Civil Society groups take presidential contenders to task

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 7 – Civil Society Organisations want the eight presidential candidates to ensure their administrations create an enabling environment to facilitate a partnership that will address the problems of corruption, poor governance and other matters in the country.

Enabling Civil Society Legal Adviser Faith Kisinga noted that the government had for the last four and half years engaged in incessant attacks on the sector instead of implementing the Public Benefit Organizations Act, 2013.

She stated that Act allows CSOs a platform for engaging the government in constructive dialogue on ensuring a conducive environment for the sector and addressing administrative, operational and regulatory constraints that prevent or hinder civil society from carrying out their legitimate activities in the civic space.

“The enabling environment is something that is important to ensure that they contribute to the fullest extent towards ensuring that this country is prosperous and democratic so like any other development actor they also need that enabling space to be able to make their contribution,” she said.

Kisinga cited the regulation as provided for in the Act is not about persistently discrediting organizations but rather facilitating them and enabling them to realise their full potential so as to pursue their mandates and effectively render services of benefit to the public.

The PBO Act is yet to be operationalised and implemented despite being signed into to law in 2013.

The civil society groups have successfully thwarted four attempts to amend the PBO Act between 2013 and 2015.

Kisinga renewed the CSOs plea to the government to commence the PBO Act, 2013 but noted that a lack of political will from the government is the greatest barrier.

Meanwhile, a civil society umbrella lobby group has further called for the formation of an independent regulator for the sector noting that this will deal with the complete dysfunctionality of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Coordination Board and the subsequent loss of autonomy in its decision making and regulatory processes.

Civil Society Reference Group Presiding Convener Suba Churchill complained that the NGO Council has for the better part of the last four years been rendered moribund and dysfunctional after the Chairperson of the Board – Major (retired) Hussein Ali declined to take up his appointment in 2015.

According to Churchill, the NGO Board is completely incapable of making any decision that is legally binding and enforceable.

The two were speaking during the Public Benefit Organisations (PBOs) Summit which is aimed to provide a platform for leaders of PBOs as well as their presidential candidates vying in the August 8 General Election to express their concerns and make public pronouncements on issues relating to the civic space.

During the public forum, Thirdway Alliance Presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot challenged the civil society organisations to move away from a culture of lamenting and begin to vie for political seats if they are to realise the transformation they want.

“You have decided to sit on the fence and allow a tiny minority to do what they know best, that is politics. At the very least you should adopt a presidential candidate even if it is not me. The CSOs have perpetuated the language of governance, the language of change, the language civil society but we don’t want to go to where that change can be effected,” he said.

Economist David Ndii, who spoke on behalf of the National Super Alliance (NASA) Coalition, assured the CSOs that their manifesto is tilted towards ensuring the social-economic agenda for the country is implemented.

Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju was put to task about the strained relations with the CSOs after he declined to give a commitment that should they be re-elected back for a second term, President Uhuru Kenyatta will foster a greater working relationship with the non-State actors.

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