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Democracy and Governance: USAID in Kenya

The assistance from USAID, it came in at the
time when we really needed it. The Kenyan government had difficult challenges
with donors, one program that never suffered was our partnership with USAID. We owe much gratitude to those Americans who
had the vision and who worked with our own politicians to make that lift possible. Forever USAID should live and grow and multiply. This film is, really marks the celebration,
it marks 50 years of partnership between Kenya and the United States, and I hope that this
film will show a couple of different things- a variety of programs and activities that
have occurred over the last 50 years and the impact that they have had on Kenya, on the
Kenyan people. Pamoja tutafaulu-together we will succeed. Political change in 1992 brought the first
ever multi-party elections. With it emerged a vibrant civil society. USAID saw this is
a unique window to work with Kenyans, strengthen democracy and governance and advance the country’s
reform agenda. Invisible, intangible-democracy takes time
and has many layers. The disputed presidential election in 2007 and the violent unrest that
followed re-emphasized the need for stronger government democratic institutions and checks
and balances. The US funds civil society groups, trains
election observers and provided technical assistance to register voters and manage a
free, fair and peaceful constitutional referendum in 2010. Take the Kenyan Parliament, which
was once a weak institution and the rubber stamp for Kenya’s powerful executive branch. Enter the Speaker of the House, Kenneth Marende-lawyer
and former Member of Parliament, adept at navigating this highly politicized environment. The Kenyan public that elects members of Parliament
to represent them have a stake in what parliament does. Until recently, most Kenyans had no idea whether
their elected representatives ever show up to work and vote. Speaker Marende saw the
need for greater accountability. With USAID assistance, the debates now go live on local
TV. Seats are rarely empty. I am glad that Kenyans received it with a
lot of enthusiasm. As we speak today, I think that is one of the most popular programs on
Kenyan media and if you try to remove live broadcast today I think there will be riots
in the streets of several cities in this country. With the assistance of USAID and its on the
ground partner, State University of New York Albany, Speaker Marende led the effort to
make parliament an effective check on the executive with members able to interrogate
bills and budgets tabled by the government. But strengthening democracy is not only done
in a government building. Three years ago, the Rift Valley was the epicenter of ethnic
violence that followed the disputed presidential elections. Since then, USAID has been working
at reconciling communities and preventing future conflict. A USAID project called ‘The Rift Valley Local
Empowerment for Peace’ is using sport to restore community ties and teach conflict resolution.
In this slum in the city of Eldoret, teams are from different tribes. Playing soccer
is intense, continuous, creates space to meet at a different level. It builds trust. During the post-election violence, Nelson
Katosh’s home was burned by gangs. He and other youths fought off their attackers. Since 2009, 150 soccer teams have been formed
in Eldoret, teaching more than 3,000 youths. The aim: to create a critical mass of youth
who can say ‘no’ to violence.

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