Kenyan MPs throw out bill capping foreign funding of NGOs

by Katy Migiro | @katymigiro | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 5 December 2013 10:41 GMT

Refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan gather at the registration centre of the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana District, northwest of Nairobi. The UN refugee agency says the camp is nearly full, with about 96,000 refugees. Photo May 18, 2012, REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

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Aid groups praise Kenyan parliamentarians for rejecting a government bill that would have slashed foreign funding for Kenyan NGOs, damaging health services and legal aid for the poor.

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Kenyan non-governmental organisations (NGOs) praised MPs for rebelling against the government on Wednesday and rejecting a bill that would have cut foreign funding to NGOs providing essential healthcare and human rights services.

There has been widespread criticism of the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2013 which would have capped foreign funding of NGOs at 15 percent of their budgets.

On Wednesday evening, MPs rejected the bill at the last stage of the second reading by 87 votes to 73.

“We salute their bi-partisanship and commitment to national development, democratic governance and the rule of law,” said the CSO Reference Group, a network of Kenyan NGOs.

“In withdrawing these amendments, Kenya wins.”

Kenya’s NGO sector is mostly foreign funded, contributes 152 billion Kenya shillings ($1.7 billion) a year to the economy and employs 290,000 people, providing many health services and legal aid for the poor, aid agencies say.

More than 18,000 Kenyans signed a petition and spoke to MPs and government leaders about the bill over the last two weeks, CSO Reference Group said.

Critics of the bill said the government was using it to silence human rights groups that had collected evidence from victims of Kenya’s 2007/08 post-election violence. The International Criminal Court in The Hague is trying President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto on charges of crimes against humanity in connection with large-scale violence at that time.

The majority leader of the national assembly, Aden Duale, withdrew the proposal, saying it was unconstitutional.

“I’m a good recipient of the donors’ money,” he said, according to the Daily Nation newspaper.

Several MPs from northern Kenya, like Duale, have been educated by or have worked for NGOs. The region receives a lot of aid from NGOs because it is marginalised and drought prone.

“If we cap the money received by these organisations then we risk suffocating them and those people who entirely depend on them for survival,” the paper quoted Mukurwe-ini MP Kabando wa Kabando as saying.


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