Will Kenya’s civil society survive Kenyatta’s presidency?

This is the question – what’s civil society to do if it feels so strongly about the Kenyatta regime? There’s no doubt Mr Kenyatta and his government have the support of a lot of Kenyans. That’s unarguable. But there are many Kenyans who are apathetic.

Take it from me – apathy is strongest in civil society. It’s an “existential moment” for some of the leading lights of civil society.

They feel betrayed by a population they’ve always fought for. In fact, most of the freedoms Kenyans enjoy today were made possible by civil society, including the 2010 Constitution.

Many are questioning the ability of the human rights movement to uproot embedded tribalism and the money corruption of the wealthy.

No one knows whether civil society will survive the Kenyatta regime and, if so, in what shape. We are in uncharted territory. But I can point to some possible routes. I believe Mr Kenyatta understands that his regime suffers from a “legitimacy deficit”.

That’s because of the charges against him at The Hague and the contested nature of the election. He may try to co-opt some civil society leaders into his regime to shore up his credibility.

That is the Chair of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, Dr. Makau Mutua writing in his Sunday Column on the challenge ahead of civil society under the Kenyatta administration. He goes on to add that:

….others may accept the outcome of the election and “move on,” as has been urged. This cohort would simply go back to the trenches and continue their fight for human rights – much in the same way they did under former President Kibaki.

….there is a group that’s likely to disengage, and “divorce” the human rights movement. This chunk may “resign” from civil society. A number may even “divorce” Kenya. Some may go for further studies, or join the private sector. This group took Mr Kenyatta’s election the hardest, and cannot reconcile itself to the choice of a supposed plurality of Kenyans.

Mr. Mutua is one of the few civil society members who have come out strongly against the election of President Kenyatta. His views represent those of a significant proportion of Kenyans who feel that much of the democratic gains of the last 20 years have been lost with the election of Kenyatta and Ruto, scions of former President Moi.

The progressive forces in Kenya are presently in a state of shock. This was their election to lose. Having managed to get a favorable constitution in 2010, many had banked their hopes in Raila Odinga to implement it. Instead, Mr. Kenyatta captured the State House and control of both houses of Parliament.

Mr. Odinga’s loss has left many disillusioned with the Kenyan political system. Once again, despite valiant attempts to even the playing field, money and entrenched interests triumphed over progressive ideals. 

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3 thoughts on “Will Kenya’s civil society survive Kenyatta’s presidency?

  1. Did the win/loss have anything to do with one side being more organized and efficient in the execution of it’s campaign plan? Let’s give credit where it’s due, and apportion blame to those who deserve it.

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  2. Pingback: A very short political history of Kenya: HAPPY JAMUHURI DAY!!! « An Africanist Perspective

  3. Pingback: Brief history and-politics of kenya | Mareeg: Somalia news|Kenya|Uganda|Ethiopian

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