NGOs Issue Six Demands Ahead of Implementation of New Act

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Just hours after President William Ruto announced the operationalization of the long-dormant Public Benefits Organisations Act (PBO), nine civil rights groups under the Civil Freedom Forum (CFF) umbrella have issued demands for its comprehensive implementation.

President Ruto revealed the executive action during the closing ceremony of the United Nations Civil Society Conference in Nairobi on Friday, May 10, stating that he had executed the necessary legal instruments to bring the PBO Act into effect.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki Gazetted the commencement date as Tuesday, May 12, marking a significant step towards broadening democratic space in Kenya, according to a statement by CFF.

“This historic gazettement of the commencement date is an important step forward and demonstrates the commitment of current regime and civic society to a future of an enabling environment and broadened democratic space in Kenya. With this law, the people of Kenya will set a positive example for all of Africa and the world,” CFF stated.

However, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KNHCR) and other leading NGOs have presented a list of six demands ahead of the Act’s implementation, aiming to ensure a smooth transition and an enabling environment for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

A picture of Kenya Red Cross workers saving people and property in a flooded area of Nairobi.

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Kenya Red Cross

Among these demands are the establishment of a Joint Taskforce comprising key civil society leaders and government agencies to oversee the transition, extending the term of the current Executive Director of the NGO Co-ordination Board, facilitating public education on the PBO Act, and reviewing prohibitive laws affecting CSOs, as outlined in a press statement by CFF.

“CFF remains committed to providing continuous policy and political support and guidance to implementation of this law and enabling environment for CSOs,” the statement reiterated.

The demands come at a critical juncture as Kenya prepares for the repeal of the Non-Governmental Organisations Co-ordination Act, 1990, and the transition of regulatory bodies and councils to align with the PBO framework, as specified in the Fifth Schedule of the Act.

During this transition phase, CSOs anticipate automatic registration under the repealed law, the transformation of the NGOs Coordination Board to the PBO Authority, and the development of regulations pursuant to Section 69 of the Act, among other measures.

In addition to self-regulation, PBOs are poised to benefit from various incentives, including exemptions from income tax, preferential treatment in public procurement, and direct government financing for collaborative projects, according to the provisions of the Act.

The nine civil organisations that have endorsed the demands ahead of the operationalisation of the PBO Act include prominent names in Kenya’s civil society landscape. These organisations are the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, Initiative for Inclusive Empowerment (IIE), and the Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO).

Joining them in their call for transparent and inclusive implementation are Defenders Coalition – National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), Partnerships 4 Empowerment and Networking in Kenya (PEN Kenya), and InformAction.

President William Ruto addressing a delegation.

PCS



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