NAIROBI, SEPT. 29 -- The government of President Daniel arap Moi has banned publication of a Kenyan law magazine that consistently printed articles critical of single-party rule and restrictions on civil liberties here.
Reacting to the official order Friday night banning "forever" the Nairobi Law Monthly, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said today:
"This publication has been an important forum for legal and social commentary. Its staff has earned respect here and abroad for the variety of views expressed in the publication. We hope that the ban will be reconsidered."
No reason was given for the ban, which was announced in a terse legal notice from Attorney General Mathew Muli. However, the monthly was known as a champion of the rule of law, civil rights and democratic rule in this one-party state. In March, several National Assembly members and leading party figures charged that the magazine was subversive.
The law monthly became the fourth Kenyan publication to be banned in two years. All dealt with political issues or civil rights.
Gitobu Imanyara, publisher and editor of the Nairobi Law Monthly, said: "At times such as this, our liberties stand on trial. Freedom of expression and therefore of the press is central to a democratic society." He vowed to fight the order in court.
Imanyara was one of a dozen lawyers, human rights activists and proponents of multi-party democracy held for several weeks during civil disturbances in June and July that resulted in 20 deaths.
Officials of the ruling Kenya African National Union soon are expected to release a report -- on recommendations to improve accountability to the public -- that was spurred by those disturbances. The cover story of the latest issue of the Imanyara's magazine was about the party's debate and was headlined, "Kenyans want change."
But in a period when public calls for multi-party democracy have shaken more than a dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the banning of the monthly appears to indicate that Moi's government shows little inclination to legalize political pluralism or even to allow its discussion.
While Gabon, Ivory Coast and Zambia take steps toward multi-party democracy, Moi has charged that allowing more political parties here would only encourage tribal divisiveness. Moi has ruled for 12 years, and his followers have taken pride in Kenya's stability.
The banning is likely to increase strains between the Moi government and the U.S. Congress, which has been critical of the civil rights situation here. Banning of the Financial Review in 1988 prompted several congressmen to review American economic aid to Kenya -- the largest recipient in sub-Saharan Africa at $49.8 million this year.