President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday bowed to pressure from religious leaders and ordered the immediate withdrawal of the proposed Societies (Religious Societies) Rules, 2015.
He said the withdrawal will pave the way for a process driven by the religious stakeholders with the participation of the government and the general public in a structured consultation.
“The outcome will be [the] development of firm and fair regulations that uphold the sacrosanct principles of religious freedom that underpin our democratic ideals as guaranteed by our constitution,” said President Kenyatta.
The decision was reached after President Kenyatta held a meeting with religious leaders on the regulations that had attracted protest from a cross section of leaders.
He assured Kenyans that the government remains steadfastly committed to doing everything necessary to facilitate a free and open society conducive to a vibrant religious environment.
“The government remains committed to an open, transparent and accessible government where public participation and consideration of a broad range of views is paramount,” said Mr Kenyatta in a statement from State House, Nairobi.
FREEDOM OF WORSHIP
The draft regulations had covered the registration process and the theological qualifications of religious leaders and introduced umbrella bodies that were to promote self-regulation and require a declaration of sources of income.
There was also a requirement to give annual returns and audited accounts.
Religious organisations were also to disclose if members of the same family are holding any leadership positions in the same outfit and also state all their assets and liabilities and any affiliations with foreign religious groups.
However, religious leaders opposed the regulations and vowed to help kick out the current administration, a reaction that forced the government to backtrack on the regulations.
The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, Catholics, Pentecostal churches, evangelicals and the Cord coalition opposed the regulations, saying the State should not act in a manner akin to interfering with freedom of worship.