Civil Society Organizations continue to play a critical role in The social, economic and political development of The country through building community capacities, providing development programmes and holding National and County Governments accountable to the Constitution. HOW EVER, an increasingly difficult enabling environment compounds the Failure to enact the PBO Act, 2013.
The Act provides for the formation, operation and growth of Public Benefits Organizations (PBOs) and establishes an institutional framework within which they can operate. In January 2017, the government appears again unable or unwilling to operationalize the Act despite various Civil and legal interventions. While the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning Hon. Mwangi Kiunjuri gave a directive to operationalize the Act in september 2016 and a Court ruling delivered on 31/10/2016 compelled the Government to gazette the commencement by November 11. This order hasn’t been adhered to. Instead, The sector, was in october 2016 moved from the Ministry of Devolution and Planning to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government . This move was done without any consultation from the sector. The decision destroys the excellent gains made by the Ministry of Devolution and Planning in commencing the Act.
The sector is painfully aware that it is being assigned to a that’s already preoccupied in keeping Kenyans safe from communal violence, small arms control refugees, terrorism and pre-election tensions. The logic of The Ministry is very far from the day to day work of The sector and we run the risk of The sector only being seen through a security lens. Lastly, It reverses twenty – five years of locating the sector in a National Planning and development Coordination Ministry. It is also unclear what the status of The NGO Coordination Board is after the removal of Director Fazul Mahammad and his censure by the Ombudsman. We believe the decision to relocate is not in The interest of the sector, the state or the Kenyan people.
A recent directive by the Ministry of Interior and Co ordination of National Government, instructing County Commissioners to vet all Organizations on grounds of money Laundering, donor aid diversion, and terrorism financing also opens the sector to threats of intimidation, reminiscent of The days of the provincial administration. This is especially worrying coming in an election year when the CSOs are under scrutiny over accusations of being funded by foreign governments.
The implications of these changes on the sector are as follows:
- Fear and uncertainty has gripped some Organizations while others are faced with out rage and indignation that the management of The sector has been set back by 25 years.
- The january 6th Interior Ministry circular essentially criminalizes all The charitable activity that’s being done by all agencies with the exception of those registered as NGOs. This could potentially affect all companies limited by guarantee, community based Organizations, Trusts, Foundations, women and youth groups etc.
- It creates the unfounded allegations that NGOs are a threat to national security through money Laundering, donor aid diversion and terrorism financing. There’s no evidence to support this analysis or any complaints that the State is responding to.
- This narrative and actions are ill-advised, contradict Government policy norms of an Open, liberal democracy, unnecessarily overburden our security sector and target the governance and accountability sector. Key ramifications will be felt in the fighting corruption and Open, peaceful credible elections.