Zambia Should Stop Registration Law
Freedom House has joined the growing chorus in opposition to Zambia’s repressive NGO legislation. Through a petition letter coordinated by Civicus, Freedom House and 111 other organizations from 46 countries call on the government of Zambia to stop implementation of the new law, a measure that limits freedom of association.
Signed into law in 2009 by former president Rupiah Banda, the Non-Governmental Organizations Act was not implemented until this year, after a decision by the ruling party, the Patriotic Front, to enforce it. Considered unconstitutional by civil society and criticized as repressive by the Patriotic Front when it was in opposition, the bill regulates the operation of thousands of civil society organizations in Zambia. It grants excessive powers to the executive branch to direct NGO operations and deregister organizations that are not acting in “the public interest.” It also requires NGOs to re-register every five years and automatically renders non-registered organizations illegal.
As the deadline for organizations to register approaches, this petition urges the government to end registration and consult with civil society when drafting a revised law that meets constitutional and international standards on freedom of assembly.
Implementation of the existing law represents a further limiting of Zambian democracy. Since assuming power in 2011, the PF government has overseen a steady decline in respect for freedom of speech, assembly and association. Opposition political parties, journalists and civil society have been subject to escalating harassment, unlawful detention and intimidation by authorities and PF supporters. These developments are especially alarming since Zambia was regarded as an emerging democracy following peaceful elections and the successful transfer of executive power between parties in 2011.
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Blog: Freedom at Issue