February 19, 2018 / 10:24 PM / in 4 months

Kenyan opposition politicians stopped from leaving the country: Odinga adviser

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Two Kenyan opposition politicians were prevented from leaving the country on Monday when immigration authorities confiscated their passports, hours after a court ordered the travel documents to be returned, an opposition official said.

FILE PHOTO: Kenyan opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition leader and lawyer James Orengo speaks during a news conference regarding the results of the August 2017 elections in Nairobi, Kenya, January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Salim Lone, an adviser to opposition leader Raila Odinga, said James Orengo and Jimi Wanjigi had planned to travel to the funeral of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai from Nairobi’s international airport but had missed their flight.

The High Court had earlier ordered that the two men and five other opposition members should have their passports returned after they were suspended by the Interior Ministry following Odinga’s symbolic “swearing in” as president in late January.

A case filed by the seven National Super Alliance Coalition (NASA) members challenging the suspension is due to be heard later this month.

In a statement late on Monday, Lone said Orengo and Wanjigi had got another court order for their passports’ return but that immigration officials were still holding onto them.

“The officers refused to carry out the court order and the passports were not returned, making the two NASA leaders miss the flight,” the statement said. “Mr Orengo and Mr. Wanjigi are still at the airport trying to retrieve their unlawfully confiscated passports.”

Immigration officials were not immediately reachable to comment.

FILE PHOTO: Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga of NASA coalition escorted by businessman Jimi Wanjigi, gestures before a swearing-in ceremony as the president of the People's Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Interior ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka did not comment on the incident at the airport but said the government “will most likely appeal” the High Court’s order to return the seven opposition members’ passports.

Monday’s incident underlines the deepening rift between President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government and the judiciary, which nullified his initial re-election as president last year and ordered a repeat vote, which Odinga then boycotted.

Odinga justified his “swearing in” by saying he had won the Aug. 8 election that was then invalidated by the Supreme Court.

Odinga had left the country earlier on Monday.

Late last week, the government said it would appeal another court order reversing the deportation of another opposition member, lawyer Miguna Miguna, who is now in Canada.

The government said the ruling was “not in the best interest of the country”.

Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Catherine Evans

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