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Advocacy Groups and the New Political Dispensation in Kenya and Zambia

3rd March 2014

CGHR Research Group paper

Advocacy Groups and the New Political Dispensation in Kenya and Zambia

Bonfas Owinga (PhD Candidate, City University, London)

In the early 1990s, advocacy organizations in both Kenya and Zambia played a significant role in the struggle for the restoration of democracy and the return to multi-party politics. As part of the larger pro-democracy movement, the groups helped to organize mass demonstrations and protests and carried out civic education in order to foster democratic transitions. In the post-transition period the political dispensation has dramatically changed with an exponentially expanded political space and the improvement in civil and political rights in both countries that is critical for the work of advocacy groups. However, these groups are finding it extremely difficult to adapt to the new political environment where they face an existential anxiety with considerably reduced effectiveness in fostering the process of democratic consolidation.

This paper uses qualitative data obtained from both Kenya and Zambia to analyze the three fold dilemma facing advocacy groups: re-defining their role in the new political dispensation; crafting new tactics and strategies for articulating demands that would contribute to democratic consolidation; and developing a new relationship with the new democratic state. It will examine how these challenges have impacted on the role of these groups in the process of democratic consolidation in both Kenya and Zambia.

This paper is part of the CGHR Research Group, a forum for graduate students and early-career researchers from any department and disciplinary background researching issues of governance and human rights in the global, regional, and national contexts.