THE STATUTE LAW (MISCELLANEOUS AMENDMENTS) BILL, 2013: WHY IT IS A BAD LAW FOR THE COUNTRY AND WHY KENYA’S CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS WILL RESIST IT

On October 30, 2013 the Attorney-General of the Republic of Kenya published the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2013. The Bill seeks, amongst others, to amend parts of the Public Benefit Organizations Act (No. 18 of 2013), popularly known as the PBO Act, a progressive legislation that the 10th Parliament passed before the March 2013 General Elections. The overall thrust, content and import of the proposed amendments is to place the country’s civil society under even tighter control of the state than was the case for civil society organizations (CSOs) under the infamous Non-governmental Organizations Co-ordination Act (No. 19 of 1990), which the PBO Act repealed. That this is happening even before the Cabinet Secretary responsible for planning and national development gives the PBO Act a commencement date, and while the necessary regulations had been drafted and were under discussion with representatives of the civil society, is clearly a set-back to an otherwise positive policy process. From the outset, the following four issues are core to the country’s PBOs in relation to the proposed legislation:

  1. The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill’s proposed amendments to the PBO Act are ill-advised, unconstitutional in their overall scope and content, and brazenly undermine the spirit of the PBO Act. Consequently, they should be re-drafted before the Bill is tabled in the National Assembly. The PBO Bill was the product of a foresighted Member of Parliament, the Hon. Sophia Abdi Noor, who consulted representatives of the country’s development sector, key government departments like the Non-governmental Organizations Coordination Board, and led the development of a new law that was not only in conformity with the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 but was also reflective of a shift in government-civil society relations. The proposed amendments take the country back to the '90s era when the state treated CSOs as security threats that had to be muzzled along with other alternative voices, in a very restricted democratic space.