The Two Faces of Civil Society: NGOs and Politics in Africa

By Stephen N. Ndegwa | Go to book overview

In examining these cases, I seek to demonstrate the aspects of NGO operations that are important in political mobilization and the possibilities for individual NGOs to influence fundamental political change. My comparative analysis provides insight into how NGO activities affect state-community relations and eventually contribute to the demands for democratic change in Kenya. The process can be encapsulated tentatively as follows: The activities of an NGO influence its target community's political culture by fostering grassroots participation within its universe of activities and sensitizing the community to the causes of its problems, which may involve state neglect or complicity. Within its activities, the NGO instills in its clients a sense of efficacy and empowerment by practicing and encouraging democratic values and self-determination. However, beyond this arena the community encounters a state that remains nonrepresentative, nonparticipatory, and nonresponsive. The state's actions are thus exposed as antithetical to the new community values of participation, and its legitimacy is eroded. The community or individual encountering such contradictions is then more likely to press for its rights or to participate in efforts to transform the state toward a more participatory polity.

If the political impact of NGOs in Kenya can be comprehended, this knowledge can inform future policies pursued by actors interested in fostering democratic change in Africa -- in particular, NGOs and donor agencies. The findings presented in the following chapters are generalizable to other NGOs in Kenya and in other countries. Since I focus on the processes of NGO engagement with the state and the fostering of political consciousness and empowerment through the mundane cycle of project implementation, it is possible to infer key lessons that are applicable to other democratizing countries. Theoretically, the findings reported here elaborate a critique of current thinking on civil society's capacity to influence the process of democratization in Africa.


Notes
1.
According to Jackson and Rosberg ( 1982, 17-22), "personal rule" refers to a system of governance under which the ruler determines the issues, the rules, and often the outcomes of political relations; this role is neither institutionalized nor purposively constrained by impersonal institutions. Although this model was developed and has been widely applied with regard to the African state, it has not been discussed in relation to organizations in civil society.

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The Two Faces of Civil Society: NGOs and Politics in Africa
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations and Glossary xi
  • 1 - The Promise of Democracy 1
  • Notes 12
  • 2 - The Political Context of Ngos in Africa 15
  • Notes 30
  • 3 - Ngos and the State in Kenya 31
  • Notes 53
  • 4 - The Undugu Society, of Kenya 55
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - The Green Belt Movement 81
  • Notes 105
  • 6 - Ngos, Civil Society, and Democratization 109
  • Notes 117
  • Appendix a Undugu Society of Kenya 119
  • Appendix Bthe Green Belt Movement 123
  • References 125
  • Index 135
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