BY PETER KOMBE
The Senate has been told to withdraw the Statute Law seeking to amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Public Order Act because this will go against the fundamental constitutional rights of Kenyans.
Expressing their serious reservation on the state’s legal reforms, some 14 Coast based civil societies alleged the amendments are aimed at paralysing their work and controlling their extremism activities.
The conglomeration of civil society organisations (CSOs) also opposed the proposed amendment to the Prevention of Terrorism Act to allow the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) be the approving and reporting institution for all CSOs and nongovernmental organisations.
“We are already registered and approved by the relevant laws and state institutions to operate so this new requirement is tantamount to double registration which will negate the purpose of registering in the first place,” Human Rights Agenda (Huria) executive director Yusuf Lule Mwatsefu read the joint statement at Royal Castle Hotel on Tuesday (April 16).
Before the Senate effects these amendments under the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill, they want the senators to allow the civic societies to propose their own amendments to the Bill for posterity.
Saying they are independent, nonpartisan and nonpolitical entities, they argued that they could not be directed to seek authority or report to a state agent because by doing so they will erode their independence they being apolitical.
In their view, countering violent extremism (CVE) is a voluntary social process which should be undertaken by all Kenyans; therefore, requiring people to seek approval and report to NCTC is just introducing bureaucracy.
“This amendment is just meant to muzzle CSOs and to proffer control of CVE work to NCTC,” they said adding that days of controlling them are long gone and doing so will be taking them back to those ‘dark’ days.
Kenya Community Support Centre executive director Phylis Muema argues that constitutionally Kenyans are guaranteed their rights to access and give out information.
According to her the amendments if implemented will paralyze efforts by civil society to champion for human rights in the country.
“If these amendments are implemented we fear that the voice of the civil society will be silenced” she claims asking the National Assembly to revisit the statutes before passing them into laws.
However, she warns that in case the amendments are implemented the CSOs will present the matter before a court of law for determination.
Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid warns that Coast civil society groups will not relent in the fight for the rights of Kenyans.
“We shall not slow down. We shall not relent in this war,” he says The CSOs, he adds, will not only challenge the matter before a court of law, but also assemble, demonstrate and to show their displeasure if the said laws are signed into laws.