Civil Society And Transition Politics In Kenya: Historical And Contemporary Perspectives
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This paper attempts to shed insights into the contribution of civil society to the politics of transition in Kenya. The paper highlights some of the actual contributions made by civil society to the politics of transition as well as their potential to contribute to transition politics. This includes a highlight of both the direct and indirect contribution of this sector to the politics of transition. Also taking pride of place in the discussion are the challenges facing civil society. From the discussion on the challenges the way forward for civil society in Kenya should emerge. Since attempts at political transition have been a feature of Kenya’s political landscape since the colonial period, the discussion takes an historical approach. This is done in order to place the issues in their right historical perspective. The paper presents four arguments. First is that any discussion of the role of civil society in the politics of transition must take cognizance of the complexity of transition politics and the fact that the undertaking involves competition ﬁrst between the conservative forces bent on maintaining the status quo and the progressive groups that wish to make fundamental changes to the existing system on the one hand and on the other, competition within each of these forces. This point is well articulated by Adam Przeworki (1991). The politics of transition thus involves a multiplicity of actors with civil society being only one of them. Consequently it becomes difﬁcult to measure the contribution of any single actor. It is because of this that one has to be careful in crediting or admonishing any of these actors, CSO undivided, with the success or failure of a transition project. The second argument is that not all civil society organizations have made a positive contribution to attempts at political 9 transition. A number of them have in fact worked closely with conservative forces in government to frustrate the efforts to effect political transition. This is not surprising in view of the heterogeneity of civil society and the fact that it is made up of groups with diverse interests in a political system both existing and anticipated. The ﬁnal argument is that the effectiveness of civil society in Kenya has oscillated between being active and being dormant depending on the type of regime in power and the quality of civil society leadership.