Civic Education & Engagement

Sisi ni Amani Kenya does ongoing work to promote civic education and engagement, both through dialogue and through SMS-based civic education, awareness, and dialogue.

Sisi ni Amani Kenya partners with Inuka Kenya Trust on the Sauti Yetu Debates project in Nairobi’s Eastlands, and hopes to be able to make this methodology and lessons learned available to organizations interested in conducting similar programming:

About Sauti Yetu:

In Kenya, elections have long been decided along tribal lines, with the assumption that whoever ascends to power will use this power to benefit members of their own ethnic group. After a brief period of hope and optimism following the 2002 elections, politics fell into the same pattern. These political dynamics, which underpinned the 2007-8 post-election violence, have led to a lack of real accountability for politicians, policy-oriented politics, and, despite democratic laws and espoused principles, a lack of constructive engagement of voters to select leaders based on substance rather than ethnic considerations or money.

Despite fairly clear notions of democratic principles, opportunities for Kenyans to engage in the democratic process have been rare. Community based political debates enable communities to engage in dialogue on the issues that are most important to them as a community. Furthermore, these debates present an opportunity for people to begin to assess those who wish to represent them based on policy instead of ethnicity or finances. Such direct participation in the process of discussing issues (rather than personalities) and holding potential leaders to account allows voters to make informed decisions during electoral processes.

Political debates bring political contestants together with a neutral facilitator to speak to the community as a whole, and make commitments and plans for the entire community instead of only supporters of one ethnic group or locality. These debates also give communities the opportunity to question political contestants from all tribes and parties not based on what they can earn or receive individually, but on the basis of contenders’ plans to benefit the entire community. The debates increase political transparency and accountability by bringing contesting politicians into the same space to discuss their plans in a context that doesn’t allow for incitement and political promises based on ethnicity. Most importantly, these debates hold politicians accountable to entire communities, and give communities the opportunity to make their voices heard to politicians, and experience a method of creating political accountability and benefit for themselves through non-violent means.

SNA-K, in partnership with Inuka Kenya Trust and through funding from Hanns Seidel Foundation, has held a series of more than 14 local political debates throughout Nairobi’s Eastlands. The debates have taken place in Baba Dogo, Korogocho, Mathare Valley, Mathare North, Huruma, and Kariobangi North, and have focused on the positions of County Assembly Representative, Women’s Representative, Member of Parliament, Senator, and Governor.

Sauti Yetu has also created a toolkit which can be downloaded for free. The toolkit serves as a guide and provides necessary templates and tips for local organizations wishing to hold their own political debates.