Kenya prevented two opposition activists from travelling abroad because it had no formal court order reinstating their passports, immigration authorities said.
Government suspended the passports of senator James Orengo and financier Jimi Wanjigi, both supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga. Grounds for the suspension were not clear and the Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
The incident is likely to intensify criticism Government is trampling on civil rights in an effort to crack down on the opposition following disputed elections last year and Odinga’s symbolic inauguration of himself as president last month.
Government shut down transmission for three private television stations planning to screen the inauguration live and deported a prominent opposition lawyer in defiance of court orders, prompting a public rebuke from the Chief Justice.
Kenya is the region’s richest economy and a major hub for multinationals, but the crackdown and the flouting of court orders provoked concern among diplomats and rights activists. Diplomats also condemned Odinga’s mock inauguration.
Government argued it did not obey court orders regarding the two men because it had not received a formal copy of the order, according to a statement by Gordon Kihalangwa, director of immigration services.
“We learnt through the media the Court granted orders that the Department of Immigrations should not interfere with the movement/travel of these two. Neither the Director of Immigration Services nor the Department was served with such orders as required by law,” the statement said.
Odinga, the son of Kenya’s first vice-president, is a long-time rival of President Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the first president. Despite official results showing Kenyatta received 1.4 million more votes, Odinga claims he won elections in August, which the Supreme Court nullified on procedural grounds.
Repeat elections were held in October, but Odinga boycotted them, claiming they would be unfair.