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Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance

USAID supports the development of democratic institutions and processes in Kenya. The U.S. strengthens civil society groups, trains election observers, and promoted a free, fair and peaceful constitutional referendum in 2010.


Past decades of inequitable and often corrupt governance in Kenya have dampened economic progress and exacerbated ethnic divisions. Post-election violence in 2007 marked a turning point for Kenya, and in 2010 Kenyans voiced their demand for change, adopting a new constitution with an ambitious reform agenda.

This constitution set the stage for almost every major reform, including elections, land, women’s rights, devolution, the police and the judiciary. The passage of the new constitution has increased Kenyans’ capacity to fight corruption and promote governance and integrity within government.

USAID support to democracy programs focus on two main themes: supporting the constitutional reform agenda and enhancing the country’s system of checks and balances. Following passage of the constitution, the United States helped to provide information campaigns on the new constitution and review process, including reforms, decentralization, anti-corruption, land tenure and property rights. USAID activities are helping to advance constitutional and electoral reform by supporting the oversight and legislative role of Parliament, strengthening the voice and advocacy capacity of civil society, and building peace, nationally and locally. Additionally, USAID is working with the Government of Kenya as it develops the comprehensive laws and policies required under the new constitution. Together, these efforts aim to bring greater transparency and accountability to government, while nurturing a new generation of leaders.

Civil Society

The violence resulting from the 2007 elections was due, in part, to the sense of alienation felt by a large percentage of the population. The channels needed to communicate constituent views to the government were seen as weak or non-existent. USAID supports more than 50 Kenyan civil society organizations engaged in democracy and governance, conflict management and natural resource management. These diverse organizations—working at the local, regional and national levels—receive intensive leadership, advocacy and organizational development training. As a result, they are better able make their voices heard, which is particularly important for marginalized groups such as women and youth.


USAID supported the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the judiciary, political parties, and millions of peace-minded Kenyans, to facilitate the most complex election in Kenya’s history. The election, in March 2013, was judged by both local and international observers to have been free, fair and for the most part peaceful, reflecting the will of the Kenyan people.This election has paved the way for rapid implementation of a devolved government as mandated by the new Constitution. The envisioned land reforms, gender equity, electoral reforms, and the devolution of authority and budgetary resources to 47 new county-level governments will address the historical injustices that fueled violence in past elections.  This new commitment to peace and national unity in Kenya will enable accelerated and inclusive economic development.

Last updated: April 15, 2014

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