We have put together, as part of our conversation on the ALN Academy talks on the Role of Denmark in promoting the Rule of Law in Africa, particularly in Kenya and Somalia, highlights on democracy and modern Africa’s needs, discussing democracy in Kenya in particular, governance and the democratization of social media, challenges facing democracy in Africa and the integration of refugees in Kenya and Somalia.
Can democracy meet modern African needs?
Several African nations are seeing a decline in the rule of law due to variables such as criminal justice, civil justice, corruption, and open government. It is then clear that there are areas where Africa needs to develop further. There is widespread agreement that democracy can satisfy current demands in Africa, but only provided the following aspects are safeguarded:
- Strengthening resilient, responsive, and inclusive governance able to deliver basic services and promote and protect fundamental human rights.
- Developing an enabling economic environment through core economic institutions and regulations and strengthening inclusive private sector-led development and economy through critical and diversified livelihoods.
- Developing protection and safety nets to enhance resilience, enable durable solutions, and reduce forced displacement.
Development of democracy in Kenya
Kenya had a historic milestone in 2010 with the adoption of its current Constitution, which served as a stepping stone for the country by emphasizing the protection of democracy and good administration. It ushered in a new area concerning the Bill of Rights and a great sense of development. The quality of interaction between society, the private sector, and the government has improved over time due to the constitution as rights are more deeply protected, which has proven over time to be quite instrumental to the cause of promoting good governance. This will play a role in Kenya’s upcoming elections because more people seem to be invested in and interested in a fair and peaceful election period.
Denmark as a donor country
Denmark was ranked 1/139 on the rule of law among all nations in the World Justice Report Index and is the 14th largest public donor to the Global Fund, having pledged approximately DKK 350 million towards this cause, which is aligned with Denmark’s aim to uphold the rule of law through the promotion of humanitarian work. The strategies envisioned by the Danish government in its pursuit of a stable democracy include promoting and protecting human rights and gender equality, building resilient and sustainable systems for health, and continued institutional reform and risk management. Through these strategies, they plan and carry out their activities as a country and encourage the same stance when collaborating with other countries.
The strategic objectives for Denmark’s engagement and cooperation in Kenya and Somalia
To better promote the relationship between Kenya and Denmark, some objectives have been implemented to align the states better. Notably, for Denmark, the main objectives were to create a stable and democratic Kenya and Somalia, capable of providing social services and decent jobs for its people, ensuring their rights and benefits are enshrined in the constitution, accelerating inclusive, sustainable growth and green transformation, and containing national and regional humanitarian and security challenges before they translate into significant refugee and irregular migration flows.
- Promote green, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth and decent jobs, emphasizing youth and market opportunities for Danish companies and investors with relevant solutions.
- Strengthen democratic participation and citizen engagement. Protection of human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), access to justice, and delivery of equitable public services through the implementation of the Constitution and development.
- Promote resilience, peace and stability in Kenya by curbing violent extremism, preventing man-made and natural crises in Kenya, and strengthening’s proactive role in regional peace and security and as a host community for refugees.
The key thematic areas for Denmark while having activities in Kenya and Somalia revolve around good governance, bettering the economy, creating equality for all, and reducing forced displacement. The Danish government has taken a keen interest in migration matters and formed the Danish Refugee Council, which seeks to protect and uphold the rights of refugees.
Governance and the Democratization of Social Media
Social media has given rise to new types of political activity and engagement in Africa that can only occur in a digitally connected setting. Some of these activities include online petitions, campaigning, engaging with politicians online and circulating political news. Social networks enable non-institutionalized and lateral participation by the public in politics, making this one of the major channels attracting the youth to politically angled discussions within the continent.
Kenya is one such example. According to Global Digital Insights, 11.75 million people were active on social media in Kenya in January 2022, accounting for 21.1% of the total population. In addition to this, the country has seen the growth of digital democracy, which uses the internet or other computer technology to improve political processes such as voter registration, tallying, and transmission of results.
The advantages and risks of ungoverned social media democracy have had varying effects on the continent. On one hand, it provides individuals with direct access to express themselves and engage in political debates, but it can also be used to disseminate misleading news, cultivate biased attitudes toward government, and promote political polarization. There is a need for individuals to develop “believability filters,” which is achievable by carefully evaluating the information they get from various social networks and how they might filter out misleading or erroneous information.
Challenges facing democracy in Africa
On matters regarding democracy, among the key elements that may pose a problem is whether Kenya´s institutional framework is capable of dealing with the current state of affairs in politics. However, unlike in 2017, there may be more chance of a fair and calm election season this time around thanks to the collaboration between several sectors. However, one risk that Kenya may face in the next election season is if the outcomes are decided by a very narrow or thin margin. Fortunately, observing that in the previous elections the courts intervened hence allowing for a re-run, and the fact that the politicians abided by the result and judgment shows a lot of promise concerning democracy.
Another key challenge faced in Africa is the lack of access to justice. However, there are tremendous strides taken about judicial reform to curb this. One of the strategies Kenya, for example, can borrow from Denmark is the promotion of the use of a small claims court so that matters are expressly and amicably settled without taking too much time from the court as well as with the use of civic education.
Integration of refugees in Kenya and Somalia
Denmark is highly involved in migration matters, especially in upholding the rights of refugees. For example, through the scope of the Danish Refugee Council, they have managed to assist many Somali refugees and have them settled. The question is how a country like Kenya can better integrate the said refugees into society. There is not a clear-cut response to this, but there is development. For instance, any member from an East African country can easily acquire a work permit within the region.
The ALN Academy is committed to the promotion of rule of law, governance and sustainability in Africa.
This discussion took place as part of the ALN Academy Talks, a series of conversations aimed at raising awareness and education for the development of Africa.
Interviewee: HE Ole Thonke, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark to Kenya, Somalia, Seychelles, and Eritrea
Interviewee: Karim Anjarwalla, ALN Board Director and Senior Partner, ALN Kenya
Moderator: Angélica Gutiérrez, Head of the ALN Academy
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