Intimidation of Kenyan NGOs unwarranted

Following threats to de-register 959 Kenyan NGOs, many working for good governance and human rights, CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders–Kenya (NCHRD-K), call on Kenyan authorities to immediately stop the repeated harassment of NGOs and ensure a conducive legal and political operating environment.

In the most recent incident, on 28 October 2015, the NGO Coordination Board announced the de-registration of these 959 NGOs for violating provisions of the Non-Governmental Organisations Act 1999 and for “breaching the terms and conditions attached to their certificates.”  Those facing de-registration learned of the process from news reports, with no official communication from the Board. 

NGOs targeted include the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC), a national human rights not-for-profit organisation (CSO) that demands public participation, accountability, and transparency for human rights violations. The Board accuses the NGOs of failing to properly account for funding, stating that their decision is line with provisions of the NGO Coordination Act.

However, this action generated immediate outrage across the NGO sector, who regard it as the latest ploy to exert political pressure on civil society and create a climate of fear and uncertainty. NGOs contribute immensely to Kenya’s socio-economic and political development, but operate under increasingly restrictive conditions. 

The list of affected NGOs was circulated to Kenyan banks with authorisation to freeze their bank accounts and shared with government departments responsible for money laundering to investigate and prosecute the NGOs concerned. It was also published in the media.

This kind of harassment is not new. In early December for example, the Board arbitrarily cancelled the registration of 510 local and international NGOs citing failure to submit tax returns.  Some were later reinstated after condemnation from local and international CSOs. The NGO Coordination Board noted that reinstated organisations had submitted audited accounts and made payments for outstanding penalties for non-compliance with the law.

In April this year, the Inspector General of Police named two leading Mombasa-based human rights organisations, MUHURI and Haki Africa on a list of organisations and individuals associated with terrorism and froze their bank accounts.  Despite a court ruling clearing both organisations of any links to terrorism due to the government’s failure to provide evidence, they are still not able to carry out their activities as their accounts remain frozen.  

After widespread condemnation of the recent potential de-registration of the 959 organisations, we welcome the decision announced by Devolution Secretary Anne Waiguru to overrule the NGO Coordination Board and suspend the deregistration process. Unfortunately, the NGOs who were named in the public list and in media statements have already suffered damage to their reputations.

We call on the Kenyan authorities to present valid evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the 959 organisations and immediately drop the potential suspensions. We also call on Kenyan authorities to end the repeated administrative and judicial harassment, and ensure a vibrant civic space in the country. 

 

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