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Fresh bid to amend Kenya's NGO law opposed by civil society

By Ally Jamah | September 14th 2015

Civil society have criticised fresh attempts to amend the law that was passed more than two years ago to regulate NGOs but has never been implemented by the Jubilee government.

They want Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru to drop her bid to amend the Public Benefits Organisations Act terming it a move to curb the operations of civil society in the country.

Waiguru's Ministry has indicated that it has forwarded proposed amendments to parliament but it is not yet clear what those amendments are.

But previous attempts to amend the law sought to restrict external funding for civil society. This will be sixth attempt by the government to amend the law.

The PBO Act was assented into law in January 2013 by the then President Mwai Kibaki but its implementation was halted when Jubilee government came to power a few months later as they sought to amend the law to restrict external funding of NGOs.

National Civil Society Congress President Morris Odhiambo said fresh attempts to amend the PBO Act rather than implementing it shows that the Jubilee government has not given up its attempts to weaken civil society.

He wondered why the proposed amendments have been rushed to Parliament before involving stakeholders terming the move to be in bad faith.

'Our message is for the PBO Act to be implemented as it is without any further amendments. There is no need to waste more time and money," he said.

He added, “With the increasing incidences of corruption, the Jubilee government wants to undermine civil society so as to escape accountability. But they will not succeed."

National Council of NGOs Chairperson Wilson Kipkazi said the PBO Act should be implemented without any further delays saying that will be in line with the views of Kenyans.

He said that majority of Kenyans want the PBO Act to be implemented as it is as captured by the recent Taskforce report that collected views from Kenyans across the country.

"The law we are advocating for was developed through public participation, approved by Parliament and assented by the President. It is only the implementation that is remaining," he said.

Executive Director of the Inter religious Council of Kenya, Dr Francis Kuria said that the PBO Act should be implemented as stakeholders discuss if there any legitimate amendments to be made.

"Implementing the law does not mean that it cannot be amended in future. The current law that regulates NGOs is out dated and urgently needs to be replaced," he said.

Former Nominated MP Sophia Abdi who chaired a taskforce to collect views on the Act, suggested that it be amended first before being implemented.

But other members of the taskforce, mainly from the civil society, insisted that the views collected from Kenyans across the country were in favour of the implementation of the Act as it is.

The PBO Act sets up the Public Benefit Organisations Regulatory Authority to register and regulate NGOs in the country. It also established the National Federation of PBOs, an umbrella organisation of all registered NGOs for self-regulation of NGOs among other provisions.

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