In exploring elements of the quality of East Africa’s institutions of governance, accountability and opportunity it is worth examining citizens’ perceptions with respect to two aspects. The first is performance or the extent to which institutions are delivering on their mandates. The second is ownership meaning the degree to which citizens are able to access the institutions and influence their trajectories. The data suggests that the scorecard is mixed and that much remains to be done to ensure that institutions meet the expectations and aspirations of East Africans.
Although it is necessary to celebrate the gains made, it would appear that there is still much work to be done. The data on corruption trends are worrying, particularly those on the institutions of law enforcement – the police and judiciary. The Afrobarometer survey indicates that insofar as our citizens are concerned, their lives have not improved – economic and living conditions are worsening. The region’s media space remains partially free at best, as its democracies are recording slow and almost imperceptible improvements.
Corruption continues to blight the landscape of East Africa’s most important institutions including those responsible for security and justice. The police account for 50 per cent of the most corrupt sectors in the region followed by the judiciary at 30 per cent. The police departments in all five East African Community states appear in the top ten most corrupt institutions, which points to the harsh reality experienced by many citizens in their dealing with law enforcement institutions in the region. When confronted with corrupt practices, few citizens in the region bother to make official complaints: In Kenya, only five per cent indicated that they reported incidents of bribery to the authorities. The figure in the other EAC member states was eight per cent in Uganda, 10 per cent in Burundi, 11 per cent in Tanzania and 15 per cent in Rwanda.
There is a pervasive feeling that the economic conditions have worsened in the past five years.In the 2012 Tanzania Afrobarometer Survey, 40 per cent of adults felt that current economic conditions in Tanzania were very bad, compared to 25 per cent in 2008. In 2012, 62 per cent of Ugandans felt that their living conditions were at least fairly bad compared to 42 per cent just two years earlier. In Kenya, 84 per cent of adults described the current economic conditions as either ‘very bad’ or ‘fairly bad’ in 2011, a 30-point jump from 54 per cent in 2005.