What we do
Kenya has had a multi-party system in place since 1992, and has established itself as a stable regional power and leading voice in sub-Saharan Africa. Its democracy is also well established, but tensions remain between the diverse ethnic groups, and intercommunal violence after elections in 2008 demonstrated that stability was not to be taken for granted.
Another impact of its diverse population is that political parties often forge allegiances along ethnic lines, rather than over policy positions or political ideology. This leads to polarization in the political landscape, and a predisposition for the passage of power between traditional elites, threatening the functioning of a transparent and inclusive democracy.
Helping the disparate political movements find common ground through dialogue, encouraging the participation of under-represented groups, and strengthening the functioning of democratic institutions are central to NIMD’s work in Kenya, which began in 2003.
We have collaborated with a number of partners, most recently working with Mzalendo, a Kenyan parliamentary support organization.
In 2019, NIMD entered into a partnership with Mzalendo, a Kenyan parliamentary support organization. Our collaboration focusses on increasing parliamentary transparency and openness by bringing citizens closer to their elected representatives, and bolstering the position of women and young people within parliament.
This is done through support for public participation through the Dokeza message platform, awareness raising and providing information on the performance and functioning of parliament and advocacy for parliamentary openness.
For example, NIMD supports Mzalendo’s efforts to bring MPs closer to the electorate through social media. Committee chairs and other high-ranking MPs are offered Mzalendo’s online platforms to explain their positions in specific debates, as well as showcase their daily work and some of the challenges they face. The medium is particularly effective as it gives people the chance to react ahead of a vote or parliamentary debate via the online discussion.
In 2010, NIMD worked with partner CMD-K as part of a broad civil society coalition to successfully lobby for a gender equality clause in Kenya’s new constitution. This clause impels the state to act on female representation, stipulating that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies can be of the same gender.
While this was a major victory for Kenyan women, fulfilling the promises of the constitution has proven difficult, and women are still heavily underrepresented in Kenyan institutions. So working towards greater representation of women in Kenya’s political landscape remains a central part of NIMD’s work in the country, with projects and research continually evolving.
Between 2014 and 2018, we ran the Respect for Women’s Political Rights programme, which aimed to challenge perceptions and negative gender stereotypes around female political leadership. One of the key approaches was working with male politicians to encourage them to challenge their own stereotypes and work collaboratively to remove gender barriers.
Our current work with Mzalendo includes the documentation and analysis of women and young MP’s contributions and attendance in parliament. This information informs the debate on women’s political participation and campaign strategies.
In 2021, NIMD teamed up with the Westminster Foundation of Democracy to produce a report on the Cost of Politics in Kenya, which highlighted how many women are excluded from entering and participating in politics because they cannot afford it.
As part of the EU-funded SIDPAK Consortium, NIMD strives to help sustain Kenya’s path to a more democratic and inclusive society.
To enhance trust in politics, the Consortium works on the democratic and inclusive skills of institutions, but also make sure that there is a dialogue with the people of Kenya. Political parties, politicians and political institutions need to reach out to their citizens, explaining how Kenyan democracy works and listening to their needs and concerns.
As part of this, NIMD is running a Democracy Academy for newly elected politicians in Kenya. We are bringing together around 20 high potential MPs from across the political spectrum, with a special focus on young people, women and people with disabilities.
These people take part in an intensive 16-month training and coaching programme. As well as practical training on rules of procedure, policy development and coalition building, for example, the participants receive coaching from political mentors.
By coming together and collaborating across party lines, the newly elected MPs start establish trust and a cross-party network.