Civil Society Lauds Ruling on Commencement of the Public Benefit Organizations Act

The Civil Society  (CSRG) wishes to laud the court for its steadfast rulings on Petition No. 351 of 2015 and the subsequent Contempt of Court that arose after the government failed to obey the court directive to commence the Public Benefit Organizations Act.

This verdict is a triumph against impunity and the creeping culture of disregard for the rule of law as prescribed in Article 10 of the Constitution. It is the biggest blow to Executive fiat and its attendant impunity that seems to thrive on harassment and intimidation of independent and critical voices in the society.

In December 2016, Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ), in collaboration with the Public Benefit Organizations Litigation Team, and Trusted Society of Human Rights Alliance filed contempt of court proceedings against the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, and the Attorney General for failing to commence the Public Benefit Organizations Act as directed by the High Court.

Despite the High Court ruling for its immediate commencement on October 31, 2016, the Government failed to act on the court order and instead transferred the NGO Coordination docket from the Ministry of Devolution and Planning to that of Interior and Coordination of National Government in what seems to have been a deliberate attempt to defeat justice and evade the responsibility to gazette a commencement date of the new NGO law.

It should be recalled that commencement of the PBO Act is long overdue, having been passed by the 10th Parliament in 2012 and assented to by retired President Mwai Kibaki more than four (4) years ago on January 14, 2013.

All these have been happening under the Jubilee administration that has spent the better part of its nearly five years in power discrediting and delegitimizing NGOs and the Civil Society in general through the NGO Coordination Board Executive Director Fazul Mahamed instead of facilitating the work of the sector that compliments efforts of both national and county governments in service delivery and promotion of accountable exercise of power in the management of public affairs.

The Public Benefit Organization (PBO) Act 2013 is the law seeking to provide a more enabling environment for NGOs, yet as of today, the government seems to prefer operating under the outdated and draconian NGO Coordination Act of 1990 because of its broad, vague and arbitrary provisions that leave room for caprice and abuses.

Recent actions against Kalonzo Musyoka Foundation, the Kenya Human Rights Commission and Evans Kidero Foundation all of which have had to go to court to ward off threats of deregistration by the Board without any regards to the rule of law should be seen in this context.

It is extremely worrisome that the Executive arm of the government has taken impunity to such high levels as to fail to obey directives of the High Court. And this is not the first time that this is happening. Not too long ago, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) disregarded a court directive to stop using its controversial breathalyzer until a case that has been filed against its use is heard and determined.

Indeed, the Jubilee government’s penchant for oppressive tactics against the civil society and contempt for the judiciary is unprecedented. This is unfortunate and a recipe for lawlessness and anarchy, more so when it is being perpetrated by the Executive arm of the government charged with enforcing law and order.

It is our hope that this court decision will put an end to all forms of harassment and smear campaigns against the civil society and herald a new era characterized by the requisite political will and respect for judicial pronouncements that creates a favourable environment for civil society to work in and be able to continue promoting human rights, good governance and social justice for the poor without hindrances and distractions by the NGO Coordination Board.

Signed  issued on  14th Day of May 2017