Fazul: Unmitigated disaster or a misunderstood soul?

Saturday November 18 2017

Non-governmental Organisations Coordination

Non-governmental Organisations Coordination Board chief executive Fazul Mahamed. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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November 24 is a day critics and supporters of feisty Non-governmental Organisations Coordination Board chief executive Fazul Mahamed will be watching with keen interest after his term officially comes to an end.

But for a politically-connected man, who has made a name defying all sorts of controversy – including questions about his academic credentials and accusations of enforcing political hatchet jobs – what happens after D-Day is hard to tell.


As a regulator known for cherry picking his targets, often going after individuals and civil society groups perceived to be anti-government, some critics consider Mr Mahamed an unmitigated disaster while his backers think of him as a tough enforcer of the law.

An element of the farcical was recently added to his already controversial reputation. On the same week Mr Mahamed announced a crackdown on five influential NGOs and lobby groups, he registered Team Mafisi Foundation. To the uninitiated, “Team Mafisi” loosely refers to randy, opportunistic or unfaithful men.

Though the self-declared patron of the sacco, comedian Jaymo Ule Msee, argued that the foundation had been misunderstood and that its role will be to empower women and youth and fight HIV and Aids, Mr Mahamed’s critics found it ironical, considering his combative stance towards more “serious” NGOs.

Mr Mahamed had two weeks ago ordered the closure of Kura Yangu, Sauti Yangu and We-the-People — two vocal consortiums of pro-democracy NGOs.

This was days after “summoning” former Ethics Permanent Secretary John Githongo-led Inuka Kenya, Katiba Institute of renowned activist Prof Yash Pal Ghai and Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) associated with Khalef Khalifa, who has filed a petition at the Supreme Court together with activist and lawyer Njonjo Mue.


The recent crackdown by Mr Mahamed, who took up the job in 2014 after serving as director at the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse, was history repeating itself in timing and target.

This year alone he has gone after the Kenya Human Rights Commission and Africog— immediately after the August 8 elections whose presidential results the Supreme Court nullified.

He has also targeted foundations linked to Nasa co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka, opposition leader Raila Odinga’s daughter Ms Rosemary Odinga and then Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero. 

And after the Supreme Court nullified the August 8 presidential election, Mr Mahamed was in lockstep with Jubilee bloggers who accused researchers and staff attached to the Judiciary through funds provided by the International Development Law Organization for influencing the decisions.

In characteristic style, his letter purporting to ban the organisation appeared on social media but apparently never reached the targeted recipients, who continue to operate months later—perhaps because they fund many other government programmes.  

Mr Mahamed has since come out of the shadows and openly associated with the ruling team.

During the announcement of the fresh election votes at the Bomas of Kenya, Mr Mahamed was at the auditorium, mingling with Jubilee politicians. His name has even been mentioned as those touted for a more senior position in the Jubilee administration.

Mr Mahamed, 30, his critics say, has gone on about his job with unusual wanton abandon, leaving trails of court cases, a furious opposition, and an industry writhing from a man that appears ready to flash any card to suppress supposed dissent.

His biggest indictment, however, came in 2016 when the Ombudsman found him unfit to hold public office, saying he presented forged academic documents, among other accusations of mishandling his staff.

But like a cat with nine lives, Mr Mahamed survived the otherwise career-ending onslaught.

His dalliance with the law, however, and apparent disregard for it at times, seems to be just getting started, with High Court judge George Odunga in September finding him to have “run amok” when he stopped a Sh2 billion US-backed International Foundation for Electoral Systems reforms programme.