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

By Stephen N. Ndegwa | Go to book overview

faces of civil society. Undugu and the GBM are similar development organizations and had similar political opportunities, yet the former is largely indifferent to institutional possibilities of influencing state- civil society relations, whereas the latter exploits available resources and opportunities to challenge the state.

As pointed out earlier, for Undugu, the impasse stems from its thorough institutionalization, especially the oversight of a board constituted of persons connected with government, which enhances the NGO's programmatic objectives but is unlikely to approve explicit political actions. In contrast, the GBM is able to pursue more forthright political challenges against the state due to a lack of such institutionalization or, to put it more precisely and more positively, due to the unfettered personal drive of Wangari Maathai, its founder and coordinator. The political decision to use available resources to challenge the undemocratic state is one that no particular type of organization is predisposed to make merely because of its institutional resources, organization, or voice; such a decision is made because of the personal initiative of its leadership.

Indeed, the fact that Ezra Mbogori, as director of the Undugu Society, also led the NGO Network in challenging the NGO Coordination Act (see Chapter 3) only emphasizes the political stasis in Undugu as an organization and the importance of NGO heads as political actors. In this case, it was Mbogori rather than Undugu who contributed to the NGO Network being at the "cutting edge" of the battle to establish a freer civil society in Kenya ( Diamond, Linz, and Lipset 1988). Similarly, the experience of the GBM elaborated in this chapter suggests the centrality of Maathai in all aspects of her organization and especially in its politicization and its political work. The centrality of Maathai's leadership to the GBM's mission in civil society underscores the view that without her, there would most likely be no Green Belt Movement as it is known today and almost surely none of the contributions to state-civil society relations outlined in this chapter.


Notes
1.
An oft-repeated accusation against the Green Belt Movement by the Kenyan government is that the GBM has no trees to show for its "long and loud" existence. See, for example, debates during the Uhuru Park saga, Daily Nation, November 9-24, 1989.
2.
As with the discussion on the Undugu Society of Kenya (Chapter 4), the

-105-

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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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