“When rights are treated as gifts from the State, you know that you’re in a dictatorship.”
NGO Coordination Board Executive Director Fazul Mahamed addresses journalists at the agency’s office on October 29, 2015. He is also one of the few people in public service jobs without the pretence of academic qualifications. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP(nation) —Outside of pure political witch-hunting, it is really quite hard to understand the legal thinking that informs the purported decisions of Fazul Mahamed of the NGO Coordination Board.
He is clearly not a lawyer. And his decisions amplify the fact that he was discontinued from university for academic reasons.
He clearly takes orders which he goes overboard to fulfill.
He is also one of the few people in public service jobs without the pretence of academic qualifications, yet he can countermand a Cabinet secretary.
He owes everything to his owner and if that means looking stupid, unreasonable and uncouth, so be it.
His recent edict “banning” coalitions such as Kura Yangu, Sauti Yangu and We-The-People show the limitations of his knowledge and capacity.
The trigger for this edict was the work the two coalitions have been doing around the elections, which reveal the Emperor’s nakedness, by presenting incontrovertible facts that show that Kenya’s elections “have their owners”.
What is baffling about these sorts of edicts is that the office of the Attorney-General is represented on the NGO Board!
Is it that these lawyers do not understand the right to association – under national and international law – or the Bill of Rights?
Or have they been so affected by the political expediencies that have compromised the once competent and clear thinking Attorney-General that we saw reasoning in incredulous ways at the Supreme Court in August?
Nevertheless, and for the benefit of Mr Mahamed and his owners, the fact that freedom of association is a right means that no one needs any permission, or any registration to exercise it.
That is why it is a right and not a privilege.
When rights are treated as gifts from the State, you know that you are in a dictatorship.
Associations register when they need legal personality to sue and be sued, open bank accounts and other logistical issues only.
Thus, when people who trust each other come together to form a chama and collect money from each other for their own purposes, they need not register unless they want to open a bank account.
And their association is not illegal.
When booklovers form book clubs to read together and exchange notes they do not need to register.
When associations and individuals come together to speak with one voice and share common cause, and express that common cause, they do not need to register.
It’s as simple as that.
But it is also clear that Mr Mahamed and his owners do not get what drives the human rights community.
I hope they read – and internalized – the excellent profiles that the Nation carried about Njonjo Mue and Khelef Khalifa on November 7.
These gentlemen epitomise the belief systems that drive most human rights activists.
They come from totally different backgrounds, with different educational backgrounds but they have found common cause in the struggle for human rights and human dignity.
Mr Mue is an Oxford-educated lawyer who could have been one of the wealthier lawyers and businessmen in Kenya had he chosen that route.
In fact many of his classmates from high school and university are dollar millionaires.
But he chose to go into human rights and social justice, resisting tyranny and injustice.
Crucially Mr Mue is one of quite many now, who have committed “ethnic suicide” by refusing to take the tribal route of uthamaki and seeing himself as Kenyan foremost.
It matters not that he is from Gatundu; what counts is whether the regime cares for justice, truth and inclusivity.
Anyone who understands human rights gets this.
Mr Khalifa, on the other hand, is a self-made man, who found ways around his limited education to acquire wisdom and courage that is rare in Kenya.
He is a die-hard activist, who has risked death, beatings and imprisonment, often without a formal organisation behind him, because his cause is a better Kenya.
It is impossible to silence these sorts of people, and their numbers are growing, whether you jail them, proscribe their organizations or kill them and this regime would be better off knowing that.
(Full disclosure: Both these gentlemen are my inspiration and we work together in many registered and unregistered associations.)