http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000086093&story_title=the-return-of-a-vibrant-civil-society-in-kenya&pageNo=2 The return of a vibrant civil society in Kenya, Not so fast. and here is why;
First, we need to give credit where it is due- the civil society played a tremendous role in the expansion of political space, with its signature achievement being the promulgation of the new constitution August 2010.
However, over the last few years, the civil society has lost its radar.
Since 1980’s, the civil society has been at the forefront of agitation for reform, and especially the introduction of multiparty politics. With the judiciary not trusted at all, in the court of the public opinion, the civil society provided a credible counter narratives platform to the regimes’. So, there legitimacy largely rested on putting the regime on the defensive especially during the single party. Once multiparty was introduced, they aligned themselves with the opposition
However, in 2002, President Kibaki picked some of the stalwarts to join his government depriving the civil society the much needed brain trust.
Additionally, Kibaki’s less confrontational presidency, unlike Moi’s, lulled some of them into inertia, in part, also because Kibaki was in the trenches with them in the opposition. However, this cease fire was short-lived after president Kibaki demonstrated his was more a status quo than any meaningful change they hoped for.
But one of the unacknowledged fact about the 2007 election and the subsequent violence is it shook the entire fabric of the country. And the civil society was not an exception – they lost their way, and played partisan politics instead of transcending the ethnic schism. This made them lose credibility that they have built over the years. For their sins of 2007, only the church that came out and sought forgiveness.
By 2013, the civil society lacked the unity and focus that characterized their previous engagement with the state. The organizing big question during Moi’s era was; no reform, no elections. Since Kibaki came into power, and the constitution passed, the civil society hasn’t had a big agenda.
The ICC became an organizing issue, especially for the human rights based civil society organizations. But Uhuru and Ruto through deft media manipulation turned themselves into a victim domestic- which includes the civial society, and external imperialists. This narrative obtained tremendous traction with their constituents turning their ire on the civil society, who has since been branded the evil society.
Further, the civil society was ill prepared for post Moi’s political dispensation, many acted like it was the end of ideology of reform. Personalization of reform- they invested nearly all their capital in removing Moi from power, but they also failed to recruit new cadre of younger generation.
If they want to remain relevant, the civil society needs to diversify and decentralize- some of the accusations leveled against the civil society is they are Nairobi/urban based, which is true to a degree. Further, the civil society need to go beyond activism for activism sake, and be hugely involved in two things- the court system, the next frontier of contest will be in the judiciary, and unlike before there is no excuse because the judiciary is reform, although it is not complete. Additionally, the civil society needs to invest in policy realm, with the basic structure of the state in place, something the fought for energetically, it is about time they be at the table during their implementation.. It would be cruel, if a movement that valiantly fought for the enactment of the new constitution fails at the critical stage of its entrenchment.
You can read by previous post on this here https://sakunian.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/uhurus-presidency-a-moment-for-the-civil-society-reboot/