Siaya senator and lawyer, James Orengo, on Monday challenged a Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) official, to explain how the Muslim for Human Rights (MUHURI) bank accounts were frozen in April 2015.
Matu Mugo, an Assistant Director in charge of Funds Supervision at CBK, was required to explain how the organization arrived at a decision to direct banks to freeze the accounts that had been linked to terrorism.
During a cross-examination at a Mombasa court, Orengo stated that the power to freeze an organization’s bank accounts lied with a Cabinet Secretary.
He further wanted Mugo, appearing as a witness for the State, to provide to the court a communication from a Cabinet Secretary directing CBK to freeze the accounts.
In his defense, Mugo told the court that they had acted on a letter sent to CBK by the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC), supervisory board, that had raised queries against MUHURI.
“We received a letter from FRC (Financial Reporting Centre) that had been sent to CBK Deputy Governor. We called for a meeting to deliberate on it and sent a circular to all banks asking them to freeze the accounts,” Mugo stated.
Orengo also asked the CBK official if they had issued any notice to the affected organization but he responded in the negative.
Appearing as a witness for the organization, Maina Kiai, who is also a board member of MUHURI, claimed that he suffered a great deal when it was linked to terrorism.
Acknowledging that he was a Special United Nations Rapporteur then, he noted, “As a UN Special Rapporteur, I had a global mandate. I met government officials from around the world and this false information about MUHURI had travelled over the world. People started doubting my character on human rights,” Kiai revealed.
He further claimed that being associated with a terror organization was, in fact, the ‘biggest insult.’
According to Kiai, the banks never gave them sufficient information on why MUHURI accounts had to be frozen.
“There was ambiguity from the banks. No internal reasons were ever explained. However, the coincidence is remarkable because when the case was won, the money started flowing in,” asserted Kiai.
In the matter to be heard in February 2019, MUHURI has lined up Khelef Khalifa (chair), former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and Maina as witnesses while the State has Inspector General of Police and CBK as witnesses.
Upon lifting the ban on the frozen accounts in 2015, Justice Anyara Emukule stated that the move by the government was both unconstitutional and illegal and violated the rights of the two organizations to own property.