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Democracy, Governance and Conflict

Sarah Alouch, an educator with the Kenya Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, provides information to voters.
Sarah Alouch, an educator with the Kenya Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, provides information to voters.
Faith Njunge/USAID

From the inclusive reform process that birthed a new Constitution in 2010 and credible and legitimate elections in 2013 until today, Kenya has achieved many democratic milestones. Among them was the creation of 47 county governments, creating a new devolved system of political power. USAID’s development strategy is centered on the implementation of devolution, a long and challenging process at the core of Kenya’s constitutional reform agenda. If done right, devolution can put the country on a path towards a more inclusive, transparent and accountable governance.


Devolution and Support to County Governments

USAID supports county governments as they strive to operate in all sectors with greater transparency, accountability and inclusivity, as well as provide better public services to  citizens. At the national level, USAID partners with ministries, Parliament, and other Government of Kenya entities to strengthen national policies and advance and guide the devolution process. We also work with  intergovernmental institutions  to enhance communication and coordination between the national government and county governments.

The Agile and Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions activity uses training, on-the-job mentoring, and experiential learning at all levels – national, county, sub-county, and civil society – to advance the work of government and citizens. We also partner with other donors to support devolution, thereby ensuring that national and county governments and the constitutional commissions have the technical and financial  assistance needed to strengthen the legal and institutional framework necessary for an effective transition and sustainability of devolved governance. At the county level, USAID supports county executives, legislatures and citizens to effectively manage public expenditures and exercise oversight.  

Supporting Free and Fair Elections

Kenya’s 2017 election was a critical one for the country. To support credible, transparent and peaceful elections, USAID and other international development partners supported training and expert assistance to key institutions involved in preparing for the election, including the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal, the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, as well as local civil society organizations. Support focused on administering elections, election observation, conducting voter registration and education to expand the participation of women, youth, and vulnerable populations. There was also support to efforts to reduce the likelihood of elections-related conflict. In anticipation of the 2022 election, USAID is providing support within the framework of the Building Bridges to National Unity Initiative to enhance Kenya’s ability to hold a national conversation on reforms and national cohesion, and to safeguard democratic gains.  

Empowering Civil Society

USAID’s support for civil society contributes to constructive citizen engagement in areas of strategic focus, especially in regions that have had a long experience of marginalization. Through the Strengthening Community Resilience against Extremism (SCORE) activity, USAID is building the technical and organizational capacity of 14 civil society organizations in Kenya’s six coastal counties to work with communities and local government representatives to mitigate conflict and counter violent extremism.

USAID is helping to increase citizen participation in local government, as well as improve citizen understanding of devolved governance. To help Kenya on its journey to self-reliance, USAID’s Safeguarding Democratic Spaces activity is supporting civil society advocacy for implementation of Kenya’s Public Benefit Organization Act to protect and expand civic space, including for media. In addition, USAID and the Aga Khan Foundation’s Yetu initiative is building civil society capacity and commitment to engage communities and strengthen local philanthropy. 

Countering Violent Extremism

Through its countering violent extremism (CVE) activities, USAID helps to protect U.S. national security while advancing relevant aspects of Kenya’s National CVE Strategy, particularly in building the capacity of the national and county governments, civil society organizations (CSOs), youth, and women to engage effectively to counter VE. Attacks by violent extremist groups, primarily Al Shabaab (AS), within Kenya’s borders have increased in recent years and AS continues to recruit from among Kenyan citizens, particularly marginalized youth. As noted above, the SCORE activity improves the ability of CSOs along the Kenyan coast to address the drivers of conflict and violent extremism in their communities. The Kenya NiWajibu Wetu activity covers informal settlements in Nairobi as well as Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, and Wajir counties and seeks to reduce violent extremism among at-risk individuals and communities in Kenya. USAID partners are institutionalizing CVE at the local level, in part through coordinating the drafting and implementation of county-level CVE Action Plans (CAPs) which seek to devolve the national CVE strategy. CAPs are elaborated through an inclusive CSO-led process that involves community members, traditional and religious leaders, security officials, and national and county government representatives. 

Overview: Democracy, Governance and Conflict

Countering Violent Extremism

Devolution in Kenya

Strengthening Civil Society in Kenya

Democracy, Governance and Conflict Activity Fact Sheets

Agile Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions (AHADI)

Kenya Niwajibu Wetu (NIWETU)

Safeguarding Democratic Space in Kenya (SADES-K)

Strengthening Community Resilience against Extremism (SCORE)

YETU Initiative

Last updated: June 06, 2019

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