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Democracy, Governance and Conflict

A man holds up a Kenyan flag
Thousands of Kenyans rallied for peace during the run-up to the 2013 general elections. They encouraged one another to embrace a national sense of identity as opposed to dividing themselves by ethnicity and tribe.
From the inclusive reform process that birthed a new Constitution in 2010 – to a free and peaceful election in 2013 – Kenya has recently achieved many democratic milestones. Kenya has created 47 new county governments – effectively creating a new two-tier system.  Devolution is a long and challenging process at the core of Kenya’s constitutional reform agenda and USAID’s strategy. If done right, it can put the country on a path toward more inclusive, transparent, and accountable governance. In FY 2014/15, the average absorption rate (percentage of the planned annual budget) for the 47 counties in Kenya was 79.1 percent, an improvement of 22 percent over the previous year.
Devolution and Support to County Governments
USAID is helping make county governance systems more competent, transparent, accountable and inclusive in their operation and service delivery. The goal is to support institutions and structures that encourage counties to cooperate and advance their interests with the national government, and to build civil-society capacity to represent citizen interests and aspirations to county governments.
USAID’s devolution support is anchored by its Agile and Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions (AHADI) activity.  AHADI, which means “promise” in Kiswahili, is building the capacity of stakeholders at all levels – national, county, sub-county, and civil society, based on the needs organizations have identified. These efforts combine training, on-the-job mentoring, and experiential learning to advance the work of government and citizens. 

In FY 2015, AHADI initiated technical support and capacity building for 12 county governments and 11 national institutions. AHADI has achieved and even surpassed some of the indicator data targets set for the year under review. 

These include: the number of (county) legislators and staff attending training or educational events sponsored by the U.S. Government (USG): 1,823 (650 women, 1,173 men), with a target of 1000. AHADI also surpassed its target in the 35 policies, laws, regulations or administrative procedures on devolved functions developed, passed or implemented, with an original target of 10. Another success for AHADI in FY 2015 was in the number of national legislators and national legislative staff attending USG-sponsored training or education event about devolution: 286 (82 women, 204 men), with an original target of 75.
In addition to the AHADI activity, USAID partners with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other donors through a basket fund to support devolution, thereby ensuring that national and county governments and the constitutional commissions have the technical, financial and functional capacity to strengthen the legal and institutional framework for an effective transition to devolved governance.  During FY 2015, UNDP supported devolution efforts in an additional 13 counties.   
Empowering Civil Society 
USAID supports the URAIA Trust to work across the country on civic participation and to promote civil society’s role in enhancing public participation. Through the Development Grants Program, USAID supports local organizations to develop citizen advocacy networks on issues that are critical at the local level. New activities during FY 2015 in Kenya’s Coastal counties focused on linking citizens and county governments to address development challenges such as access to land, corruption, conflict and violent extremism. USAID’s support reached more than 3 million people through radio and SMS (text) messages on matters including security, conflict mitigation, and  gender-based violence, among others.
Women’s Political and Civic Participation
USAID programs are supporting women’s access to justice and the enforcement of land rights; increasing women’s participation in local government and deepening their understanding of their responsibilities as elected officials; strengthening the voice of women in leadership positions so they can be effective advocates; and educating county officials on their constitutional responsibility to include women and help with to putting these requirements into practice. In FY 2015, USAID worked with 26 political parties to facilitate women’s leadership and trained more than 23,000 women in leadership, budgeting (including gender-responsive budgeting) and governance. These women received training in negotiation, advocacy, research, political party organization, time management, public speaking, and media engagement. 
Conflict Mitigation
In Kenya, many of the root causes of conflict, such as land tenure regimes, youth unemployment, lack of participatory governance, and ineffective delivery of social services remain flashpoints. To address the underlying causes of conflict and provide non-violent alternatives, USAID strengthens community cohesion and increases youth and women’s participation in civic and economic life. USAID commissioned a conflict mitigation and countering violent extremism (CVE) Local Needs Assessment in January 2015, which highlighted the heightened vulnerability of both males and females including from well-to-do families and with a graduate education to recruitment and radicalization to violent extremism.  In FY 2015, USAID began deliberately targeting support to efforts that demonstrate meaningful participation of both men and women and those aimed at creating safe spaces for women to remain engaged in addressing CVE in their communities.
Kenya Tuna Uwezo (KTU), which is Kiswahili for “We have the power!”, reduces ethnic and politically-motivated conflict in the informal settlements of Nairobi by strengthening communities to counter violent extremism and withstand political manipulation that leads to violent conflict. In FY 2015, the project engaged 164,154 people, 85 percent of whom were youth, to demobilize communities from radicalization and extremism. KTU provided entrepreneurial and technical training to 586 youth to start small businesses and secure skilled employment. Overall, KTU facilitated the creation and/or strengthening of small businesses for youth in 8 informal settlements in Nairobi County.
USAID is expanding conflict mitigation and countering violent extremism activities to address the increasing insecurity and growing influence of Al-Shabaab. The Strengthening Community Resilience Against Violent Extremism activity provides sub-grants and capacity building support to civil society groups in six coastal counties to enable them to address the drivers of conflict and violent extremism in their communities. In 2015, the Mission is developing a countering violent extremism strategy to bring new focus on this critical issue and to expand programming. 

Fact Sheet: Democracy, Governance and Conflict - Kenya

Countering Violent Extremism

Strengthening Civil Society in Kenya

Democracy, Governance and Conflict Activity Fact Sheets

Agile Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions (AHADI)


Strengthening Community Resilience against Extremism (SCORE)

Tuna Uwezo “We have the power”

Uraia Trust Civic Education Program

Building Effective Assemblies through Mentorship

Supporting Kenya’s Election Processes: Lessons from Past Evaluations

The Carter Center Final Observation Report November 2013

The Elections Observation Group (ELOG) Report, The Historic Vote: Elections 2013 

Final Evaluation of Conflict Mitigation Activities

USAID Support for Kenya's 2013 Elections: Rapid Assessment Review

Last updated: April 19, 2017

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