KAGWANJA: Surgical reforms needed to depoliticise the civil society - Daily Nation

Surgical reforms needed to depoliticise the civil society

Saturday August 19 2017

KRA officials and police outside Africog offices in Lavington as they attempted to raid the offices on August 16, 2017 a day after NGO board announced its de-registration. To depoliticise civil society as an impartial space is critical as part of democratic deepening after the 2017 elections.  PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

KRA officials and police outside Africog offices in Lavington as they attempted to raid the offices on August 16, 2017 a day after NGO board announced its de-registration. To depoliticise civil society as an impartial space is critical as part of democratic deepening after the 2017 elections. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PETER KAGWANJA
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We are familiar with the adage that, “Ignorance is bliss.” But two years ago, while speaking at Rutgers University, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, reminded us that: “Ignorance is not a virtue.”

One would presume that Obama’s wisdom also applies to such venerated souls as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and others now deeply worried that “freedom has come under attack” in Kenya following the move by Kenya’s NGO Coordination Board to de-register the Kenya Human Rights Commission and to shut down the African Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) and to call for the arrest of its directors.

CONDEMNATION

For starters, no believer in democracy and the sanctity of its institutions would condone any assault on civil society.

Expectedly, the NGO Coordination Board’s move has elicited condemnation.

Inversely, the government has been lauded for declaring a 90-day freeze on action against the two organisations. 

However, in the face of an intensely partisan and stridently politicised human rights extremist group at the helm of civil society, the question remains, who will guard the guardians?

Perhaps the best way to start negotiating our way out of the ignominy of ignorance on why Kenya’s NGO Coordination Board took its drastic action is to move from the knowns to the unknowns.

ASYMMETRIC WARFARE

Many Kenyan intellectuals, policy pundits and publics—and I presume the esteemed UN Human Rights Chief—are pretty familiar with the concept of ‘asymmetric warfare.’ 

It is crystal clear that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia are among the best-known recent examples of how such forces of ‘evil society’ as terrorists and other extremist groups using the tactics and strategies of asymmetric warfare have imperilled human