The State's real beef with NGOS and why civil so­ci­ety isn't let­ting up

Nairobi Law Monthly - - Analysis - MAORE ITHULA

Even on the verge of suc­cumb­ing to the grow­ing weight of graft, plun­der and an­ar­chy at the top, the Ju­bilee Govern­ment is at war with the civil so­ci­ety. The gen­e­sis of this con­tention is the com­mence­ment of the Pub­lic Ben­e­fit Or­gan­i­sa­tions (PBO) Act 2013. The law creates a PBO Au­thor­ity – a semi-au­ton­o­mous body to reg­u­late the civil sec­tor.

In a way, this au­thor­ity lib­er­ates non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOS) by loos­en­ing the cur­rent tight grip that the State has on the civil sec­tor. For this rea­son, the State is against the com­mence­ment of the new law.

Since a dis­crete coup was staged at the NGO Coun­cil by the re­tired Pres­i­dent Mwai Kibaki's ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2004, the State has been in full con­trol. Be­fore that in­fil­tra­tion, the Coun­cil was an in­flu­en­tial mouth­piece for NGOS. Through it, the civil so­ci­ety con­trib­uted sub­stan­tially to the birth of plu­ral party pol­i­tics.

Af­ter the State took over the Coun­cil, about a hun­dred NGOS con­glom­er­ated into a loose as­so­ci­a­tion called the Civil So­ci­ety Or­gan­i­sa­tions (Sco)–ref­er­ence Group to­wards the end of the last decade. Against many odds, the un­reg­is­tered out­fit for­mu­lated and pushed for the leg­is­la­tion of PBO Act, 2013. For this, CSO–REF­er­ence Group mem­bers are at the cen­tre of the rag­ing bat­tle with Govern­ment as they fight for the com­mence­ment of the law, three years af­ter Kibaki as­sented to it.

The new law abol­ishes the Gov­ern­ment­con­trolled NGO Coun­cil and re­places it with the in­de­pen­dent, al­most fool­proof PBO Au­thor­ity in whose board of man­age­ment will be a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence of Cso-ref­er­ence Group mem­bers.

De­ter­mined to re­tain the sta­tus quo, the Ju­bilee ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­clined to com­mence the PBO Act as it is. In­stead, the State has made sev­eral at­tempts to amend the law to suit its whims. How­ever, each at­tempt has been met with stiff op­po­si­tion from all sec­tors of the econ­omy, in­clud­ing the Na­tional As­sem­bly where the Govern­ment has a ma­jor­ity vote.

Frus­trated, the Govern­ment has re­sorted to what oper­a­tors of the civil sec­tor term as witch-hunt and out­right State ter­ror. Mem­bers of the Cso-ref­er­ence Group be­lieve ev­ery neg­a­tive pro­nounce­ment or at­tack made by the State against the civil sec­tor tar­gets its mem­bers di­rectly.

Haki Africa and Mus­lims for Hu­man

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