The actions of the NGOs Co-ordination Board this electioneering year have raised eyebrows due to its perceived hard stance on civil society groups involved in promoting good governance and the rule of law.
The board’s crackdown on civil society groups critical of the government has riveted an image of an organisation either receiving incompetent legal advice or one that is being used to carry out hatchet jobs on behalf of shadowy political forces.
Only on Monday this week, the board banned the operations of Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu and We The People for allegedly receiving Sh36 million from the George Soros Foundation.
In a letter copied to the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC), the NGOs Co-ordination Board chief Fazul Mahamed directed the two to stop all political operations and election-related programmes.
In mid-August two other NGOs, the Kenya Human Rights Commission(KHRC) and the African Centre for Open Governance (AFRICOG), were also shut down by the board even though the directive was suspended by the State for 90 days.
Whilst the board is mandated to ensure order in the NGO sector, it must stay objective in its work and respect the rule of law at all times.
We find the timing of the board’s recent onslaught on civil society groups suspect, given the political circumstances in the country.
In properly functional democratic systems, regulatory agencies uphold objectivity in their work and don’t engage in partisan campaigns or crackdowns that undermine the progression of their subjects.
Civil society groups play a critical role in checking excesses by the executive and their work must be respected and supported by all for sake of development. They should therefore be embraced as partners in the country’s progression efforts and not condemned.
The Non-Governmental Organisations Co-ordination Act (Cap 19) of 1990 lists the board’s key mandate as advising the government on the activities of the NGOs and their role in national development within Kenya.
We therefore urge the board to exercise objectivity in its work and stay out of politics. It must stick to on its lane and let politicians engage in their own selfish contests.
The NGOs must also respect the set rules and regulations, but keep pressure on the executive.