No Health Without Mental Health

Posted by on 22nd January 2020

Categories: Uncategorized

The conversation on mental health has slowly but surely been gaining momentum in Kenya. In November 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the Ministry of Health to establish a task force that would investigate the current mental health status in the country and report back within 90 days. After which, the task force is expected to provide recommendations, in the form of new or revised policies, to address what seems to be a dire situation.

The timing of this directive by the President couldn’t have been better seeing that the media is awash with reports of suicide, violence and substance abuse. To this effect, the task force has set out to receive views from the public across the country. This public participation process is seeking submissions that will touch on; mental health priority issues in Kenyans’ respective areas, proposals on practical solutions to the priority mental health issues and the level of preparedness to address these mental health issues.

Through an SMS question, we sought to get a pulse of the nation on mental health. Some of the major concerns that emerged from the responses were; lack of awareness, stigma, inadequate mental health facilities and staff, accessibility and affordability of mental health services, availability of mental health facilities in counties and the current economic state and corruption as catalysts to mental illnesses.

These responses mirror some of the issues highlighted in the 2015 Kenya Mental Health Policy that was drafted by the James Macharia-led team. The 32-page document set out to achieve these four objectives; strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health; ensure access to comprehensive, integrated and high quality, promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative mental health care services at all levels of healthcare; implement strategies for promotion of mental health, prevention of mental disorders and substance use disorders; and strengthen mental health systems.

Unfortunately, the rising cases of suicide countrywide paint a grim picture of the ineffectiveness of this policy. Access to comprehensive mental health care services remains a luxury yet health is a devolved function. Even with the expansion of referral hospitals and setting up of clinics, mental health is still neglected and overlooked. Perhaps this taskforce would fuel the much-needed enactment of the 2015 policy and beef it up with new recommendations to give the mental health status of Kenya the attention it deserves.

Health is among the pillars of the President’s Big 4 Agenda under Universal Healthcare. It comes as no surprise that the Ministry of Health has been put to task to find a lasting solution to what is now being termed as a “national disaster”. For a government that has anchored a good part of its legacy on youth empowerment, it would be a great loss if said youth are lost to more and more cases of depression, suicide and substance abuse.

As it has been said before, Kenya ails not from a lack of legislation or policy but from the reluctance to implement them to the letter. The fire that the task force has ignited should not die down along the way. Many Kenyans who have been suffering in silence are hoping that the task force brings practical outcomes that will save them from the shame and pain that has for long been associated with mental illnesses.

By putting measures in place both at the Ministry and County levels, the government will go a long way in attaining the preventive healthcare approach that has proven to be most effective.

Just as the Executive, the 12th Parliament has the task to leave a legacy. To consider and pass the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill, 2018 into law would be a significant way to cement this House as champions for a healthy Kenya.

The Irony of Universal Healthcare in Kenya

Posted by on 13th January 2020

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The recently released guidelines by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) on 7th January 2020 provide a bleak picture into the future that envisioned Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) in Kenya. One of the changes is the reduction of the waiting period for new members from the current 60 day period to 90 days. There is also a mandatory 1 year upfront payment. For those defaulting on the payments, the changes provide for a penalty of 50% of each monthly contribution paid late for up to 11 months. Where the contributor has defaulted for 12 months, they will be required to start payments afresh and will only be eligible to benefits after 90 days from the date of resumption of payment. They will also pay a 1 year upfront payment. The rationale behind these changes is to marshal the efforts of NHIF towards the achievement of sustainable UHC and to enhance member retention. But is this really so?

Article 43(1) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health that includes the right to healthcare services. This is reiterated in the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights under Article 16.

The right to health is crucial to the realization of other fundamental rights and freedoms envisaged by the Constitution. Without it, one cannot be able to fully to enjoy their right to live fully. This right has four key elements that determine whether it can be enjoyed to the fullest. These are availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality. Availability connotes the present functioning public health and healthcare facilities for the use by the public. Accessibility takes different forms; the main ones being non-discrimination, physical accessibility and economic accessibility. Acceptability is with regard to being respectful of culture, minorities, peoples and communities. Quality relates to the scientific and medical appropriateness of the labour, equipment and drugs in the facility.

However, this is not the case as we know it. Almost daily, there are cries and complaints regarding the shortage of drugs in hospitals, shortage of beds in wards leading to even more deadlier cross-infections, lack of proper equipment to either detect or control certain diseases, long lines and wanting customer service to patients seeking assistance in healthcare facilities.

We acknowledge that indeed the realization of economic and social rights is contingent upon the availability of resources at the State’s disposal. Some might argue that limited financial resources at NHIF have necessitated these changes. However, what the Ministry of Health and its parastatal have shown Kenyans in the past 3 years is that there is little regard for taxpayers’ money. The much that has been given before has been mismanaged, misused and plundered massively leading to the current sad state of healthcare. A healthcare for the select few.

At the 2019 Kenya Health Forum convened by the Ministry of Health between the 14th and 15th of August, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki stated that, “UHC means much more than healthcare. It means ensuring that all Kenyans can get quality health services; where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship. This has also been a key objective of UHC under the Big 4 Agenda that the Government is currently driving: that there may be a realization of a society where no one is ‘left behind.’

These changes are discriminatory not just to those who are not able to afford these services under this punitive regime, but also to women. Most new members of NHIF during the financial year 2017/2018 were citizens from the informal sector with a 13% increase from the previous year. It is evident that people in informal sectors and those struggling financially will be the first casualties. Their inability to meet these high costs will certainly leave them behind and result in unnecessary deaths that can be prevented through proper treatment. On the other hand, for voluntary members, access to maternity will be restricted to 6 months post card maturity. What then happens to expectant mothers who cannot afford the exorbitant costs of private hospitals? They will be denied adequate health services or pay hefty prices and end up suffering financial hardship in their quest for better healthcare.

The question that therefore arises is, who then speaks for citizens’ welfare? There exists, in both the National Assembly and the Senate, a Departmental Committee on Health that deals with matters of national health. These Committees are mandated to cover the functions of the Ministry of Health alongside its semi-autonomous Government agencies including the National Hospital Insurance Fund. Besides that, the Committee has a duty to investigate, inquire into, and report on all matters relating to the Ministries and departments as they deem necessary and as may be referred to them by the House. It also has a duty to study the programme and policy objectives of the agency and the effectiveness of the implementation.

Once Parliament resumes from recess, Members of the Health Committee in the National Assembly should take up this matter and represent the interests of the people. Some of the recommendations the Committee can propose to NHIF include; reduction of the premiums and elimination of the 1-year upfront payment, reduction of the waiting period, promotion of prompt disbursements of payments to healthcare providers, regular monitoring on the quality of services offered in accredited healthcare facilities and stringent rules on the management of financial resources at the Fund.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the overall membership of NHIF in the year 2017/2018 increased from a total of around 6.8million to 7.7 million. There is a high probability that the number is much higher now following the 2019 population census. These new changes spell doom for healthcare in Kenya and are actually parallel to the efforts of attaining UHC. The State in itself has an obligation to take necessary measures to protect the health of its people and to ensure that they receive proper medical attention. More can be done if there is right leadership and proper public participation.

Let healthcare be affordable for all; not just a select few. That is the Universal Health Coverage that Kenyans deserve.

May 2020 Bring a Change of Leadership

Posted by on 7th January 2020

Categories: Uncategorized

The festive season has over time evolved from just being a period of celebration and fun to being a time of self-evaluation and reflection on the just concluded year. As Mzalendo wound up its calendar of activities in 2019 we engaged our audience through an SMS question.

“What do you think has been 2019’s Parliament success story as the year comes to a close?”

The feedback painted a citizenry that had lost faith in its representatives. Some Kenyans thought that Parliament was no longer an independent institution and had instead morphed into the Executive’s puppet. Others felt that MPs were self-serving people who prioritized their interests over Kenyans’ needs, while others simply thought that Parliament generally underperformed in its role of legislation, oversight and budgeting. These responses might just represent a few Kenyans but their thoughts mirror the general mood on the ground.

“There’s never been a Christmas that has felt this un-Christmas-sy,” read a post on Twitter. The replies under the tweet were from Kenyans who largely attributed the slow death of the ‘Kenyan Christmas’ to the tough economic times the country is currently struggling with.

There is indeed a general sense of hopelessness in the electorate that would form a good business of objective inward-looking by Parliamentarians. 2019 was quite an eventful year for Parliament that had more lows than highs. From the standoff between the Senate and National Assembly over the DORA Bill, to 2022 political formations, to unpleasant comments on and off social media between MPs and the touchy subject of money. Parliament sure did make headlines this past year.

With such an integral role in the attainment of the vision of Kenya, it’s only prudent that MPs undertake in a SWOT analysis for the just-concluded year. Highlighting what succeeded, the challenges that emerged in their work and what failed will make room for strategic planning even as the year begins. Not only does this present an opportunity to restore public faith through value and impact-driven work, but it also gives Kenyan governance an opportune moment for a much-needed facelift. This, however, cannot be attained without deliberate effort from MPs.

2019 was a year that really put to test leadership expectations as envisioned in Chapter 6 of the Constitution. Besides the political drama between MPs from opposing camps several state officers were embroiled in graft cases that are yet to be concluded. Countless headlines made their way to the front pages of local dailies over billions of taxpayers’ money lost in looting. Systems exposed failure in the management of state agencies and as a result, put Parliament on the spot over its oversight role.

This should be a wakeup call for Parliament to step up in 2020 as it has previously been accused of rubberstamping the Executive’s wishes. MPs should objectively vet all appointed officials, hold state agencies to account and ensure that laws passed are enacted to the letter. Without a doubt, there will be a significant improvement in governance and service delivery if Parliament unbiasedly plays its watchdog role.

In the spirit of making new year resolutions, Parliament needs to only commit to protecting the Constitution to achieve the legacy that they wish to leave behind as the 12th House.

The Rain is Beating Us and There’s No Ark to Shield Us

Posted by on 12th December 2019

Categories: Uncategorized

The festivities have begun on a rather dump and muddy note with the unrelenting downpour. Heavy rains have been reported in many areas of Kenya and neighbors such as Uganda, Somalia and Ethiopia. The result has been damage to properties, roads, mass displacement and deaths of hundreds who’ve either been trapped under layers of earth or swept away by dangerous water currents.

This natural extreme we’re currently experiencing is the exact opposite of the drought that afflicted Northern parts of Kenya earlier this year, a matter that was passionately addressed by the Senate once images of emaciated residents of Turkana surfaced on the internet. A motion by Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula sort interventions by government to provide urgent aid to the starving families and put in place measures to avert such disasters.

“At the moment we are struggling to deliver food to those who need it now. Tomorrow, we will be unable to deal with floods and the havoc that is going to be caused by huge rains,” said Senate Majority Leader Hon Kipchumba Murkomen on March 19th 2019. What sounded like a prophecy by Senator Murkomen has indeed come to pass. Unlike the drought that the government tried to downplay as fake news, the rains have simply refused to be ignored. Cities have been affected in equal measure as the grassroots. From flooded apartments, bursting sewers and traffic snarl ups, it is evident that urban planning and disaster preparedness is something that still ails us.

Year in year out Kenya has opted for temporary solutions in the wake of disasters as opposed to adopting sustainable long-term solutions. It is not uncommon to hear the government directing Kenyans to vacate their flood-prone homes and relocate to higher ground. This is despite state departments consistently issuing early warnings on worrying weather patterns. Unfortunately, the government seems to be caught off-guard on most occasions.

The government’s inaction and massive looting of public finances have led us to this moment where the implications are far reaching. Hundreds of lives have been lost in a span of two months, property has been destroyed not forgetting the negative socio-economic impact this yields.

The question then is, what would it take to start valuing Kenyans’ lives? Believing that the handshake and the recently launched BBI report has yielded inclusion is rather presumptuous if there are hundreds of thousands of Kenyans still displaced every year. Inclusion and equity should translate to all Kenyans living a decent and dignified life.

We need to go beyond the naming and shaming charade and start having convictions while we reclaim stolen Kenyan money. The cost of corruption has proven to be fatal and all the arms of government should work in harmony to put a stop to it.

As far as Parliament is concerned, our legislators have to display thoroughness in its oversight role. The caliber of people approved to work for state departments determines the success and failure of a sector. We’ve seen individuals whose integrity has been put to question still secure top government positions only for them to enable looting of public funds. Just like the natural calamities, we’ve been accustomed to a reactive rather than proactive approach when it comes to vetting appointees. It beats logic to wait until a scandal emerges or deaths have occurred to then put measures in place to prevent them.

To echo the words of Senator Abshiro Halake while addressing the drought crisis, “This is not a food or drought crisis but a leadership crisis. In fact, I think the leadership crisis borders on crimes against humanity.”

Okaying the deaths of Kenyans borders on crimes against humanity.

Citizen Participation in the BBI Process

Posted by on 5th December 2019

Categories: Uncategorized

Almost a year after the Handshake, the Building Bridges Initiative Advisory Taskforce presented its final report to President Uhuru Kenyatta. Thereafter, in a colourful ceremony attended by almost all politicians at the Bomas of Kenya, the full report was launched and released to the public for reading and further scrutiny. The Building Bridges Report encompasses nine key areas of focus that have been identified to be vital to the building and sustaining of a stable and united Kenya. The nine areas examined are: the lack of a national ethos, the responsibilities and rights of the State and the citizens respectively, reducing ethnic antagonism and competition, divisive elections, inclusivity, devolution, shared prosperity, corruption and safety and security. The matter of Commissions and other cross-cutting issues were also looked into.

In its opening remarks of the report, the Taskforce states that ‘more than 7000 citizens from all ethnic groups, genders, cultural and religious practices, and from different social and economic backgrounds were consulted.’ Further, it provides that more than 400 elected leaders, both past and present; youth from the counties, 123 individuals representing major institutions and 751 citizens via handwritten submissions participated in the public forums that were held to collect views during the process.

The recent 2019 census results show that Kenya has 47, 564,296 people. The Taskforce provides that it consulted ‘more than 7000’ citizens. Is this really representative of the views of all Kenyans? Were all Kenyan citizens given an opportunity to make representations on the nine key areas supposed to create a better Kenya?

Public participation is perhaps best defined as a process of allowing and involving the public to participate in the decision-making process. It is a principle that facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected or interested in making of a decision. This process is done by engaging the public in decision-making by receiving its input and considering it in making that decision.

The importance of public participation cannot be understated. It promotes the legitimacy and acceptance of decisions by public bodies, fosters values of democracy, entrenches governance and accountability and fulfills constitutional requirements. Public participation has been anchored in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 under Article 10 (2) (a) as a national value and principle of governance.

The Building Bridges Initiative appears to be a paramount report that will, perhaps, change the discourse on key issues in the country. But yet, have the electorate been factored in? The Taskforce cannot claim to have carried out meaningful public participation with only a section of the public yet there were different innovative ways to have reached to all Kenyans.

When the citizens are empowered to be aware of what is being deliberated upon, it is easier for them to understand what is going on and as a result, implementation is effective. The report is in English, thus putting those who are illiterate or cannot understand English at a disadvantage. Kiswahili is also a national language. The report speaks on increased inclusivity but has it factored in that persons with disabilities, especially the blind, cannot be able to access the document?

The political class cannot purport to be speaking about a document that people on the ground have not read. The sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya, who chose to exercise it indirectly through representatives. Relegation of citizens to the backseat on important national conversations leads to disillusionment among the electorate and apathy as they feel that their views are not taken into consideration.

Moving forward, as the discourse around BBI takes shape and informs the way forward, it should be ensured that the voice of citizens is heard. Kenyans have to be given a chance to read, understand the contents and thereafter provide their views in the discussions arising. The external role played by the public provides special information, insight, knowledge and expertise to the matters under deliberation. This way, in seeking to achieve and implement some of the highlighted recommendations, all Kenyans can forge ahead together in creating a better Kenya for themselves.

 

Law is Made For, Not Against the People

Posted by on 18th November 2019

Categories: Uncategorized

Inclusiveness in the Kenyan legislative process is attainable after all if the outcome of the public hearings on the two Kenya Information and Communications Bills (KICA Bills) is anything to go by. At the end of the deliberations between the stakeholders (both institutions and individuals) and the Communication, Information and Innovation Committee there was a consensus that the Moses Injendi-sponsored Bill was unconstitutional and should be withdrawn in totality.

The hearings that had a significant youth representation brought to fore gaps that have severally excluded Wanjiku in law-making.

“I don’t think the Committee would be proceeding in the right direction by discussing something unconstitutional,” said Nominated MP and Committee member Godfrey Osotsi who flagged the Bill for not having been subjected to pre-publication scrutiny as is expected in the legislative process.

A document by the Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC) details the legislative process from the genesis to the presidential assent stage, highlighting the requirements and relevance of each phase. Under the pre-publication scrutiny stage, policy is analyzed based on; the practicality of implementation, technical soundness, statutory harmony and conformity to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

The last factor was the hanging noose that the KICA Bill No. 61 of 2019 died on as it spoke against Article 31 which guarantees the right to privacy, Article 32 which guarantees the freedom of belief and opinion, Article 33 that guarantees the freedom of expression, Article 34 that gives the people freedom of the media and lastly Article 35 that guarantees us access to information. The concern raised by Osotsi over an attempt to sneak in such a backward Bill into the floor of the House, reveals a worrying trend by the Executive and Parliament who are constitutionally mandated to represent and champion for the public’s interest.

The electorate has on numerous occasions been left out in the law-making process, rendering the famous quote “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” pointless. Despite public participation being enshrined in the Constitution, it is yet to be fully actualized.

Recent months have seen Kenyans waking up to ill-informed bills that are largely inaccessible, not conscious to language barriers and daily citizens’ commitments while threatening their freedoms and rights. This long-standing antagonistic law-making relationship between MPs and their electorate is what has necessitated a Public Participation law that has been long over-due.

Coincidentally, National Assembly last week invited views from the public regarding two Public Participation Bills. The Bills provide a framework and requirements that Parliament and State Organs should adhere to in order to achieve inclusive and holistic public involvement in the law-making.

The onus will, therefore, be on the originators of any form of legislation to facilitate civic awareness through proper channels of relaying information and use of local dialect, provide reasonable time for participation, provide a feedback mechanism and document proof of the consideration of views submitted by the public. Further, the Bills note that decisions made by state organs or any public office without public participation shall be invalid. Had these laws been in place, perhaps the Huduma Namba registration would have taken a different course. Had these laws been in place, perhaps the controversial Crops Regulations 2018 that came to light earlier this year would not have had a chance to threaten farmers’ rights.

These Bills not only put a stop to draconian laws like the KICA Bill but also enhance accountability by enforcing transparency in the legislative process.

If assented to, these laws shall be a call to state officers to rise to the occasion, quit advancing personal, political and commercial interests through legislation at the detriment of the citizenry that they serve.

Kibra Has Done Its Part, Remain Faithful

Posted by on 13th November 2019

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From door to door campaigns after his nomination and now with a total of 24,636 votes, Imran Okoth won the Kibra by-elections against Macdonald Mariga who managed to garner a total of 11,230 votes according to the results announced by the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Friday 8th November 2019. The by-election brought a close to campaigns that reached fever pitch in Kibera Constituency and also the race to succeed one of the most dynamic and highly impactful MPs in Kibra, the late Ken Okoth.

Unlike other by-elections, this one was one of its own with high stakes just by the manner it was handled. While each candidate tried to ring-fence their political space, their respective political parties stole the show to the extent that the electorate almost lost sight of the aspirants’ commitment to them. Some parties used the platform as training ground for 2022 election politics and others to drum up support for the highly anticipated BBI report. The media, in their agenda-setting role, played right into the political godfathers’ hands as opposed to properly dissecting the manifestos being floated.

It is undeniable that other factors remaining constant, much of the electoral success is owed to the political parties and not just to the candidates. The political machinery that was deployed in the campaigns resultantly puts MP-elect Imran Okoth on the spot even as political parties retreat to the backstage. The ground is now fertile for implementation of the poems and manifestos shared during the campaign period; it is now time for Imran to put his hands on the plough.

Imran now has about 2 years before the next elections to walk the talk and effectively deliver on his representation, implementation and legislative mandate. As he assumes office as a member of the National Assembly, it will be high time he realizes that he has the right tools to effect change and advance the vision that the late Ken had laid out for Kibra.

A heavy task lies ahead and Imran should prioritize unifying the constituents. Thanks to the shot in the arm from his main opponent, Mariga, less effort is needed to achieve this. Once peace is restored, the road map towards development will be clear.

It is clear that Kibra has been running on the right path to development and equality under the leadership of Ken. This by-election was an opportune moment for the electorate to pick a representative who can also champion for sustainable policies that will promote self-sufficiency of a people once considered ‘children of a lesser god’.

If well utilized, the political climate in place presents a great opportunity for Imran to ensure that he sustains the life of projects such as the Education First policy and the youth-led sewerage cleanup projects initiated by Ken Okoth, that were centred around the citizen.

But even as Kibra recollects, we need to reflect on the ongoing national politics. As a country, we should rethink our approach and conduct especially in violence-prone areas. The instances of incitement and voter bribery are now becoming publicly acceptable issues coupled with violence masked as protection of votes. We should not allow ourselves to forget that these acts by leaders, that consequently compromise voter-integrity, have cost us lives and resulted in great damage to property in the recent past.

Is Parliament Abdicating its Oversight Role?

Posted by on 10th November 2019

Categories: Uncategorized

“Economy: Going gets tougher for Kenyans,” read the front page of the Tuesday 29th October 2019 Daily Nation copy. A headline that has contradicted several statements by the government that were meant to assure Kenyans of “economic growth” despite massive lay-offs and steeper tax burdens by the day. With the 2019 census figures that put Kenya’s population at 47.6 million, each Kenyan owes Sh 130, 349 against the Sh 6.5 billion public debt. The raising of the debt ceiling to Sh 9 trillion could bring the indebtedness of every Kenyan to Sh 189, 218 if the National Treasury borrows an additional Sh 2.5 trillion.

These worrisome details have rendered Kenyans helpless as Parliament continuously okays Treasury’s massive borrowing despite public outcry and expert warnings. Couple that with admissions of Parliament’s failure from the likes of Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Suba South MP John Mbadi, it is evident that the country is headed down a slippery slope.

Parliament is now on the spot for under-delivering on its oversight and representative mandate, constantly passing legislation that does not mirror public interest. Efforts by a few Senators who sought Treasury’s rationale behind the Public Finance Management regulations did not yield much as the majority of the House at the end voted in favour of raising the debt ceiling. Going by the sentiments shared by most proponents of the raised ceiling, the government intends to borrow loans with lower interest rates in order to retire the expensive ones that are worsening the ballooning public debt.

Therein lies the problem with our Parliament. The House has adopted a reactive rather than proactive approach to pertinent issues. While indeed it is true that the public debt is going higher at worrying rates, it is the same Parliament that has had a hand in the current situation the country has found itself in. Instead of imposing conditions on the Executive and its spending excitement, Parliament has many times passed legislation that has been questioned by experts. As it stands, the Executive has managed to overreach its mandate, invade the Parliament and take advantage of favourable numbers to pass legislation that hasn’t been in the interest of Wanjiku.

Even Chief Justice David Maraga’s outrage points to an Executive that is taking advantage of its powers to weaken other arms of the government. Whether the challenges facing the judiciary are on the basis of settling scores or not, Parliament should be impartial and seriously consider the issues raised by the Chief Justice. It would be a huge shame to see a Parliament that frequently debates on fighting corruption not defend the very institution that is supposed to bring criminals to book.

Through their oversight, legislative and representation, Parliament has all the power to deliver change to Kenyans. Passing of unfavorable legislation shouldn’t be normalized since the effects of doing so have long term dire consequences. MPs should comply with the Constitution, put personal and political interests aside and instead champion for their constituents’ interests. MPs have the duty to listen and consult with experts to advice the decisions they make on the floor of the House.

In the wake of all this debt ceiling conversation in between the BBI report anticipated release, MPs should self-evaluate and remember why they were elected or nominated in office. As it is right now, Wanjiku is getting a raw deal from this relationship with her representatives.

 

Let’s interrogate our past as we fashion the future

Posted by on 29th October 2019

Categories: Uncategorized

As the Building Bridges Initiative Report release fever rises, its contents remain subject of great public speculation. Kenyans’ cannot be faulted for this anticipation.  The 9th March 2018 Handshake, which was the precursor to the formation of the BBI Task Force came on the backdrop of high political temperatures and fears of eruption of violence to the scale only seen after the 2007/8 Post Election Violence. This was to the detriment of the country’s economic performance and press freedom, following the media shutdown of 30th January 2018.  The 9-Points Agenda identified by the Principals, coined in the joint communique issued after their March 9, 2018 were therefore seen as the panacea for recurrent election antagonism in every election cycle.

By launching a programme that will address shared values, the two parties believed that the country will steer in the right direction and away from ethnic animosity that has existed because of political tension and insecurity. Since the March 9, 2018 pact, the country has been at a trajectory point of healing and resemblance of tranquility. While this has been commendable, it is important that as a country, we do not lose sight of the factors that got us into the pre-handshake state in the first place.  Electoral malfunctions, distrust of the electoral management processes and ethnic divisions as well as perceived non equitable and equal sharing of natural resources were some of the driving forces to these challenges.

Violence in Kenya has unfolded from general elections such as the one in 2017 in different forms, these include the use of excessive force against protestors and even innocent individuals by police, ethnic-based killings and counterattacks by supporters to both the ruling and opposition parties. This in most instances has been fueled by a great sense of political manipulation of ethnic tensions, impunity with longstanding grievances over land, corruption, and lastly political, social and economic inequality.

The handshake that caught many by surprise brought a halt to the post-electoral drama with a final rapprochement between the two parties. This dramatically changed the simmering political under-currents nationwide between the opposition and the governing party. To date it is viewed by citizens as one of the most constructive idea for the common good, that was watered away by political tensions putting the country at the verge of collapse each electoral period. From our past experience on political standoffs, politics informs every aspect of governance, it is then undebatable, to cure our ill politics. The nine-point agenda therefore remains the best antidote.

The report by itself therefore provides an opportunity for the country to put an end to the prevailing case of political injustice, discrimination in service provision and also offer solutions for restorative justice to victims of historical electoral violence and not just act as another cosmetic post-election reform as witnessed in the past. The report apart from addressing the nine items in the agenda should be anchored on both public and national interests that the Task Force has collected from different parts of the country and from actors in different sectors should form the basis for inclusive recommendations that will address the challenges highlighted in the 9-point Agenda.

Needless to say,  as a country we have been struggling with finding a way to ensure that institutions tasked with service delivery and accountability especially for the violence in elections are working. The vision that was anchored on the BBI report during its drafting has the potential to finally attain the elusive inclusion for Kenya. Unlike reforms that led to the establishment of commissions such as the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and an Independent Review Committee on the elections that weren’t implemented; the issues addressed by the 9-point agenda such as inclusive and shared prosperity are a great opportunity for leaders to strategize and establish institutions and frameworks that can make national unity and stability a reality.

The continued growth of divide, competitive ethnic-based politics and irresponsible politics that has every so often led to the viscous ‘ballot to bullet’ cycle should therefore be unheard of if the countrywide tour by the BBI task-force results in a diverse set of views from Kenyans that highlight the real day-to-day challenges they face.

The hope is that the release of the report will not be subjected to politics but that citizen anticipation for long lasting solutions to electoral tensions will be handled once and for all.

 

 

Leaders Should Learn a Thing or Two from Our Heroes.

Posted by on 22nd October 2019

Categories: Uncategorized

The fanfare during the Mashujaa Celebrations at the Mama Ngina Water Front in Mombasa was a good attempt at making up for the silent return of sporting heroes; Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei. Their individual record-breaking moments in Vienna and Chicago respectively gave Kenya a moment to be proud of, one that will linger for a while.

The highlight of these annual celebrations must have been the moment that President Uhuru Kenyatta presented Eliud with the Elder of the Golden Heart (EGH) medal. There was a countrywide consensus that Eliud was deserving of the award as he has continuously displayed true heroism and patriotism through his many achievements. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, he has singlehandedly reignited a sense of hope and optimism among the youth especially, to pursue their dreams without tiring.

The award was also a departure from the last two years’ which were characterized by public complaints and controversy, brought about by the credibility of those to whom the honours were conferred.  Instead, thought and process seems to have been given to this year’s awards, with deliberate efforts to only recognize those deemed deserved of the awards.  This was in line with the guidelines in the National Honours Act 2013. Section 4 of the Act defines the “persons on whom national honours to be conferred”.

A person shall merit the conferment of a national honour if the person is – (a) a person who exhibited or exhibits exemplary qualities, actions or achievements of heroism, sacrifice, bravery, patriotism or leadership for the defence, benefit or betterment of the country or a county; (b) a person who has made an exemplary contribution to the country or a county in the economic, social, scientific, academic, public administration, governance, sports, journalism, business, security or other fields;” it says.  This should perhaps be a lesson for both the national and county governments as they seek to recognize those who have made sacrifices for and contributed to the nation.

It is without a doubt that Eliud embodies these qualities making him the perfect recipient of the award, adding it to his decorated wall of achievements. A sentiment that was widely shared in the Senate during a motion on his commendation a week ago.

Among the issues that consistently arose during the debate was the manner in which leadership acknowledges and commends exemplary feats by local talents. Senators recognized that because of the unfriendly environment within which sportsmen operate in, it’s become difficult for their achievements to avoid being trivialized or tribalized when they happen. For years, government support has been conspicuously absent at the beginning of an athlete’s career only for the same government to quickly take credit when they attain the ‘elite’ status.

“One of the best ways of ensuring that young persons in this country continue walking in the right path is to appreciate success,” said Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko. An area that the government can and should improve on through consistent investment.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the years to come. Eliud has set a great precedent for future heroes to be accorded the recognition they so deserve. Those who happen to share a lot in common with past heroes that charted the way forward for our nation. Those who selflessly endeavour to improve the spaces within which they operate in, either through charity or policy provided better frameworks.

These heroes continue to inspire masses through selfless acts of leadership that are guided by integrity and love for the country.

The hope is that our leaders can borrow from Eliud and other heroes. That through his journey they can learn to live by the values of self-discipline, integrity, patriotism and hard work in their respective positions. That they should know that in the spirit of #NoHumanIsLimited, no dream is too big for Kenya either.