The Contextual Necessity of Engaging with Social JusticeEast Africa has been experiencing more than a decade of nearly consistenteconomic growth, and for some countries the goal of middle-income statusseems within reach. Yet, large-scale poverty continues to prevail, and the regionremains among the most deprived in the world. Not only is the gap between richand poor extremely wide, justice systems are often inaccessible, especially tothe poor; rights and entitlements are unknown to many. Civic, socio-economic,and political rights are therefore frequently flouted, and conflict is rife. East 5 AFRICAN PERSPECTIVES ON SOCIAL JUSTICEAfrica also illustrates a context in which the government’s role is increasinglycircumscribed to managing partnerships with the private sector and facilitatingthe insertion of national entities into a global economic framework.As long as responses to the current global and regional crises continue tofocus on the need for economic growth, and provided the adopted strategiesresult in patterns of inequality and deprivation, the East African contextmust place issues of social justice centrally on the agenda. Viviene Taylor, inher contribution to discourses on social justice in Africa, indeed argues thateconomic growth alone cannot structurally address issues of poverty, exclusion,and inequity in East Africa. Strategies to ensure human development and socialjustice are also required, and they are required now, she argues, even in a contextwhere a democratic deficit may mute demands for social justice.In short, why should social justice be considered important? It seems clear thatthere is a need to reconnect with the visions of well-being that inspired Africanleaders at the time of independence and to combat forms of injustice that havebeen allowed to persist for 50 years thereafter.
Diversity and Commonalities