The long years of efforts promoting democratisation of Kenya reached an important milestone with the proclamation of a new Constitution in August 2010 and the elections that took place in March 2013. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) has been supporting reform-oriented actors since it opened its office here in 1964. As far back as 1999 it spelled out the focus for its project work as the process of constitutional reform, decentralisation of the political administration (devolution), effective separation of powers and limits on the powers of the President. The FES has been cooperating with civil society organisations, trade unions, the media and bodies in charge of formulating draft bills for laws and regulations down to the present. The FES is able to address the need for political dialogue and public debate over issues concerning security, political parties, access to land and legislation on the media with formats like the "Political Café". A large portion of its work is devoted to the annual training for young trade unionists and "young leaders". Together with its partner "Citizens Against Violence", the FES began raising the topic of politically motivated violence even before 2007 elections, and has been addressing ethnic conflicts since 2008.
The FES in particular supports the work of the civil society organisation Devolution Working Group (DWG), which has successfully intervened in legislative debates on many occasions. Above and beyond this, cooperation with county governments and new administrative units was intensified in the wake of and after elections held in 2013.
Acceptance of the new constitutional system instituted by the national government is limited, however. Elements of the reforms have been diluted, for example as a result of the dearth of resources available to the independent commissions, and devolution is being taken advantage of to promote cleavages and engage in power plays between government levels over issues relating to autonomy and the earmarking of funds. The issue of reorganising political power will also dominate the 2017 elections.
The FES project in South Sudan has also been managed from Nairobi since 2017.
Learn more about our work in Kenya on the project's website.