When they come for you: grassroots struggles and NGOs

Published on Pambazuka News, by Leila van Rinsum, March 12, 2014.

Civil society in Kenya is under pressure from the increasingly repressive regime of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. But these groups are themselves fragmented, with well-funded elite NGOs disconnected from the concerns of the grassroots. The best way for the groups to find strength is by connecting their struggles … //

… How NGOs came to Kenya: … //

… WHERE WERE YOU? GRASSROOTS STRUGGLES: … //

… SO, THEY CAME – THE PBO BILL: … //

… WHEN NO ONE IS LEFT: FINDING UNITY IN CONNECTING CAUSES:

Land, water, food and freedom from violence and oppression are the basics of human existence and dignity. There have been multiple uprisings, demonstrations and spontaneous or organized movements both in rural and urban areas around these issues. Looking at these struggles and the lack of NGO support thereof, it becomes clearer as to why NGOs do not have popular support to back them up (as for example in the advent of controversial amendments to the PBO bill). NGOs have been yet another instrument of power that grassroots can hardly access and that reproduce structures of economic inequality and exclusion from power. Maybe the threat of losing out on funds will wake NGOs up to rise above single issues and be conscious of the bigger picture, to provide spaces for social innovation and change. If NGOs want to be ahead of the game, they should take a step back and support the actions that are already taking place on the ground. With an increasingly hostile and militarized government it is time to re-evaluate struggles and find unity among different actors. Already multiple attacks on grassroots activists have been reported. With this in mind grassroots leaders and activists should re-evaluate their relationships with NGOs and other partners as well as the trend of institutionalizing and personalizing grassroots action. A unity in movements and political actions requires a complete re-strategizing and change of tactics and the trickling down of conscious and critical political communication with grassroots that do not have access to such information. Foremost, willing actors have to start networking and building a movement that values different strengths as well as builds and mentors people, understands grassroots struggles and ideologies. Most importantly, we need to find the unity in causes and people, because if everyone stands for themselves, when they come for you there will indeed be no one left to speak for you…

(full long text and references 1 – 25).

(Leila van Rinsum is completing her BA in Political Science at the University of Nairobi, Kenya).

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