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The Telescope


Equality is a founding principle enshrined in the Constitution and a central element of the social contract. During our formative years we grew up knowing that we were all created equal- with the same measure of opportunity at achIeving success.

That sounded fine but as the years went by, we started discovering that society treated us differently, bracketing us according to our gender, status quo, tribe and even the colour of our skin.

However, there is a little something known as the bell curve. Lucky are those who find themselves at the high-end of this curve than lower down. Civil society and the law then plays at the middle ground.

It’s not lost to many that civil society is among the key functions concerned with changing the shape of modern society.

For a long time, however,  a great deal of focus on high politics of transition has overlooked the importance of civil society in its role in democratization and liberalization.

For years, the civil society has been an agent of change, influencing both the processes and outcomes of social and political transitions while making good inroads around the edges of gender, injustices, poverty and violence. Statistics show that these groups have made important contributions in liberalising and democratising authoritarian regimes.

In the past, activists particularly those who were active during the Nyayo Regime, the ones who were labelled as dissidents, offered a language of volunteerism and freedom. And in every situation civil society served as a reminder that even in the modern world there was more to social life than political economy.852967248dd3e6cb3942a1fe6af42945_L

An impressive amount of growth of civil society groups have emerged to combat injustices and provide checks and balances in governance.And some arguments hold that things would be worse without the operations of these groups.Statistics today indicate an impressive amount of growth of civil groups.

In the recent past there has been a noticeable decline in the civil societies involvement in shaking up underlying structures of social, political and economic violence.Two central reasons have led to this mismatch.

First is that the civil society groups have increasingly divorced from the forces that drive deeper social change.

Civil society is like an ice berg with the perks of protest rising above the waterline and the great mass of everyday citizen action hidden underneath. When street protests are backed by long-term action temporary gains in equality and diversity have more chance of becoming permanent shifts in power and public norms.

The second reason for the decline is that structures that used to mediate between people of different views and backgrounds have largely disappeared. Amassing numbers is a priority number one for any civil group.

Structures that were placed to allow people to participate have either been destroyed or allowed to wither on the vine. As a result , the rich and diverse eco systems that brought civil societies together have begun to resemble monocultures in which organizations look alike and eventually turning into single issue or county groups.

With these dangerous trends that risk the destruction of civil societies in Kenya it’s about time we recreate the background and the constantly shifting landscape of opportunities, tools and techniques- social media and social enterprise included to strengthen these agencies. It may seem a lot to be done in an era when instant gratification is demanded but its for a worthy cause. After all its an ice berg that sunk the titanic.

This article was published on People Weekend on 22-23,August 2015