Press release

Kenya: Vote against amendments a win for human rights and civil society

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ARTICLE 19

06 Dec 2013

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ARTICLE 19 welcomes the decision by parliamentarians in Kenya to reject proposed amendments to the Public Benefits Organisations Act 2013, as a victory for human rights, which will ensure an enabling environment for civil society in the country.

ARTICLE 19 is an active member of the CSO Reference Group that led a campaign to fight the then proposed amendments. Had the proposed amendments passed vital services provided by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in crucial areas such as promoting good governance, health, education and water would have been cut off.  

“By voting against the amendments, parliamentarians have voted in favour of improving the livelihood of Kenyans, they have supported an enabling environment for civil society and they have shown their support for freedom of association and other fundamental rights” said Henry Maina, Director ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

The amendments to the Public Benefits Organisations Act 2013, along with other amendments that would have restricted fundamental rights and freedoms, were contained in the omnibus Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2013. Parliamentarians voted unanimously against this Bill.

Rather than focus on re-introducing these amendments in the next session of National Assembly, ARTICLE 19 calls on the government and NGO sector to work together urgently to ensure the implementation of the Public Benefits Organisations Act 2013, a review of the drafted Rules and Regulations of the NGO sector and the establishment of a credible Regulatory Authority.  

Enhancing the country’s development agenda in partnership with the NGO sector was a key pledge in the ruling coalition’s Jubilee Manifesto. The manifesto states that the Government will manage their relationship with the NGO sector in accordance with internationally recognised best practices. It also commits the Government to finding ways of working with the sector so that the country can fully benefit from its expertise and experience of the sector.

Proposed amendments to the Public Benefits Organisation Act (PBO Act) would have:

  • Led to unwarranted state intrusion or interference in the affairs of civil society, compromising their independence;
  • Granted the government a wide discretion to determine the terms of NGO registration, and broad powers for rejecting the registration of any NGO; 
  • Established limits for foreign funding for NGOs to 15 per cent, drastically reducing financial resources for civil society. This would curtail the activities of NGOs; damage the effectiveness of the development partnership with the Government, prevent humanitarian assistance at the grassroots to Kenyans in need support, and reduce the ability for NGOs to play an active role in governance oversight on behalf of Kenyans.

Together these measures would violate the right of Kenyan civil society organisations to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly. These rights are protected by Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Legal and regulatory measures should not be used to undermine and constrain civil society but should create an enabling environment for civil society.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Kenyan government to refrain from further attempts to shrink the space for civil society in the country, and to ensure that existing legislation is implemented to ensure an independent, diverse and pluralistic civil society. 

 

FOR MEDIA INTERVIEWS: Please contact: Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, henry@article19.org or call +254727862230 

MORE INFORMATION: Please contact: Stephanie Muchai, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, muchai@article19.org or call +254727862230