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Parliament passes controversial NGO Bill, president’s ink pending

Deng Machol
Members of Parliament passed a Non-Governmental Organisations bill for 2015, regulating NGOs in South Sudan and limiting the number of foreign aid workers.
9.06.2015  |  Juba
Parliamentarians during a national Assembly session in Juba, June 19, 2012.
Parliamentarians during a national Assembly session in Juba, June 19, 2012.

The controversial bill passed by the parliament on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, which is yet to be signed by the President Salva Kiir, also requires all the NGOs to update their registration in the country.

It stipulates that at least 80 percent of the total numbers of staff employed in the organisation are South Sudan nationals at all levels - managerial, middle and junior level.

If organisations support Government institutions or undertake research, the total number of South Sudanese employees shall not be less than 55 percent.

NGOs working in the aid dependent country have warned, that, if passed, the bill could harm their work to ease life for people in the conflict-beset region.

Thomas Wani Kunda, who chairs the Information Committee, told The Niles that the bill is not designed to restrict the activity of NGOs.

The Government is not restricting the work of NGOs, but regulating them,” Wani told The Niles. The bill should observe the employment of the nationals, and it has been put clearly that at least 80 percent of the employees at all levels should be nationals and this is something normal internationally, because NGO’s are coming to render services to our people.”

The bill addresses the payment issue and is designed to avoid the current segregation whereby some employees are paid in hard currencies, while others receive South Sudanese Pounds.
More than half of the country’s 300 parliamentarians attended and unanimously endorsed the bill at the ordinary sitting, which lasted only 30 minutes.

The bill establishes a regulatory framework for the registration, co-ordination and monitoring of non-governmental organisations operating in South Sudan, a country which relies on outside help for the provision of many of its basic services like health and education.

At the reopening of parliament in April, President Salva Kiir told MPs to prioritise the NGO bill.
After the president signs the document, all NGOs will be compelled to run a bank account within the country and re-register after submitting performance reports and a consolidated list of assets.

Upon coming into force, all NGOs registered under the repealed Non-Governmental Organisations Act 2003, shall renew their registration within 90 days. Organisations that fail to deliver information on activities for one year or more could face investigation.

The NGOs will then be directed to areas of operation rather than making their own preferences about where to run a project.

The United Nations Mission, UN Agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent are exempt from the bill.

The bill was first presented to the house on November 5, 2013.

However, the latest draft version of the NGO bill, which was released in August 2014, included a number of ‘restrictive provisions’ but was withdrawn in October 2014 after NGOs and international organisations voiced concern.
A group representing national and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in South Sudan says that it has significant concerns” with the NGO Bill.

NGOs welcome a strong regulatory framework in South Sudan, and further warn that the NGO Bill should not be used to restrict civil society activities,” the NGO Forum argued in a statement.