President Obama Emphasizes Role of Kenyan Civil Society in Countering Violent Extremism
Washington, D.C. – Following President Obama’s meetings today with civil society leaders during his trip to Kenya, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley issued the following statement:
“We commend President Obama for repeatedly emphasizing the role of Kenyan civil society during his trip and for publicly meeting and listening to civil society activists, including groups representing Muslim communities facing collective suspicion and punishment.
“President Obama was right to mention the Kenyan government’s crackdown on peaceful dissent and call civil society the ‘oxygen of democracy,’ but he should have also taken the opportunity to refer to groups under attack by name, including Muhuri and Haki Africa.
“The true test of Obama’s visit will be whether civil society’s importance is highlighted and protected only for a weekend, or if the U.S. government will be able to successfully press for civil society space to widen so activists can help in the fight against violent extremism long after the president has left.”
Human Rights First recently released a new blueprint outlining steps the Obama Administration should take to promote greater stability in Kenya and the region, to advance productive means of countering violent extremism, and to support a robust Kenyan civil society. The blueprint titled “How the United States Can Help Counter Violent Extremism and Support Civil Society in Kenya,” is based on a Human Rights First research trip to Kenya in June and July 2015, including dozens of discussions with human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, academics, lawyers, independent experts, former senior Kenyan security officials, and government officials from the United States and other countries.