Civil rights activists accused Kenya's new government on Tuesday of using the police to crush dissent, following the interrogation of a political aide to Kenya's foremost opposition leader over an alleged plan to foster an insurrection.
Eliud Owalo, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga's campaign manager during his presidential bid this year, was interviewed by officers with the Criminal Investigation Department for a second time on Monday on allegations he plotted to initiate "an Egyptian-style uprising," said his lawyer Harun Ndubi.
The department alleged that Owalo has received or is about to receive money from foreign sources to instigate trouble, and that he has been holding secret meetings with youth as part of the plan to cause chaos, according to Ndubi.
Ndubi said the allegations are baseless and it is worrying that police are allowing themselves to be used by the state. Police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi said the police are non-partisan and are looking at the best interests of the state.
The "police just want satisfactory answers for the allegations," Mwinyi said. He declined to detail the source of the allegations.
Police also accused Owalo of working with foreign embassies to cause disaffection between Kenya and the international community using the crimes against humanity charges that Kenya's president and his deputy face at the International Criminal Court, Owalo's lawyer said.
Government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said in statement Friday — a few days after Owalo was first interrogated — that the government will ensure "that peace is maintained at whatever cost."
"Let nobody think or imagine that he or she can foment disaffection against the government irrespective of his or her station in life and get away with it," Kariuki said.
Ndubi said the stance the government is taking against the opposition is worrying and is reminiscent of the early 1990s when police brutally clamped down on a push to re-introduce multi-party politics in Kenya and on efforts to change the constitution to reduce the sweeping powers of the presidency.
Kenya's state security agencies, particularly the police and army, have been the main perpetrators of human rights violations, including massacres, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence, according to a government truth, justice and reconciliation report released in May.
Ndubi said the intended target in the allegations against Owalo could be Odinga, who lost in the March 4 election to President Uhuru Kenyatta. Odinga has in recent weeks criticized the government for failing to honor pre-election pledges Kenyatta promised to fulfill in once he was in power.
Hussein Khalid, an official with the group Muslims for Human Rights, said despite the reform brought about in Kenya's new 2010 constitution, the police force has been the only institution in the country that has resisted change.
"The police force is being supported by the political power houses to resist reform for one purpose only — to fight the opposition, whether in politics or in civil society," Khalid said.
Khalid said the police inspector general had in recent months resisted ceding authority to a civilian commission formed by the constitution meant to check on police excesses.
"This is a very dangerous precedent being set and we cannot allow it to continue because it can take us to those dark days which we thought had ended with the promulgation of the constitution," Khalid said.