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Obama Urged to Press Uhuru on Human Rights Issues

President Barack Obama should press President Uhuru Kenyatta to reform Kenya’s security forces and ease restrictions on the country’s media and civil-society organisations, several US-based advocacy groups said on Wednesday.

They urged Mr Obama to focus on reports of abuses by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit in Nairobi, on the Coast and in the Northeast.

Members of the ATPU and other security forces have “have routinely responded to alleged attacks by the armed group Al Shabaab with abusive operations that appear to target specific communities – Muslims, Somali Kenyans and Somali refugees – based on their ethnicity, nationality or religion,” the human rights groups said in a joint letter to Mr Obama.

“Such actions risk further undermining confidence in the security forces, rendering them less effective, and fueling radicalisation instead of countering it.”


The letter signed by leaders of prominent NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also called on the US president to “continue sending an explicit message, both in public and in private,” on the need for Kenya to respect international norms of freedom of expression.

The groups praised the Obama administration’s “many efforts” to support Muslims for Human Rights and Haki Africa.

These two organisations have experienced “an onslaught of administrative harassment,” the letter states. It cites a Kenya court order “establishing that they have no links to terrorist groups.”

President Obama must also “remind” President Kenyatta of his pledges to respect the rights of refugees, the 14 letter signers wrote.

“To date,” they note, “the authorities have produced no evidence that Somali refugees provided material support to armed militants.”