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State, NGOs lock Horns over changes to Kenya NGO law

By Ally Jamah | July 7th 2015

Nairobi, Kenya: The government and civil society organisations have locked horns over proposed changes to the law that is supposed to regulate the sector.

This comes after the Devolution Ministry and the NGOs Coordination Board announced that it has forwarded some proposed changes to the Public Benefits organisations to the National Assembly. But NGOs have lambasted the move as illegal.

The Board's Executive Director Fazul Mahamed said the proposed changes follow from the recommendations of a Taskforce that collected public views across the country.

"In the final report, the task force clearly posited that implementing the PBO Act without amendments may prove problematic for the sector and may end up eroding the gains the sector has achieved over the years," he said in a statement.

The proposed changes by the Board have not been made public but the Chairperson of the Task force Sophia Abdi, a former nominated MP, said that they recommended changes requiring that NGOs to disclose the source of their funds and how they are used in line with international financial reporting standards.

The task force also proposed amendments to prohibit registration of any NGO that is involved in promotion and advocacy of "indecent acts" as provided in the penal code or involved in the promotion of national interests of state or is involved in recruitment, training and incitement of persons to undertake terrorist activities.

But Civil Society Organizations have expressed alarm about the proposed changes saying no changes were recommended by the task force or the Kenyans who submitted views to the task force. They challenged the Ministry and Board to make the report public.

Led by the Reference Group (CSORG), Inter Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK), and the National Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs Council), the civil society said they were part of the task force that collected views from Kenyans countrywide.

"We attended and documented on video and audio almost all its regional and stakeholder meetings and we developed a shadow report based on this documentary evidence. The report demonstrates an overwhelming majority of Kenyans asking for the commencement of the Act without any amendments," said the civil society in a statement.

But in a press statement, Chairperson of the Task force and former nominated MP Sophia Abdi said that they have indeed proposed changes to the PBO contrary to claims by the civil society.

She said that the CSOs that are opposed to the proposed changes to the law were adequately represented in the task force that suggested those changes and in fact signed the final report.

"Unless the Act is amended all the gains achieved by the sector over the years will be eroded and the Act will not serve its intended purpose," she said.

She added: "Should the proposed amendments be contrary to the recommendations of the task force, I will be the first to raise concerns."

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