Civil Society Groups threatened by State Security at the opening ceremony

Today kicks off the opening ceremony of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) Annual Meetings in Nairobi Kenya. Alongside this event, the Working Group on the AfDB hosted a great 2-day workshop where some Bank staff attended and showed great interest in working with CSOs.

Unfortunately, today, about 15 CSO members of the Working Group faced security threats at Kenya International Conference Center where the annual meeting is taking place.

The incident occurred when members of the Working Group entered the Kenya International Conference Center, attending the official opening ceremony.

Before this, one of our colleagues who wore a t-shirt showing a message like “We want our Forum back” was prevented from getting her badge. She has been asked to explain why she’s wearing such a thing in the vicinity of the Annual Meeting, and the registration desk said that it’s not permitted inside. And, because of that, she was denied her rights to pick her badge, and to attend the event.

Then we went through the gate and get into the Conference Center without any problem. But when we got close to the entrance of the main building, security guards came to us with the same question: who are you? Why are you wearing these kinds of T-shirts? Do you know it’s not allowed under Kenyan law? Are you making a demonstration? In response to that, I replied that for more than 15 years, we have been attending AfDB Annual Meetings without making noises and we never faced security issues. So, it’s not our intention to make a demonstration. In addition, I have emphasized that under the African Development Bank policies, we, as Civil Society, have the rights to free participation at the bank meetings.

Unfortunately, the head of the public security came to us with violence, brutally tearing off our badges and pushed all of us out of the conference venue. Saying harshly with us: You go out all, you’re allowed to be in the venue! Move out of the Conference Center area!

For us, this incident is unacceptable, and we are not animals.

In reaction to this Maurice Ouma Odhiambo Executive Director of Jamaa Resource Initiatives a Kenya based NGO says: “The Board of Directors should impress upon the government of Kenya to return our budges and the Bank should offer an apology to the CSOs”.

So, I have reported to the African Development Bank Board of Directors and the Office of the President.

It’s their duty and responsibility to investigate and monitor the issue.

Now as we have ongoing meetings this week with a couple of AfDB Board of Executive Directors and Senior Management, we demand our badges back!