Lessons from citizen activism in Uganda: Saving Mabira Forest

Image: Flickr, Gilles Bassière
Image: Flickr, Gilles Bassière

People power (and lessons from previous failures) enabled Ugandan environmentalists to save a vital forest from commercial exploitation.

Three papers examining how African civil society organisations have successfully influenced policy

Often, we complain that we lack the time, money and expertise to make any difference about how we are governed. This edition of the SAIIA Occasional Papers Series presents three papers examining some of the strategies and tactics that African civil society organisations (CSOs) have used to influence policy decisions around key governance questions. They point to the value of a well-planned, focused advocacy campaign; bringing in multiple constituencies; tapping into the hopes and values of ordinary citizens; simplifying the message; talking to all who will listen; using a mixture of tactics (from protests and petitions to litigation and media exposure); and the dogged determination to continue.

The first two case studies are written by activists at the heart of advocacy campaigns that succeeded against the odds. Learn how CSOs prevented the Zambian Constitution from being capriciously amended to allow the then-sitting President Frederick Chiluba to run for a third term in the early 2000s, and how environmentalists in Uganda took action to save a popular indigenous forest from commercial exploitation by sugar developers. The third paper outlines how CSOs can seek to affect the decisions made by members of parliament in African countries – a constituency often ignored by CSOs, but crucial to the success of any efforts to alter legislation. The author has global experience of CSOs working with parliaments in many countries.

They all hold valuable lessons for others determined to change their societies, through participation in the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) or many other avenues.

Number 6, July 2008

Lessons in effective citizen activism: The anti-third term campaign in Zambia
by Chomba Chella and Simon Kabanda

Learn how Zambian civil society mobilised effectively to stop former President Frederick Chiluba changing the Constitution to run for a third term as president.

Number 7, July 2008

Lessons from citizen activism in Uganda: Saving Mabira Forest
by Bashir Twesigye

People power (and lessons from previous failures) enabled Ugandan environmentalists to save a vital forest from commercial exploitation.

Number 8, July 2008

Engaging with Parliaments: Advice to Civil Society
by Victoria Ayer

Practical strategies and hands-on tactics for CSOs seeking to influence policy-making in African parliaments.

SAIIA sincerely thanks those who acted as peer reviewers for these two papers.

Perspectives on Governance:Founded to promote public debate and research on crucial issues of public policy, the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) is pleased to send you these occasional papers that we hope will contribute to a more robust conversation about the nature of Africa’s governance challenges.

3 Jul 2008