Pressure on Uhuru over media ban, NASA arrests

The US early Monday piled pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta to switch on three privately-owned TV stations and called on the Government to obey the rule of law.  America’s Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said the abuse of power and disregard for the rule of law were eroding the country’s democratic space.

“The US again urges the Government of Kenya to allow TV stations to re-open. Free media is essential to democracy. So is adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law. Court orders must be respected,” said Mr Godec. His statement came after rounds of condemnation from the European Union, religious organisations and civil society groups, who told the Government to follow the law and stop arbitrary arrests.

By yesterday evening, the pressure seemed to have mellowed the Government’s tough stance as it switched on KTN News and NTV stations. Citizen TV was still off-air by last evening. State-owned broadcaster KBC, and K24, a station linked to Uhuru’s family, are some of the TV stations that have been on air for the last seven days after the three-private stations were switched off last Tuesday for airing Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s oath ceremony. ‘Criminal’ activities At the same time, 14 politicians and businessmen were on Monday warned of an intention to suspend their passports over “criminal” activities. The 14 are alleged to have, among other things, aided the ‘swearing-in’ of National Super Alliance’s (NASA) Raila as ‘people’s president’ on Tuesday. The Standard has established that Raila and his co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi are not among the 14.

The individuals have 14 days to appeal the action. Some observers warn that the events of the last one week threaten Uhuru’s legacy as he serves his second and final term in office. There is also a feeling that contempt of court by senior Government officials has further sent a red flag concerning the Jubilee administration’s commitment to the rule of law. High Court judge Luka Kimaru earlier yesterday ordered Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet and Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti to produce Miguna Miguna in court by 2pm. They did not produce him in what was seen as a continued defiance of court orders. The judge ordered the two to appear today for contempt. Monday’s failure to implement a court order was not the first as another one to switch on TVs last Thursday and release Mr Miguna were also ignored by the State.

“Officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union landed in jail for contempt of court. The IG and his officers should not be treated any differently when they appear in court tomorrow (today). Miguna Miguna is a suspect under the law,” Mutula Jr said. Activist Okiya Omtatah has since sued the Government for disobeying court orders, citing the refusal to switch on the TV stations last Thursday. “This application, criminal contempt, is the doing of any another act which scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lower the judicial authority or dignity of the court,” read the application filed yesterday. Government officials Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, his ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru, Sam Itemere, the ICT principal secretary, Karanja Kibicho (PS, Interior) and Kamau Thugge (PS, Treasury) are some of the Government officials cited in the case. Also cited are all Communication Authority of Kenya directors, among them board chairman Ngene Gituku. Yesterday, civil society groups staged a protest in Nairobi to condemn the media shutdown and arrests of Opposition leaders. Miguna, Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang’ and Makadara MP George Aladwa were arrested in a crackdown following Raila’s ‘swearing-in’.

“It is unprecedented and shocking to shut down TV stations. Why is the Government disregarding court orders? It is a blatant dismissal of the rule of law,” said KHRC Executive Director George Kegoro. The Conference of Catholic Bishops also condemned the media shutdown as retrogressive. NASA MPs, through lawyer Peter Kaluma, yesterday filed an application under a certificate of urgency fighting the withdrawal of their security.

Source Standard Digital

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