Kenyans protest proposed NGO bill
Kenyan protesters furious over parliamentary bills they say risk undermining democracy marched through the streets of the capital on Thursday, presenting a petition of several thousand names to lawmakers.
Last month, MPs pushed through a hugely controversial bill that could see journalists and media outlets policed by a special quasi-government body and slapped with huge fines or potentially even forced out of business if they violate a code of conduct.
Parliament has also set its sights on NGOs, drawing up a law that would place them under de facto government management and, notably, restrict their ability to receive funds from overseas donors – a key source of cash for many rights groups and anti-corruption watchdogs.
“We will lose everything we fought for for the last 20 years,” said Morris Odhiambo, president of the National Civil Society Congress (NCSC).
“Both the media and NGOs have been at the centre of this fight… Many people still fear the system, even if there’s a constitution that protects their rights.”
If the bills are signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta, protesters said that some of the poorest areas would be left without basic support, using Nairobi’s crowded slum districts of Mathare and Kibera as examples.
“Who built the toilets in Mathare? NGOs. Who built the toilets in Kibera? NGOs,” the crowd of around a hundred chanted.
“Say no to government control on media and NGOs,” one placard read.
Demonstrators handed over the petition to officials at parliament, where members of Kenya’s main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), came out to welcome the crowd.
“Many of our constituencies receive critical help from NGOs – voting against NGOs is like voting against my constituency,” said MP John Mbadi.
“A lot of Kenyan lives are dependent on NGOs… if we kill NGOs, we kill a lot of Kenyans,” said fellow MP Gladys Wanga.