I will begin this piece from where I left on in my previous blog: Congratulations Mr. President, Let’s Do It Right This Time. Barely a week since President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, there have been renewed efforts by the Government to clamp down on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) perceived to be unfriendly to the State. The first CSO under attack was the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) that was de-registered by the NGO’s Coordination Board for alleged tax evasion, illegal bank accounts and illegal hiring of expatriates. In less than 24 hours, a second CSO, AfriCOG, was deregistered by the Government under allegations that the organization has been operating illegally.
The timing for the deregistration is strange. The recently concluded General Elections have left the Country grappling with several questions surrounding the credibility of the elections. Just before the August 8 polls, AfriCOG had asked the courts to compel the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to open up the voters register for public scrutiny. Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu, a public initiative linked to KHRC publicly pointed out errors in IEBC results. Two schools of thought emerge from this latest deregistration wave.
First, this could be a ploy by the Government to keep the deregistered NGOs preoccupied with addressing matters pertaining to their deregistration as opposed to focusing their attention on finding answers to the questions surrounding the credibility of the August general elections. Second, this could be an indication of the Governments continued efforts to frustrate NGOs purported to have reproached the government in the past.
Whichever the case, the timing for the deregistration of the NGOs is wrong. The country deserves to get answers to the questions surrounding credibility of the polls if the country is to get out of this state of negative peace. CSO’s have a critical role to play in resolving the turmoil we find ourselves in today. Clamping down in NGOs isn’t the solution, it only risks resulting in a further division in the society today.
While the Government might view NGOs as an inconvenience, the existence of NGOs is necessary for the democratic structures of the country to survive. Let’s remember that the Presidential win can only be declared through a democratic process. A people can though not be said to exist in a healthy democracy where their civic space is continually chocked rather than protected.