Zambia’s Government Should Halt Enforcement of NGO Law
Freedom House urges the government of Zambia to postpone enforcement of its draconian NGO Act, which required non-governmental organizations to register with the government before February 5, in apparent violation of the country’s constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of association. Freedom House calls on the government to consult with civil society to resolve issues about the legality and enforcement of the law.
The law requires NGOs to register with the Ministry of Community Development, regardless of their legal standing, and also creates a NGO Board, whose membership is dominated by government appointees. The board has authority to deny registration to organizations not complying with provisions of the law.
In recent months, nearly 500 NGOs declared their intention not to register under law until the government addressed their concerns. Implementation of the NGO Act is part a broader regressive trend in Zambia, where the government is increasing its harassment of civil society, independent journalists, and political opposition.
The NGO Act was passed in 2009 by a Movement for Multi-party Democracy government. In its 2011 campaign during national elections, the then-opposition Patriotic Front (PF) promised not to implement the law until the issues raised by civil society had been addressed. Since coming to power, however, the PF-led government has moved forward with enforcement.
Freedom in the World 2013: Zambia
Freedom of the Press 2013: Zambia
Blog: Reversing Zambia's Authoritarian Drift