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Tensions High in Kenya Amid Media Ban, Opposition Arrest

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NAIROBI — Political tensions continue to rise in Kenya as the government defied a court order to lift a ban on three independent media organizations. Authorities also arrested a key opposition ally in the wake of Raila Odinga’s self-inauguration Tuesday as the so-called “people’s president.”

Kenya’s three largest broadcasters remained off the air for a fourth day Friday despite the high court ruling the day before that the government must reverse the suspension. Authorities cut transmission for the media outlets Tuesday as they prepared live coverage of the opposition’s swearing-in event.

The Kenyan human rights activist behind the legal challenge, Okiya Omtata, attempted to serve the court papers to the government’s Communications Authority Friday.

“I was personally marked,” he told VOA, “and I was not allowed past the gate. I was told that they had instruction from above not to be allowed past the gate, nor the court order to be served. So what I did is I pinned it on the wall — a copy of the order, but they ripped it off.”

Omtata said he has no choice but to bring the matter back to the court Monday.

“It now clarifies issues for me,” he said. “Now I know what we are dealing with is not a failure to comprehend the law, but a deliberate move by the government to violate the Bill of Rights and the constitution of Kenya and to operate outside the consent of the law.”

The Communications Authority has not commented on the ban. Omtata said he was able to serve the remaining court papers addressed to the attorney general, interior minister, and minister of information, communication and technology.

The ruling Jubilee administration accuses the media of failing to heed its advice not to air Tuesday’ opposition swearing-in. In a statement released Wednesday, the day before the high court’s ruling, Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i said the stations will remain shut throughout ongoing investigations into alleged complicity in what he called an effort to subvert the government and spark violence.

In a statement Thursday, the U.S. State Department grave concern over what U.S. officials called “the government’s action to shut down, intimidate, and restrict the media” and Odinga’s self-inauguration.

Odinga has refused to accept the results of an October presidential run-off, which he boycotted. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner.

Murithi Mutiga, the International Crisis Group’s Kenya researcher, says the spat between the Kenyatta administration and the media will go on.

“He came to office and seems to have an axe to grind with the key element of the society including the media and civil society and that has continued and persisted,” said Mutiga. “We’ve seen media houses being denied advertising, which is a crucial source of revenue. We’ve seen continued attempts to legislate against the media. So I think, I think it will continue, they will continue to be a push and pull between the administration and the media.”

President Kenyatta gave a televised speech at the Kenya School of Government Friday. At the end, he gestured to the journalists, saying in Swahili, “Now why don’t you switch off your things, pack and go? Your work is over.”

KENYA

Work on Kenya-Somalia border wall suspended | Al Jazeera English

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Kenya has suspended construction of a 700-kilometre border wall after confrontations between security officers and people from a nearby Somali town. Locals say the partially-built wall has helped prevent al-Shabab fighters from crossing into Kenya. Hundreds of people have died in attacks by the armed group, but other areas remain unsafe. Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi reports from Mandera, on the Kenyan-Somali border.

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KENYA

Work on Kenya-Somalia border wall suspended

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DAILY NATION — The much publicised security fence on the Kenya-Somalia border has temporarily stopped to allow further negations between the two states.

This was revealed on Friday by Mandera Governor Ali Roba and his Gedo counterpart Mohamed A. Mohamed from Somalia.

BORDER WALL

While on a meet-the-people tour in the border towns of Mandera and Bulahawa, they said the two countries have agreed to temporarily stop the project that would separate the two towns.

According to the two, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo will soon meet to agree on a few “thorny issues” before the project proceeds.

Governors Ali Roba and Mohamed M. Mohamed.

Governor Roba said the decision was reached to quell the rising tension among people who live near the border.

“There is a lot of negative propaganda particularly on the Somalia side with respect to border security programme but we are here to confirm that all that is false,” said Mr Roba.

He said locals on the Somalia side of the border have been made to believe that the fence would lead to their eviction and the demolition of their houses.

TALKS

The Mandera governor said consultations have been ongoing for the past two-and-a-half years over the security programme initiated by the Kenyan government.

The construction has been slow since its inception in 2015 because the local community has to be involved at every stage.

“We are here as neighbouring governors to inform the public that the project has been halted so that a solution for the houses lying directly on the border can be found,” he said.

This, he said, was agreed on during a meeting last week attended by North Eastern Regional Coordinator Mohamud Saleh in Mandera Town.

“I can confirm the contractor has been asked to demobilise temporarily pending engagement by the two national governments to discuss a solution in an amicable way,” he said.

A section of the completed fencing along the Kenya-Somalia border in Mandera on March 3, 2018. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kenya-Somalia border.

Gedo Governor Mohamed said Presidents Kenyatta and Farmajo had already talked on the phone and agreed to meet soon.

“Our message here is that the construction stops until the two national governments come together to agree on some issues on the table,” he said.

According to Governor Mohamed, issues to be discussed include the reason for the project, its effects on daily activities and the fate of the homes that would be affected.

Mr Mohamed wants the Kenyan government to consider the social interaction of the communities along the border before separating them with a wall.

“The people living here have a long history of depending on one another and separating them needs negotiations to solve the problem,” he said.

Sixty-four homes have been marked for demolition along the border to allow the completion of the project, which is supervised by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) engineering department.

Kenya-Somalia border.

Kenya announced it would build a security wall to prevent Al-Shabaab militants from getting into the country, following the deadly April 2, 2015 attack at Garissa University College that left 148 people dead. Most of those killed were students.

The project was later changed to a wire fencing with a parallel trench. Eight kilometres have been completed.

However, the residents on the Somalia side of the border opposed the project and demanded to be compensated for their houses that are in the no man’s land. They have been marked for demolition.

They also asked the Kenyan Government to accept those who have Kenyan ID cards to settle in Mandera.

Some demands that the Kenyan Government is reluctant to implement include allowing students from Somalia to learn freely in Mandera.

Residents on both sides of the border have said the fence would disrupt business, social interactions and movement of livestock when herders search for pasture.

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Briefing Room

KENYA: Raila beaten as Miguna Miguna fights off citizenship nightmare

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The pensive face of Nasa leader Raila Odinga as he helplessly watched security officers grab Miguna Miguna by the waist in a bid to force him out of the country on Monday night told it all.

The former prime minister’s reputation as a troubleshooter for his lieutenants was on the line, especially in the backdrop of the March 9 handshake between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta that was meant to build political bridges.

Despite what was agreed being a guarded secret between the two, opposition aides believe that rule of law was one of them. At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday night, however, Mr Miguna was on his own, forced to fight off his citizenship nightmare the brutal, bare-knuckle way.

Although Mr Miguna was not entirely blameless for the standoff — as he refused to have his Canadian passport stamped — there was hope as soon as Mr Odinga entered the airport that a solution would be found.

Mr Odinga did not speak to the media when he alighted from his car at 10.05pm. He ignored journalists’ questions and walked straight to Terminal 1E, where Mr Miguna was holed up alongside his lawyers James Orengo, John Khaminwa and Cliff Ombeta.

SURRENDER PASSPORT

After a brief conversation with Mr Miguna, the former Prime Minister was soon on his phone. Owing to his new relationship with the President, it was assumed that he might have placed a call in the hope of securing the release of his friend-turned-foe-turned-friend.

But lawyer Nelson Havi, who was at the airport, told the Nation on Tuesday that Mr Odinga might have got into the act a bit late as the decision to re-deport Mr Miguna had been made five hours earlier, at about 3pm, after the fiery lawyer refused to surrender his Canadian passport.

“We believe that was the time the decision to take him back to Dubai was made,” he said yesterday, suggesting there had been a high level consultation within the government over the manner the lawyer was handled.

However, Mr Havi does not know at what level the decision to turn Mr Miguna back was made.

SIGN PAPERS

“What we know is that when it became clear that he would not surrender his Canadian passport, and that he was not ready to sign papers to get a visa, the decision to send him back was made,” he said.

Mr Miguna has been an acerbic critic of the Jubilee government, and his role in the January 30 ‘swearing in’ of Mr Odinga the point of no return with state agencies.

He was arrested and deported to Canada on February 9 as, the government claimed, he was not Kenyan since he had renounced his Kenyan citizenship in 1988.

His return on Monday at 2.30pm came less than 24 hours after Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga exchanged niceties at the Kenya Open golf tournament at Muthaiga Golf Club on Sunday, where they re-affirmed their desire to unite the country following last year’s disputed general election.

Mr Odinga’s arrival at the airport coincided with word that the State had deemed Mr Miguna an undocumented passenger, meaning he would be deported again to his adopted Canada, via Dubai, because he had used an Emirates flight to enter Kenya.

SHORT SCUFFLE

Sources at Kenya National Commission on Human Rights blamed the standoff on Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who, it was claimed, had issued orders that Mr Miguna should unquestioningly comply with the demands the immigration department was making.

Mr Orengo’s arrival at the airport a couple of hours before Mr Odinga was understood to be for the sole purpose of engaging Dr Matiang’i, while Mr Odinga’s entry into the melee was proof that the Dr Matiang’i route had borne no fruit.

Mr Odinga engaged in a short scuffle with the police before settling to make a call. As the Nasa leader talked on the phone, Mr Miguna attempted to dash out of the airport, his luggage well dangling from the baggage carrier, only to be stopped by three police officers who used their bodies to barricade the door.

300 POLICE OFFICERS

It is estimated that between 300 and 400 police officers were mobilised for the operation that would see Mr Miguna picked up, in full view of Mr Odinga, whisked away, and forced into the Emirates plane.

The flight had been delayed to ensure that the Kenya government’s unwanted visitor was taken back to where he had come from

A forlorn-looking Mr Odinga, sandwiched by his security detail, emerged from the terminal minutes later, defeated and angry. Again, he did not speak to the media.

“Mr Miguna has been whisked away by about 40 undercover police officers,” Mr Orengo briefed the media shortly afterwards. “He has been described as an undocumented passenger and forced into an Emirates flight.”

MEDIA ENGAGEMENTS

His briefing, however, was cut short by heavily armed police officers, and that was the last of orderly media engagements at the airport before everything went blank.

Mr Miguna spent the night at the airport, but his lawyers, journalists and friends were barred from seeing him on Tuesday.

More than 24 hours after landing on Kenyan soil, he was holed up at Terminal 2, where he had been transferred, ostensibly to minimise the image damage to Kenya at the international arrivals, and also to better contain him, the battering of journalists looking for him, and the team of lawyers seeking to secure his release.

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