African peer review mechanism: The case of Kenya

The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) established in 2003 was a means to create an overarching consensus within African countries  on socio-economic development and how each African state could improve. Countries within the APRM undergo a process of self-monitoring in most aspects of governance and development. As of 2018 there are 37 African states signed up to the APRM, Kenya being one of the pioneers of the APRM process, having signed onto the APRM in 2003. Kenya was also one of the first countries to carry out and complete the self-examinations set out under the ARPM. As such, Kenya offers strong insight as a case study into the success and failures of the APRM and how it can be improved.

The first full report of the APRM was produced in the 2006 African union summit; within this first review many conclusions about Kenya were drawn. Due to the ethnic conflicts happening in Kenya at the time, a large number of the recommendations were targeted at this issue. Firstly, the report identified that many of the people involved in the clashes were still involved in decision-making processes in Kenya. The review also focused on issues such as constitutional reform, overtly strong executive and an implementation gap between policy and action. Additional issues were highlighted such as corruption, social inequality, unemployment.

Overall the first phase of recommendations performed on Kenya was viewed as relatively successful in underlining the main issues preventing strong governance. However, the APRM can be seen to fail to resolve most of the problems raised. For instance, a lack of will and overall strategy to implement the recommendations was seemingly a major roadblock to an effective APRM. For example, the review argues that there is a lack of an independent judiciary and influence of the executive of judicial nominations.  However, the review does not state any steps to end the executives influence.

Former President Kibaki claimed to be “committed to addressing all the issues” which were raised by the APRM report. However, he enacted no effective implementation of the recommendations. This was mainly a result of Kibaki believing that other African heads of state were going to be largely uncritical and let Kenya pass without implementing any major recommendations. This distinct lack of peer pressure meant that recommendations were often ignored. One additional problem was that there were no repercussions if recommendations were not enforced. Ultimately the executive is not accountable to anyone in Kenya never mind the APRM. This has made strong APRM implementation extremely difficult.

A further problem with the implementation of the APRM is that it does not identify or provide solutions to every issue facing a country. For example, the review was unable to highlight and deal with the management of elections, which is one of the most crucial issues in Kenya. Moreover, the APRM failed to overall engage with Kenyan institutions such as the Electoral Commission and the National Human Rights Commission. This ultimately led to the APRM being isolated and lacking in any tools or institutional clout to assist in implementing its recommendations.

The culminations of problems with the APRM resulted in the cancelling of APRM meeting in 2015, which raised concerns that the APRM as an effective mechanism for creating strong development and governance. It was also further damaging to the APRM as it was hoped that the summit would resolve many of the issues the APRM faced.

Despite this, since the election of Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 there has been a clear change in the commitment to upholding the APRM. Kenyatta is the current chairman of the APRM forum and has been eager to show the effectiveness of the APRM referring to the 2010 constitution and peaceful elections as reasons for the importance of the APRM. This refreshing narrative towards the APRM has led to Kenya receiving praise for the actions it has taken in its second review in 2017. The country has undergone strong economic growth in recent years with GDP averaging “5.5 per cent for the last seven years, while the GDP grew by 5.6 per cent in 2015 compared to 2.3 per cent in 2014”. The APRM has been claimed as one of the main reasons for this growth.

Kenya’s experience with the APRM offers a glance of its potential to facilitate strong governance in African states. Despite strides taken by Kenyatta, problems with executive powers, implementation, corruption and the transition to the new constitution all remain. The APRM has the potential to drastically transform the governance and development problems that are rife in most African states. To do this it must strive to reconcile the relationship between recommendation and implementation. In the 28th assembly of the African union they decided to further extend the APRM’s reach and influence by incorporating tracking of implementation. This is a good sign for the future success of the APRM and extra steps should be made in countries like Kenya to strengthen the implementation gap with support from civil society and the APR secretariat.


Featured image |  Jacob Zuma chairs the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Forum of Heads of State and Government held at the new African Union building in Addis Ababa | Government ZA | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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