Podcast: Aidan Eyakuze (Twaweza) on the crackdown on civic space in East Africa

Earlier this week I grabbed a few minutes with Aidan Eyakuze, one of East Africa’s most prominent civil society leaders. The topic (what else?) was the crackdown on civic space under way in Tanzania, where Aidan runs Twaweza, a brilliant NGO that works across the region.

Tanzania’s previously liberal and vigorous environment for activism is now being reshaped by an increasingly authoritarian government – Aidan had his passport removed soon after Twaweza published an opinion poll showing a dip in the president’s popularity. Points that struck me about this interview:

  • The nuanced approach of government: if a CSO is providing useful feedback on government services, or otherwise working ‘with the grain’ of authority, then things are fine. The moment you go against the grain, watch out.
  • Aidan’s call for CSOs to become more reflective about their own legitimacy and transparency.

Interesting and important stuff. Apologies for the sound quality on my side, but at least you can hear Aidan clearly, which is the main thing.

Here are some of Aidan’s previous writings on the blog:

The government outlaws fact checking

What is Civil Society for?

And a nice piece about how Twaweza is attempting to ‘walk the line’ of shrinking space

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3 Responses to “Podcast: Aidan Eyakuze (Twaweza) on the crackdown on civic space in East Africa”
  1. Amie Bishop

    Thanks for this important discussion. I have deep respect for Twaweze. I must say I am disappointed, however, that not one word was spoken about the egregious crackdown on human rights for LGBTI people and notably, the terror experienced by this community in recent months due to threats made by both the President and the Regional Commissioner of Dar. Furthermore, the squeezing of civil society has been acutely felt by CSOs working on HIV, with deregistration and hindering of operations being common, because they are being accused of “promoting homosexuality” — an absurd and specious claim meant to silence the community- and one that, in fact, endangers the many people in TZ who have or are at risk for HIV.
    Just one question about this situation would have been appreciated as It is a prime example of the unfortunate closing of civil society space in the region.

    • Abdoul Kabesi

      Important discussion indeed. Civil societies in many African countries are seeing crackdowns from their respective governments and are increasingly under scrutiny for challenging authorities on public spending (or lack of responsibility about it), corruption, nepotism, bribery, lack of investment in public services, education, health care, etc., etc…
      However, the LGBTI (and so on…) issue and apparent crackdown on them is disputable. I disagree that they should be “hunted down” for the sake of physical harm. However, in very traditional and conservative African societies, LGBTI agenda of forcing those societies to adapt and accept their distorted norms about sexuality and – most important – gender identities, effectively requesting vast majority of people to behave contrary to their believes and values for the sake of tiny majority is unacceptable. This applies in particular to so called “transgender” group – a group of few people with mental disorder who, despite basic biology, do have a subjective problem about their own gender identity, but are shamelessly forcing entire society to “accept” and “recognise” their mental disorder. When an obvious grown up man or woman is ready to cut of a perfectly healthy part of their bodies, take hormones to change their basic biology and then scream at everyone for still calling them she instead of he (and vice versa), the vast majority of normal people (yes, normal!) who have no problem with their gender identity are rightfully pushing back on this. That tiny fraction of people with mental disorders shall be provided with mental help, and not encouraged by civil societies to be bully overwhelming majority, asking for legislation and laws that will punish anyone who doesn’t have mental disorder.

      Civil society groups and organisations shall focus their energy on things that matter!

  2. Peter Kinabo

    Cicil societies were used by foreign entities to bring down governments around the world in the very recent past. There is not shortage of such efforts. May be you should not be surprised when some governments decide take precautionary measures.

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