Miguna Miguna (left) partakes in Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga’s symbolic presidential oath of office, Nairobi, Kenya, January 30, 2018. 

© 2018 Reuters

Update: On the night of March 29, Kenyan authorities again deported Miguna, this time to Dubai.

Kenyan authorities should comply with court orders to release or produce in court the opposition lawyer Miguna Miguna, Human Rights Watch said today. Miguna, a Kenyan citizen who is being held in Kenya’s main airport in Nairobi, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, should be allowed to enter and leave the country freely.

“Kenyan authorities should urgently obey the numerous court orders to either release or produce Miguna in court,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Holding him at the airport without any form of judicial review, in violation of court orders, is a blatant example of arbitrary detention.”

In the most recent actions in the case, on March 27, 2018, one judge directed authorities to release Miguna but the authorities ignored the order. Another judge later that day directed the authorities to produce Miguna in court on March 28, but authorities again failed to comply. On March 28, opposition supporters in Kisumu, in the western region, held street protests over Miguna’s continued detention, setting bonfires and blocking roads with stones.

In a statement to the media on March 28, Chief Justice David Maraga said that the “courts will have no option but to suspend proceedings countrywide until the state shows respect to the courts.”

On February 2, Miguna told news media that police had violently arrested him in Nairobi and, after disregarding numerous court orders to either release him or produce him in court, deported him to Canada, where he also holds citizenship. On February 7, the interior cabinet secretary, Fred Matiang’i, said that the authorities had deported Miguna because he was not a Kenyan citizen, but a high court judge later revoked the deportation, terming it illegal.

On March 26, Miguna returned to Kenya following a court order directing Kenyan authorities to unconditionally allow him to enter the country. Police and immigration officials detained Miguna at the airport, however, with the immigration demanding that Miguna, he re-apply for citizenship or for a visa before he is allowed to proceed. He remains in detention there.    

Miguna is among three people, including two members of parliament, who were arrested in February in a crackdown against those who participated in a parallel swearing in ceremony on January 30 for Raila Odinga. Odinga, who was the presidential candidate for the leading opposition coalition, NASA, held the swearing in after losing the presidential election, which he contended was not conducted fairly.   

Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta have since agreed to cooperate and de-escalate the political tension, including ending a government crackdown on opposition leaders. On March 16, Odinga told supporters that, as part of the agreement with Kenyatta, Miguna would be allowed back into the country unconditionally.

In 1988, Miguna, then a university student activist, fled to Canada following a government crackdown on critics. Miguna acquired Canadian citizenship and after then-President Daniel arap Moi left power in 2002, travelled in and out of Kenya several times on a Canadian passport. In 2008, Miguna became an adviser to Odinga, then the prime minister, and in 2009 acquired a new Kenyan national identity card and passport. Under the 2010 constitution, Kenya cannot revoke the citizenship of anyone who acquired citizenship at birth.