(Leiden University College)
Paper Short Abstract:
Community development efforts of any kind must run through a committee governance structure. The efficiency, accountability and democratic qualities they are meant to embody often seem to be lacking. So why do they persist and with what implications on the delivery of development?
Paper long abstract:
To be formally recognized, all Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in Kenya must register their initiatives with a committee governance structure, and one that mandates membership, circumscribes elected executive positions of Chairman, Treasurer, and Secretary, and demands majority rule under quorum for decision-making, among other rules. With the flourishing of civil society since the late 1980's, the result is that committees are everywhere in Kenya. Maasailand is no exception. Such committees preside over land and natural resource management, education at all levels, health provision, water access, income-generating pursuits and savings efforts, youth leagues, and religious life, as only a few examples. While undoubtedly there is variation, the efficiency, accountability and democratic qualities committees are theoretically intended to embody, seem all too often to be lacking in practice.
So what are committees? How do they work and why do they persist? And with what implications on the delivery of development? Are they yet another example of the "emptiness" of African democracies? Are they a site of state sanctioned bureaucracy aimed at disarming "traditional" political systems that are then merely circumvented by an adept elite? Or might the committee be infused with meanings of legitimacy, embraced by those marginalized in "traditional" and contemporary political orders, and thus effective in creating new spaces of political participation and (re)-claiming power?
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