Launch Of a Study Report On Civic Space Dynamics and Resilience In East Africa

Date: June 5, 2024        | Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm   | Venue: Virtual

The Tatua Digital Resilience Centre attended Inuka Sisi Kenya Ni Sisi and Ford Foundation‘s launch of a study report on civic space dynamics in East Africa and civil society organizational resilience. Inuka Sisi recognizes the need to evaluate the state of East African civil society to help develop strategies and interventions to build resilience in the sector.

In democracies, civil society organizations (CSOs) allow people to express their interests outside of political parties and government, in addition to having their voices heard. CSOs encourage citizens to actively participate in their communities, challenge leaders, and hold their governments accountable. As such, an active civic space can lead to more open and democratic political systems.

However, the work of CSOs goes beyond challenging leaders and holding governments accountable. The perception that CSOs exist to challenge their governments causes tension and conflict between civil society and leadership, including with politicians, civil servants, and security forces. These tensions have contributed to increased restrictions on civil society organizations and their ability to operate freely and independently.

A closing civic space has been a concern in the East African region, like in other regions. This report is based on data gathered from 77 survey respondents, 34 key informant interviews (KIIs), and 24 participants in three focus group discussions. The aim of the study was: (i) to investigate the state of operating space for CSOs in the East Africa region; (ii) to investigate the internal factors that increase or diminish civil society resilience in the context of closing civic space; and (iii) to assess the external factors that increase or diminish civil society resilience in the context of closing civic space.

Some of the key trends revealed by the study include:

  1. Non-adherence to the rule of law
  2. Denial of funding for CSO through closing existing funding avenues from key donors or attempts to enact laws to restrict funding from international sources
  3. Denying citizens the rights to freedom of association and expression by criminalizing public protests, harming, and killing protesters

These trends pose significant challenges to civil society organizations in East Africa, limiting their ability to operate effectively and independently. They not only hinder their ability to advocate for change and hold governments accountable, but they also threaten the overall democratic principles and human rights in the region, leading to more oppressive and authoritarian regimes. Civil society organizations in East Africa must continue advocating for their rights and pushing back against these oppressive tactics. By fostering collaboration and solidarity both within the region and internationally, they can amplify their voices and work towards a more democratic and just society.

The study can be found on Inuka Sisi Kenya Ni Sisi’s website, providing valuable insights into the challenges faced by civil society organizations in the current environment. It also highlights the importance of addressing these issues to ensure the continued resilience and effectiveness of civil society in promoting democracy and human rights.

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