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19-20 November 2020

The Kofi Annan Foundation, in collaboration with the Society for International Development (SID), with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), hosted an online conference on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 November to explore the state of democracy in East Africa in the context of the coronavirus pandemic – what challenges is the region facing and what opportunities could be identified particularly when it comes to protecting voters and protecting the vote?



Conference programmeDownload a pdf version of the programme


Thursday 19 November 2020

08.00-08.30: Welcome Remarks & Opening Address

Elhadj As Sy, Chairperson, Kofi Annan Foundation

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08.30-09.00: Keynote Address

H.E. President Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria and Chair of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation

Ms. Graça Machel, International advocate for women’s and children’s rights, former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique

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09.30-10.30: The state of democracy in East Africa today

All countries in the region have transitioned to multi-party democracy, but most polls show high levels of dissatisfaction with the  democratic systems. This is more apparent now in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, where East African countries are experiencing democratic backsliding. What has gone wrong? What can be done to fix it?

  • Fatma Karume, Former Head, IMMA advocates -TANZANIA
  • Nicholas Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham, Fellow of the Institute for Global Innovation – UK
  • Comfort EroAfrica Program Director, International Crisis Group – KENYA

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11.00-11.45: Are elections giving democracy a bad name?

All countries in the region organise regular elections, yet democratic freedoms are in retreat. What is going wrong? What can be  done?

  • Seema Kiran Shah, Expert, Electoral Integrity, Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) – KENYA
  • Tundu Lissu, Chief Legal Officer of CHADEMA and Forner Member of Parliament for Singida East constituency – TANZANIA
  • Arthur Muliro, Deputy Managing Director at the International Secretariat of the Society for International Development (SID) – ITALY

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12.45-13.45: The guilty party? The role of political parties

Political parties in East Africa have at times been defined more by individuals and ethnic or religious identities, than ideas or  institutions. They are also not always very democratic internally. Is this where the problem starts? Can party reform lead to further  democratisation?

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14.15-14.45: Divide and rule? The instrumentalisation of identity politics

The instrumentalisation of identity politics is polarizing societies and threatening peace across the region. What can be done?

  • Joyce Nyairo, Independent Researcher – KENYA
  • Zein Abubakar, Founding Directors, Orature Collective – KENYA
  • Abdullahi Boru, Senior Officer Policy and Advocacy-Africa at International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • Mshai Mwangola, Researcher, African Leadership Centre – KENYA

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15.15-16.00: Anti-social media? Have the internet and social channels become a threat to democracy?

Once championed as tools of democratic participation and expression, social channels are increasingly decried as weapons of disinformation, hate speech, and foreign interference. To what extent is East Africa concerned, and what is the right approach to take? This debate will turn on the recent report of the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age (KACEDDA) and its recommendations.

  • Ory Okolloh, Former Managing Director Omidyar Network and Luminate Group in Africa  & KACEDDA Commissioner – KENYA
  • Maxence Melo, Digital Rights Advocate and Executive Director, Jamii Forums -TANZANIA
  • Akua Gyekye, Regional Program Manager EMEA, Africa and MENA Elections, FACEBOOK
  • Charles Onyango-Obbo, Journalist and Writer Curator “Wall of Great Africans” Africapedia Limited – KENYA

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Friday 20 November 2020

09.00-09.45: Settling electoral disputes – strengthening the judiciary’s hand

The judiciary has a critical role to play in building acceptance and tolerance for democracy in the manner through which it addresses electoral disputes. What is the record so far? What more needs to be done?

  • Prof. Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, Advocate of the High Courts of Kenya and Tanganyika. Founder of the PLO Lumumba Foundation and a Consultant at Lumumba & Lumumba Advocates
  • Martha Karua, Leader of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) – KENYA
  • Donald Deya, CEO Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) – TANZANIA
  • Arthur Muliro, Deputy Managing Director at the International Secretariat of the Society for International Development (SID) – ITALY

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10.15-11.00: Civil society, uncivil environment?

Civil society in the region is vibrant, but often under attack. It is sometimes politicised. What can be done to protect and support it? What can it do to instigate change?

  • Brian Tamuka Kagoro, Director Programme Support Division, Africa Regional Office (AfRO), Open Society Foundation (OSF) – ZIMBABWE/SOUTH AFRICA / KENYA
  • Leonard Okello, CEO, The Uhuru Institute – UGANDA
  • Gladwell Otieno, Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) – KENYA
  • Maurice MakOloo, Maurice MakOloo, Director, Eastern Africa, Ford Foundation – KENYA
  • Aidan Eyakuze, Executive Director of Twaweza East Africa

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11.30-12.15: The next generation? Youth inclusion in politics

The median age in Eastern Africa is 18.1 years, yet youth is largely excluded from power. What future do young people want and how can they increase their participation in politics?

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13.15-14.00: The sinews of democracy: financing elections and election campaigns

Electoral financing is one of those issues that has a fundamental impact on electoral outcomes, yet one that doesn’t attract much  attention or interest. The shadowy networks of local and international interests, which underwrite election campaigns, need to be unmasked and better understood if we are to fully appreciate the role they play in our elections and in potentially distorting democracy.

  • Eddie Kayinda, Programs – Political Financing and Civic Engagement, Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) – UGANDA
  • Khushbu Agrawal, Programme Officer-Political Participation and Representation, international IDEA
  • Seema Kiran Shah, Expert, Electoral Integrity, Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) – KENYA
  • John Githongo, CEO, Inuka Trust – KENYA
  • Gladwell Otieno, Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) – KENYA

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14.30-15.30: With a little help from my friends: the role of the international community

States have long benefited from international assistance in organising and financing elections. Political parties and civil society have traditionally set much store by international support for human rights and democracy, sometimes in vain. What are the limits on the international community and what can – and should – we expect going forward?

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An event organised by the Kofi Annan Foundation and:







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