CLARION was started by a group of university lecturers in 1993 and registered in January 1994 as an NGO. It started largely as a research organisation providing an opportunity for scholars to carry out research away from the prying eyes of the state at a time when activities within the universities were highly censored. CLARION’s first research into official corruption led to the organisation being deregistered by the Moi regime in 1995 when the results of the research were widely disseminated. Subsequently, CLARION developed institutionally and programmatically developing important capacities in research, public education and advocacy. In 1998, it became a membership organization and started holding annual general meetings. .
CLARION evolved from a small group of university academicians, pursuing their research interests in the areas of constitutionalism, human rights and governance to a full-fledged institution. This evolution saw CLARION develop from a semi-formal NGO led by a management committee doubling up as a policy making organ, to a membership institution with clearly differentiated organs: a General Assembly made up of members, a Board of Directors elected from among the members every two years, a Board of Trustees, a Management Committee and a Secretariat. This institutional transformation took CLARION one decade to complete.
CLARION’s groundbreaking report on corruption in Kenya, published in 1995 and widely publicised by the media, set the pace for CLARION’s work. This was a period of strict Government control on civil society activities. CLARION was deregistered in 1996 as a result. CLARION then founded the Research and Civic Awareness Programme (RECAP), hosted by the Kenyan Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). Through RECAP, CLARION continued its work until the deregistration was lifted following sustained local and international pressure on the Government of Kenya.
CLARION became a membership organisation in 1998, and held its first Annual General Meeting (AGM) the same year. In 2003, CLARION departed from its hitherto ad hoc approach to programming and developed its first comprehensive Strategic Plan (2003-2007). The Strategic Plan took into consideration CLARION’s mandate that had expanded over the years.
The day-to-day running of CLARION affairs, and its members are answerable to the Management Committee.