Forcing Miguna, or anyone else, into exile not in public interest

Lawyer Miguna Miguna

Lawyer Miguna Miguna is seen locked up inside the international arrivals building at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on March 27, 2018. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • I do not know Miguna from Adam but I do know that his rights are being trampled upon and it’s time they were respected.
  • The individuals hell-bent to undermine his rights are in total violation of international law for denying him his citizenship by birth.

Miguna Miguna has been in forced exile for a number of years. Despite court orders being issued for the government to allow his unconditional return to Kenya, the Canada-based Kenyan barrister languishes abroad. Dr Miguna’s latest attempt at returning home has, he claims, been yet again hampered by illegal issuance of ‘red alerts’ to international airlines. 

I do not know Miguna from Adam but I do know that his rights are being trampled upon and it’s time they were respected and he is reunited with his family and country. His continued exile now amounts to torture. He complained recently that he is suffering psychologically, emotionally and physically by being kept away from his loved ones in Kenya. He has even been denied the right to mourn and bury his kin. 

The crimes Miguna is alleged to have committed, if any, don’t meet the threshold of the punishment given. The crime must fit the punishment and his punishment is obnoxiously disproportionate.

One thing that is now perhaps clear is that Miguna’s case sounds like a personal vendetta by individuals within the government who are abusing their powers to keep him away. It was, therefore, right for the court to hold the Minister for Interior, Dr Fred Matiang’i, personally responsible for Miguna’s ‘deportation’. 

Until the individuals causing Miguna pain are severely punished for disregarding the Constitution and breaching court orders, they will continue to harm him and, perhaps, another innocent citizen in future. Parliament and the Executive have a legal duty, therefore, to intervene and allow Miguna, a private citizen, to exercise and enjoy his constitutional right to freedom of movement, association and speech.

Kenyan citizen by birth

Miguna is not everyone’s cup of tea. He is Kenya’s marmite character: You either love him or loathe him. He is a victim of his own liberal views, which are, so far, not worse than those of murderers amongst us. Miguna is not a terrorist. He has not committed genocide or crimes against humanity or risked the country in any way. He has every right to express himself. If one does not like what he is saying, then, by all means, they can switch off the TV and block him from their social media accounts. 

Just like any satire, Miguna’s views should be deemed those of an individual enjoying his freedom of speech and expression. Should he step out of line, then the law should deal with him as it would any other offender and charge him in a court of law with jurisdiction to determine the issues. 

Whatever Miguna has been accused of occurred on Kenyan soil. It beggars belief that, rather than Kenya assuming the jurisdiction on his crimes, if any, it chose to exile him to Canada, be that his second home. 

Nothing of Miguna’s DNA reads, or would ever read, Canadian unless, in a lab mishap, his samples got mixed up with those of a native. He is as Kenyan as they come. One who acquired citizenship by birth, which nobody has the power to revoke. The individuals hell-bent to undermine his rights are in total violation of international law for denying him his citizenship by birth.

Mistreatment and torture

The 2010 Constitution is meant to herald a new Kenya, where rights and privileges are enshrined in law and cannot be arbitrarily undermined. The impunity of past regimes was to be expunged by the rights-laden supreme law and no official should abuse their office to override them. 

Miguna’s mistreatment and torture exemplifies the return to the dark days, when a single public official would wield too much power to the detriment of the citizenry. Regrettably, such regressions by a few individuals have been allowed to persist in modern Kenya, where our Bill of Rights is meant to be the guiding principles to freedom and democracy.

One of the thorny issues in Miguna’s saga is the mock swearing-in of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga as “the people’s president” following the disputed 2017 presidential election. As the government turned its fury on Miguna, it embraced Raila and allowed him back into power, albeit through the back door. 

Miguna’s accusers cannot justify punishing him for the mock swearing-in and let his co-accused, Raila, off the hook. If anything, Miguna was a small player in the grand scheme of things. The other claims of holding a fraudulent ID card and so forth can easily be determined by Kenyan courts, and they should be.

We must resist any bid to return Kenya to the land of impunity by letting Miguna back home to enjoy his constitutional rights. His continued stay on forced exile is not in the public interest and should cease. Those who need to be punished are officials in total disregard of the court orders on Miguna’s return. Bring Miguna home, where he belongs. Further breaches on his rights are unjustified.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo

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