Kenyan government preventing election challenges, say human rights groups

President Uhuru Kenyatta won 98 percent of the vote in the Kenyan presidential election. Human rights groups contesting these results say the government is stopping them from filing any legal challenges in court.

Ben Curtis/AP
President Uhuru Kenyatta casts his vote in the Kenyan presidential election on Oct. 26, 2017, in Gatundu, Kenya. Human rights groups allege that the Kenyan government is preventing legal challenges to the vote.

Kenya's government is trying to intimidate democracy and human rights groups that could file a legal challenge against an Oct. 26 election won by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the groups said on Monday.

The government's board that monitors civil society organizations (the NGO Board) summoned three such groups for an audit on Monday, the groups said. Monday is the deadline for filing any challenge to the election at the Supreme Court.

Mr. Kenyatta won 98 percent of the vote, handing him a second five-year term leading East Africa's richest economy. Opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted the vote, saying it would be unfair because the election commission had failed to implement reforms.

The Supreme Court voided the first election in August citing procedural irregularities following an opposition challenge, so any possible fresh legal case is being closely watched.

"It is not a coincidence that the NGO Board has decided to come after these organizations. All three have been instrumental in calling for free, fair, and credible elections," said a statement from Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu, a coalition of civil society groups that monitored the election.

The name means My Vote My Voice in Kiswahili.

The three organizations summoned on Monday, Katiba Institute, Muslims for Human Rights, and Inuka Trust, belong to the coalition. The head of Muslims for Human Rights said he had planned to file a court challenge.

Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu deployed 2,000 monitors for last month's vote and said it found multiple cases where results from polling stations differed from results on the forms posted on the election portal.

"They are trying to attack everywhere to see who is preparing to go to court so that they stop it," Tom Oketch, secretary general for the Coalition for Constitutional Implementation, told a news conference.

Kenya is a regional hub for trade, diplomacy and security and its prolonged election season has disrupted its economy.

Calls to Fazul Mohamed, the NGO Board's executive director, went unanswered. Mwenda Njoka, a spokesman for the interior ministry, under which the board falls, said only Mohamed could comment.

After the August election police and tax authorities raided the Africa Centre for Open Governance, a group that had highlighted problems with election preparations.

The government threatened to shut the group and the Kenya Human Rights Commission over alleged procedural irregularities before the interior minister suspended the moves.

This story was reported by Reuters.

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