Kenya.

Human rights groups have gone through turbulent times in recent years, especially in Kenya, for being deemed to be used by the Western powers to fight incumbent regimes. Speaking to the Star in Mombasa, Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid said the meeting demonstrated American advocacy of human rights.

“We are grateful to have received the invite and this is a good sign that Obama is committed to working with civil society, not only in Kenya but across Africa,” Khalid said in a phone interview. Khalid added, “A few years ago, when I was working as the executive director of Muhuri, I received an invite to meet the then Senator from Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama”.