Power and Politics

Rights group demands repeal of ‘draconian’ laws restricting civil society organizations


Government should take decisive and immediate action to repeal a law that unduly restricts the activities of non-governmental organizations and civil society groups that operate in the country, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

Idriss Ali Nassah, Senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the law, known as the NGO Act No. 16 of 2009, subjects non-governmental groups to excessive and unwarranted controls, including by placing them under the authority of a government-dominated NGO Registration Board that has the authority to interfere in these groups’ activities.

Read more: NGO calls for nation-wide campaign against gender-based violence in Zambia

Nassah recalls that as opposition leader, President Hakainde Hichilema called the law “draconian and repressive” and pledged to repeal the Act however nearly two years into his term, his administration has not acted to fulfil his promise.

“Independence from government control is an essential ingredient in the functions of civil society and nongovernmental organizations,” he said.

Nassah in a statement on Friday said government should repeal the NGO law so that civil society organizations can freely provide critical analysis and checks and balances without the threat of being shut down or denied registration.

“The very existence of this law is a blot on Zambia’s standing in the region and is against the country’s international human rights commitments,” he said.

Contributed by Augustine Sichula

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