Kenya NGO crackdown reaches MSF, Concern

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The government deregistered more than 500 NGOs in the country. Photo by: Benedikt von Loebell / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

The Kenyan government announced Tuesday it has deregistered 15 nongovernmental organizations suspected of financing terrorist activities, a move that now appears to be leading to a wider assessment of aid groups — both local and international — working in the country.

The country’s NGO coordination board has frozen bank accounts and revoked the work permits of their foreign employees.

An additional 510 development organizations were suspended after failing to submit their financial reports, and 12 more have been granted a 21-day grace period to submit their paperwork if they wish to continue working in the country.

The board has yet to release the list of organizations affected, but Devex learned that several high-profile international aid groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Water for Life and Concern Worldwide are among the 12 NGOs required to open their books to the authorities if they want to continue working in Kenya. All of these entities have an annual income exceeding 500 Kenyan shillings ($5.5 million).

Donors have also been notified of the new policy, with the board planning to require them to provide details of NGOs they have funded and for which activities.

Over the past few years, Kenya has suffered several major terrorist attacks on its soil, mainly by the Somali militant group al-Shabab. Last week, the government introduced in parliament a new bill that grants immense powers to the intelligence services, from tapping into private communications to requiring permits for journalists to report on terrorism or security issues.

The Kenyan government had been threatening to crack down on foreign-funded NGOs for quite some time now, and wants to regulate the sector with tough requirements like capping foreign funding to 15 percent.

A representative from an international organization currently working in the country told Devex the crackdown may also be connected with the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for instigating violence in the 2007 elections, as well as a certain expectation from the government that it may receive more direct budget support from donors if foreign funding to NGOs is severely restricted.

Check back Monday for our in-depth analysis on the crackdown’s impact on donor funding to the East African country and development work on the ground — exclusive for Devex Executive Members.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.