• Irungu Houghton

What could civic organisations do in a new political dispensation?


Regardless of the outcome at the six levels of 2022 General Elections, we must remind ourselves that the causes CSOs champion do and will continue to matter. May we never lose our voice, agency, and impact. Each generation has only one job, to leave the next generation with more freedom, dignity and human rights than the current generation enjoyed.


We do however need to adapt CSOs strategies, recreate our organisations, and reinvent ourselves as leaders as the context has fundamentally changed. National crises are the playgrounds for autocrat and unaccountable leaders. Pretend democracies, double-speak leaders and authoritarian states require new approaches as the traditional are no longer effective.


We must map and work with new constituencies that have a powerful sense of victimhood, vulnerability, and exclusion. This will include women, workers, youth, and those in the informal sector. We must generate and frame new narratives that replace “us and them”, “right and wrong” with stories that resonate with all, inspire hope, and speak to very diverse and divided constituencies at the same time. We must be less ideological, and be more people-centred, pragmatic.


We must protect the many centres of power at county and national levels, between the three arms of the state, the independent offices from centralisation and dominance by any organ. We must intentionally design and implement organisational and financial resilience strategies through asset-based investments as well as leadership succession. Can we re-model our work around mass based, occupational associations so that we cannot be ignored?


In 2022, only 2,000 out of 8,000 registered NGOs filed returns. The sector has suffered from policy hostility and neglect as well as financial underinvestment. Kenya Kwanza has publicly committed to operationalising the PBO Act. We have PBO regulations drafted already, could a representative multi-sectoral set of organisations reach out, share the regulations and support the national executive to deliver this nine year old law for Kenya?


This is an extract of the reflections were shared in a meeting of religious leaders and governance and accountability organisations organised by Uraia Trust and at the launch of Steff Musho's New Cold War Podcast both on 9 September 2022.


The reflections are informed by the seven-country study https://realresistance.net/kenya