Can the Youth Drive Systemic Change Through This Election?

Posted by on 21st April 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

With the party primaries underway, the political tone in the country is just about to hit climax.  Party owners have promised free and fair nominations but we all know potential leaders are likely to lose to party favorites. The simple reason is our political parties are not institutionalized and party founders determine who gets nominated. It’s really business as usual for the political class that are making a killing through this nominations. For the rest of us however, and particularly the youth it can’t be a-business-as-usual nomination or elections for that matter.

Youth should realize there are bigger problems than missing out on the politicians tender to produce t-shirts and run campaign materials. Latest Kenya National Bureau Statistics (KNBS) paints a sad picture of Kenya’s realities. The persistent drought impacted negatively on agriculture so much that ASAL regions have had to rely on food aid. Never mind there are leaders in these regions who are seeking votes again, despite being unable to deal with a cyclic event. They have enough funds to hire youth to set up websites and run social media campaigns but were unable to employ this creativity in making their constituents food secure.

Unemployment is a challenge for every government in the world and sadly it’s usually the youth who are most affected. Kenya’s unemployment rate is reported to be the highest in East Africa. While for every 20 Tanzanians or Ugandans there’s 1 unemployed youth; in Kenya, one in every five youths of working age have no jobs. If you imagine the vices associated with lack of jobs then you will grasp the severity of the matter.

Kenya with its vibrant youth population is missing out on the demographic dividend. The result is an angry emotionally unstable youth who is only too willing to do anything including serve as conduits for violent politicians. The ongoing primaries have been marred by political violence and in all cases it’s staggering the number of youth involved directly or indirectly. The 2007/08 post-election violence reached such scales because of an energetic disillusioned and misguided youth.

Also considering how charged this year’s politics appears to be, there’s a need for this demographic to be sober more than any other time. While launching the Kenya Youth Manifesto, Nerima Wako, the co-founder of Siasa Place reminded the youth present at the launch that there was a need to change the narrative that the youth were only a chaos-churning, careless group and any other tag that makes the youth untrustworthy with political power. The launching of the youth manifesto was a statement that the youth wanted a revolution; an intelligent revolution.

Sadly, research by NCIC revealed that youth with college level education were more tribal than the high school drop outs. Is our education and training system preparing our youth to contribute to our nationhood and democracy? No wonder, youth have their priorities mixed up and consequently challenges like unemployment remain unattended.

Despite the launch of a manifesto by a coalition of youth groups in mid-April, youth are generally disengaged from political parties and can’t influence decisions at that level. A report by the Center for Multi-Party Democracy (CMD-Kenya) published in 2015 revealed how disengaged youth are from political parties. The report shows that despite the youth being the majority in the country “their representation in formal institutions of the state and government is minimal. Their participation in political parties is also minimal.” Youth need to be empowered to “play a greater role than just being used as voting machines”.

In 2011 in a parliamentary debate about political parties, Devolution CS, Mwangi Kiunjuri said “most political parties have many supporters but few members.” Youth argue online by their hundreds but are nowhere when parties are discussing key issues about the country that inform parliamentary work and indirectly their lives.

It was therefore exciting to see the youth in Busia make their case to the media having found their names missing in the list of those voting in the ODM nominations. That’s the kind of involvement that will guarantee the right candidate is nominated. However, the youth in these regional zones should be careful not to nominate politicians based on tribe but rather their policies or plan towards the youth.

The Youth manifesto is a good starting point as it consolidates their opinions and youth leaders can use it engage politicians using factual information. And while we’re talking about intelligent revolution there’s a need to also understand that leadership that gives attention to the youth does not necessarily mean a youthful candidate. Youth must therefore identify individuals with an actual plan to solve their problems and rally around such a candidate, otherwise youth marginalization is a song we shall continue singing for a very long time. What do you think?

 

Kenyans Red Card Aspirants Who Fall Short of Chapter Six of the Constitution

Posted by on 15th April 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

It appears, from the look of things, Kenyans seem to have accepted that politics is only for the dishonest that’s why our debates during electioneering years are simplified to focus on the better thief. The standards Kenyans use to rank our political leaders are so criminally low that it appears ethics don’t inform our choice of leaders. We accuse our political class of being more focused on numbers than ideology, but we are no better. Kenyan voters often dismiss political aspirants of high integrity and competence because they don’t have the numbers. Ironically, we are the ones who determine who gets the numbers anyway.

Article 1 of the Constitution gives power to Kenyans and every public office holder working under it wields delegated authority from the people. It is with this view in mind that four Kenyan Civil Society Organisations – Society for International Development, Transparency International Kenya (TI-Kenya), Inuka Trust and Mzalendo Trust – have launched the “Red Card” Campaign. Like in football, the four organisations are calling Kenyans to kick out of the political game politicians who don’t meet standards set in Chapter 6 of the Constitution; be they political parties, aspirants, public institutions involved in the process and places of worship that allow politicians to campaign on their premises.

The Chapter on integrity is important because it outlines the responsibilities of public officers and the conduct expected of them. Sadly though, the set ethical standards are ignored across the board. Majority of our leaders show utter disrespect for the people when they seek elective office yet are dishonest in the execution of their duties, in-disciplined and non-committal in service to the people. A good number of our politicians and senior public officers remain unaccountable to the public and have the temerity to come back and seek for votes when they can’t explain how they lost our money.

If Kenyans take the time to check track records of all aspirants based on reports by the Ethical Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Parliament’s Hansard and Committee reports, Auditor General, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya National Examination Council and the Courts among others – they are likely to find enough reasons to red card unsuitable candidates’ right from the primaries. Public Institutions execute their mandate on behalf of Kenyans using the taxes collected so use the information.

In addition, all political parties and aspirants are expected to observe the electoral code of code conduct as set out in the Election laws 2011 and Electoral Offences Act 2016. For example – politicians are prohibited from campaigning in places of worship and burials. To raise the observance of this law, religious leaders and the congregations should act as gatekeepers. In commitment to bring honor and dignity to the offices they hold, political aspirants must be mindful of their behavior not only in religious spaces but also during their public rallies. Religious leaders therefore must Red Card politicians campaigning in church by shutting them down. By accepting donations from corrupt public officials, the church’s credibility as an institution that should champion for integrity has hurt.

Furthermore, public commitment to chapter 6 ethical standards would check the utter disregard of the same by our public servants. Despite President Uhuru in his 2015 State of the Nation Address directing the Inspector General to enforce the chapter 6 requirements without fear or favor hardly anyone has been brought to book. Only some senior civil servants resigned. In fact, double speak is evident as politicians continue to serve despite the allegations of corruption and the former senior civil servants are on the campaign trail seeking public office. Consequently, the public must see themselves as the defenders of the Constitution and the public purse against aspirants with dubious pasts. Voters can exercise their Red Card through their party primaries or on voting day.

The Constitution spells it out clearly that state officers should promote public confidence in the integrity of their offices. Yet, even the aspirants across different parties now seem to question the integrity of their National Elections Boards (NEB) after claims of richer candidates getting favoritism that has seen many politicians defect ahead of the primaries. These NEB actions are in direct violation of the guiding principles of leadership and integrity which includes objectivity and impartiality in decision making; ensuring decision are not influenced by nepotism, favoritism or other improper motives. It’s indeed for such reasons that the public must be heavily involved in these primaries to safe guard the integrity process. This is another opportunity to red-card various political party branches all over the country.

Indeed, the quality of the political leaders is a direct reflection of the electorate. We can’t complain about corrupt leaders when we accept money from leaders without questioning the source or how they plan to recoup it. Voters must give candidates whose integrity is in doubt a Red Card and remind them who is boss right from these primaries to the August polls.

 

Meaningful Public Participation is Key to Effective Legislation

Posted by on 8th April 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The constitution of Kenya 2010 in Article 1 gives the Institution of Parliament the powers to exercise the sovereignty of the people as the people’s representatives. As the guardian of the people’s interests, the legislators are also expected to involve the people in their deliberations in line with Article 118 be it in legislation or other processes.

With only four months to the August polls the political campaigns are nearly reaching climax. Our lawmakers are spending more time on the road looking for votes than in Parliament. The Budget was read about ten days ago to an audience of about 100 legislators out of the total of 416. We hope the legislators will take time off their schedule to scrutinize the proposed allocations. If only they consistently took time to constantly engage their constituents on matters before them including legislation, but truth is they don’t.

Since independence, it has not been easy for the ordinary mwananchi to inform any Bills before Parliament for that matter. Parliament remains an exclusive institution where citizens have few opportunities to air their views despite the constitutional expectation that the house would create structures for participation. Apart from the Live Parliament proceedings, Kenyans rarely interact with an institution that is supposed to represent them.

First, the lack of participation in law-making is partly because the information is not readily accessible to majority Kenyans, since Parliament uses very limited channels of communications. Secondly, the window given to citizens to submit their views is very short – on average the notice to submit their views via memoranda gives them a period of six days to respond, if any.  This limits the number of people who participate and in a sense makes participation in the legislative process exclusive to a few people and organisations.

Thankfully this April, Mzalendo has launched Dokeza – Bill Annotation platform to help mitigate some of these challenges – if not all. Mzalendo hopes the Dokeza – Swahili for ‘share an idea’ – platform will enable Kenyans online to access bills that are under public participation and give their views on bills. Through the platform, Mzalendo hopes to assist Parliament to diversify participation in law making to include as more voices and views.

The process of engagement on any bill will entail four steps facilitated by Mzalendo:

  1. i) Digitization of bills making them accessible to anyone online. This will be provided alongside the a copy of the gazetted edition;
  2. ii) Expert commentary on the bills in layman’s language to make sure all Kenyans visiting the site are able to read and understand without having to deal with the legal jargon.

iii) People registered on the platform will be able to give their views on any part of the bills and share them with others via social media. Their views will also be visible to others commenting interested in a given bill.

iv). Lastly, the Mzalendo team and its partners will collate all views submitted, then prepare a memoranda and share it with Parliament in the required format.

 

All those interested in participating in law-making on the platform will have to register on Dokeza either through their current Facebook, Twitter and Google log-ins. The platform allows for three types of participants – the general public, institutions or MPs. Each registered user will indicate their current location and their county of interest. Dokeza’s rallying message is “Shaping Kenya, one bill at a time.” Through the platform, Mzalendo seeks to demystify law-making and spot-light this particular role of MPs.

Kenyans offline and in rural areas without internet access have not been left out. They can interact with us via the short code 21516 and an sms costs just a bob. Mzalendo will use bulk sms to send out questions regarding open calls for memoranda posted on dokeza. Sentiments received via our short-code will be moderated and posted on the portal too.

Already there are Bills that have kicked up storm like The National Integration and Cohesion (Amendment) Bill 2017 that wants to tighten noose on hate mongers or Senator Mutahi Kagwe’s Bill that wants Nairobi recognized as a National Capital and not a county. Besides there are other laws that reek of mischief like The Nairobi International Financial Centre (NIFC) Bill, introduced by Leader of Majority Aden Duale. In Dokeza we are hoping both the civil society and the public in general can come together on the platform and give their views and help our law makers not only have the public’s view but debate from a point of information. Look out for these Bills once Parliament gives the green light for participation.

In the meantime, we should all remember that paying taxes is not the only engagement we can have with the government. We have a right to be involved in any policy or law the government comes up with because it affects us. Our MPs are at the moment distracted by elections and are not paying keen attention to Bills before the House. It’s therefore up to us to utilize the Dokeza platform to ensure what is debated in the House this last month to the polls has our interest at heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017/18 Budget was pro-Mwananchi, therefore tracking its implementation is essential

Posted by on 31st March 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The KSh. 2.6 trillion budgets read this week was fashioned around the majority poor, women and youth. The President was being smart considering the State of the Nation Address did not have the intended effect, after Kenyans questioned how the economy could be growing amidst hunger and humanitarian aid. This year’s budget seeks to appease the demography that tilts the scales in elections.

The budget that was read 3months early for the sake of the August Polls focused on food security issues allocating Sh.4.1 billion to provide cheap fertilizers to farmers and making sure farmers are insured by allocating another Sh. 700 million for that purpose. Farmers especially in Central Kenya have not been particularly happy with the Jubilee administration who felt they’ve suffered under this administration. The Miraa international ban incensed Meru farmers despite government previously allocating Sh. 1billion to cushion farmers, it appeared counter-productive.

The other challenge that farmers have faced despite the government’s good will is a proper implementation plan and widespread corruption. At the beginning of the Jubilee administration in 2013 the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) was embroiled in a court battle by a company-Erad General Suppliers and Contractors, which lawyer Katwa Kigen then blamed for the woes the NCPB was facing. But problems with this important body have refused to go away. Last year (2016) the government had to suspend 22 managers of NCPB over theft and adulteration of government-subsidized fertilizers. Until NCPB is thoroughly streamlined the government will continue losing money and farmers remain frustrated despite the budgetary allocations.

Kenyans who brave the long lines and scorching sun to vote have barely tasted pizza or lasagna. The closest they’ve come to these middle-class foods is French friez-prepared Jua kali-style also known as chipo mwitu. As such they heavily rely on maize flour, bread and wheat-especially for those making chapattis to sell in the slums. And the government got it right when it decided to exempt ordinary maize, wheat flour and bread from taxes. That’s the only way these group can see their lives change, it doesn’t matter what the country’s GDP reads – Mwananchi cannot eat GDP. If the common man can’t have his ugali or sell his chapati then the rest doesn’t matter-everything is deemed bad.

Also increasing the sin tax on expensive spirits up from Sh.150 to Sh.200 per liter is smart. These mostly affect the group that finds queuing to vote bothersome. It has less risks in terms of delivering votes for the incumbent.

The government is also likely to get the attention of majority youth who work informal jobs with low incomes after exempting those earning below Sh. 13500 monthly from the paying taxes. Indeed the poor breathe a sigh of relief after the budget announced parents will not have to pay the exam fees for Standard Eight and Form Four candidates. However, there’s need to follow up on the quality of education. Despite allocating Sh. 4 billion for free primary education and another Sh. 33 billion for free secondary education the quality standards have been falling particularly in schools where student teacher ratio is skewed such that a teacher handles more than thrice the recommended number of children.

This eventually affects the quality of pupils graduating to secondary and eventually the quality of students leaving secondary. If free education means poor education then there’s a need to re-look the strategy again for the sake of building a nation that can have a reliable youth for the future not just mere allocation of funds. We must desist from allocating money just for populist reasons and ask whether it makes sense or there’s any return on investment. Having said that allocating Sh. 2.5 billion for the school feeding programme is a good move especially ASAL areas where children are either motivated to go to school in the hope they will eat or avoid school to find food.

However, there’s need for a clear break down of the budget so that Kenyans can follow the money trail and understand exactly how their money is being spent. Again, mere mentioning of amounts allocated without a follow-up of a clear break down amounts to hot air.

Overall this appears to be a good budget; but it also appears to be an election budget. Which makes it even better if Kenyans-majority whom are poor can reap the benefits. The challenge however remains with the realization of the budget promises and the bureaucracy that only makes it possible for a few cartels to make a kill while the intended beneficiaries are left frustrated.

 

The Upcoming Primaries are a Testament We Suffer Integrity Deficit

Posted by on 24th March 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Every election year Kenyans are treated to a circus in the name of party primaries where party owners prop up their favorites for nomination and pretend they were democratically elected. This year will be no different and the signs are already there. Members of the party will cry foul play only to rescind and support a process that clearly lacks integrity. The bold ones move to smaller insignificant parties in the hope that the electorate will keep their eyes on the bull’s eye.

When Jubilee launched the technology based voting system at the primaries there was brief sigh of relief. The smart card was indeed as some pundits have argued, a game-changer. It is supposed to kill double voting or ghost voting. The smart card is indeed the future of restoring integrity in primaries as it streamlines the process and allows members to vote only their choice candidate. But as the Anti-Corruption whistleblower John Githongo once said, “You can’t digitize values.” Some things are beyond technology. It’s a culture problem.

Jubilee Party now appears unsure whether to proceed in this direction. The head of the Secretariat Raphael Tuju announced their National Elections Board will make a decision on the way forward. Why the caution when this was the sure way to achieve free and fair elections? Your guess is as good as mine. Corrupt aspirants and members are pressuring the party to abandon the digital smart cards to allow them have their field day as usual. But the party has already spent a lot in the digital cards and is likely to employ the technology in some areas while voting the old way in more controversial zones. This simply means our problem is the culture of impunity and corruption at this level can’t be defeated by technology alone.

This week, the High Court issued a directive allowing politicians to operate within the old law that allows them to defect 45 days before an election as opposed to the current law that changed the time frame to 120 days before elections. While this is indeed bad news for IEBC that needs to publish list of all party members it speaks volumes about the level of trust our politicians have in their own parties. The matter was brought to court by governors who felt the law limited the period for party-hopping.

While IEBC has every reason to make the court change its ruling we must be alive to the challenges that politicians are facing under cartels and greedy politicians who care little about the will of the people except minting money. And sadly this issue cuts across the political divide. NASA for instance hasn’t even decided on the flag bearer but the cracks are there. The four main parties forming NASA can’t agree on how to field candidates for primaries. Majority of the parties want to go it alone for fear of losing to favorites of the party owners.

The way we structure our political primaries only those close to the party powers have a chance. No wonder women get the shorter hand of the stick during party primaries. The patriarchy system in our party politics is so grounded that chaos rocked a women’s only gathering at Bomas a few days ago that was meant to build support among women. Gender PS rocked the boat after bidding support for the incumbent infuriating other women present who saw her as a betrayer. The phrase women are their own enemies couldn’t have been more right.

It’s pointless for politicians and religious leaders to ask IEBC if it is ready to conduct a free and fair election when rigging takes place at the primaries. Bigger parties Jubilee and NASA have strong presence in Rift Valley, Central and Western, Coast and Eastern respectively. If primaries are shambolic then to wait for free and fair elections in August is to insult our intelligence.

If Party leaders in Kenya are serious about free and fair primaries like they’ve been saying they should first work to institutionalize parties. Make them impossible to dismantle. We can’t have new parties every election year formed only with the intention of giving an individual power and dismantling it when it no longer serves such purposes. Institutionalization of political parties will also see women with substance taking center stage in politics not out of favor with party owners but because they believe in the system and it works.

Nonetheless, the main people who can aid in this process and ensure at the very least that the country gets leaders worth its salt are the electorate. But this can be achieved when we take seriously chapter 6 of our constitution on integrity. We must stop getting excited when people throw us money and demand to know where it is coming from or how they intend to recuperate it. Otherwise we shall continue having leaders without integrity who are only too happy to make money through corrupt deals. Your thoughts?

 

State of the Nation Address Tells Voters to Scrutinize Manifestos

Posted by on 18th March 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

This year’s State of the Nation address, was the last as President Kenyatta first term winds up. The President was very calculative highlighting Jubilee’s successes and remaining vague on the failures. But a good score card should also bring out the failures and point out the way forward.

The Jubilee administration began on high tempo having made promises that resonated well with majority youthful Kenyans. Indeed the government has attempted to keep these promises but at a great corruption cost. Every mega Jubilee project benefited a cabal of Kenyansthrough kick-backs thereby inflating project’s original cost. Take The Standard Gauge Railway that was one of the key promises. The President evaded the politics surrounding the cost-benefit of the project especially after key landlocked countries appear to abandon it for Tanzania’s choice route to the Indian Ocean. And the fact that Tanzania’s SGR is four times longer than Kenya’s and still cost-effective.

President Kenyatta avoided mentioning the doctor’s strike that paralyzed the public for over 100 days and the Afya House scandal that was unearthed last November. Instead the President belabored the benefits of equipment in hospitals and the advantage NHIF has brought to the people. At the very least the President could’ve told us how he intended to make sure a doctor’s strike never happens again.

Moreover, the State of the Nation address evaded talking about the insecurity in the country and particularly North Rift where bandits are killing people and rendering them poor in the name of cattle rustling. Instead the President lashed out at unnamed politicians from these regions who are inciting the public. There was no mention of the exact plan or way forward; only that the government will use all means at its disposal to bring to justice the perpetrators.

President Uhuru proudly announced that under his administration the ratio of police to the population is 1 officer for 380 Kenyans which is indeed better considering the UN ratio is 1 officer for 450 citizens. The challenge with this however is the lack of impact. It’s actually funny that crime rate doesn’t reflect the ratio that admittedly supersedes UN’s standards. Cattle rustling remains a menace which means the government should re-think its training. Is six months enough to trust someone with a gun?

An opinion poll by Ipsos in June last year revealed the crime rate in Nairobi was almost twice the National average. The same poll revealed that majority crime victims do not report the crime and 40% arguing the police are inefficient in resolving crime. This can be confirmed by the grand corruption that has seen nobody significant charged in court.The Police ratio means nothing if the police have little value for human life and driven by corruption.

It has not escaped Kenyans, the corruption that has accompanied the realization of Jubilee’s mega projects. Perhaps learning from these, Kenyans should demand that this government and any other that promises mega projects must also show the most cost-effective way of achieving that project as well as the cost-benefits and stick with it failure to which there should be repercussions.

Nonetheless, we must give the devil his dues. Being the first government under devolution, Jubilee administration has performed impressively in ensuring devolution succeeds. Most of the teething problems and existing challenges are not so much the Executive’s making but the legislators as we opined in our last blog. This goes to confirm that all a government needs is political will to act and that’s what is missing in other key sectors.

Indeed the President has also supported the implementation of the new Constitution although the 11th Parliament failed terribly in its independence from the executive often acting as a rubber stamp rather than an oversight arm of the government. The attempt to change, or revise  laws to suit party interests as was the case with the legislation on election laws where CORD and Jubilee battled it out along party lines rather than in the interest of the public is a point in case.

If the 2017 State of the Nation highlighted anything, it is that the electorate needs to be keener when leaders are making promises this year. The public must also be more thorough in verifying the information and the ability to implement projects politicians promise. Regardless of the party, evaluate if their promises make sense. Is it deliverable and a priority to you?

 

 

Devolution’s Promise Checked by Unresponsive Leaders

Posted by on 10th March 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

It appears 2017 will be the year of alternative facts in Kenya. For instance, President Uhuru Kenyatta this week said that our doctors are better paid than their private counter-parts but official documents show that as late as October last year, a medical officer (intern) was getting a salary of Sh. 35,910. Indeed this is not the starting salary for those joining the private sector currently. The President was addressing Kenyans during the fourth Devolution Conference in Naivasha. Before we drown each other on social media with arguments on the doctors greed, let us do some due diligence. It’s an election year, there will be a lot of alternative facts.

The Baringo bloodshed is another issue that’s making politicians continue giving their versions of fabricated truth. While the Deputy President’s shoot to kill order is a little aggressive and might be counter-productive, the way the politicians in the region have come out to oppose the directive without sound alternative solutions leaves a lot to be desired. Also, that this is coming to the fore right when we’re headed for elections makes one wonder whether it is purely political. Regardless of where we stand politically, we should never condone thievery, destruction of property and killing of persons in the name of anything – culture or politics.

This year’s devolution conference focused on the transformation devolution has brought to the country. Indeed to the credit of the National and Devolved governments, the local mwananchi has seen some of the fruits of this new system of governance. Some Kenyans in marginalized areas saw a tarmac road for the first time since independence courtesy of devolution. Counties in Western Kenya have seen their residents enjoy a continuous flow of water even during the prolonged drought courtesy of devolution.

Indeed political tensions have toned down and Kenyans are more tolerant of leaders from other regions as they realize redistribution of resources unlike the previous governance system. Devolution ensures proper allocation and distribution of resources regardless of whoever becomes President, so the suspicion previously linked with the office has decreased.

Nonetheless, the journey hasn’t been a walk in the park because of the obvious lack of management skills among some governors as evidenced by heavy spending on otherwise unnecessary projects. Also Senators and Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) have proved a hindrance to devolution. Senators are supposed to defend resource allocation to the counties and provide oversight with regard to matters raised in the Auditor General’s report.  On the other hand MCAs are expected to legislate to address county priorities, opportunities and challenges as well as oversight the county budget.

The rivalry between Senators and Governors has only created bad blood, stalled development and proper implementation of devolution. Nobody doubts corruption has been rampant at the county level but the much Senators could do was complain on the floor of the House. Other than a few laws to help with streamlining counties, there’s been little or no oversight by the Senators other than entertaining impeachment motions by overzealous MCAs.

Rather than the Senators working closely with the governors, attending their conferences to get a feel of what exactly governors are up to and therefore challenge them from a point of information. Senators took to avoiding Devolution conferences as a way of showing their disapproval of the ongoing corruption. Only three senators attended last year’s devolution conference in Meru. In addition, most Senators have promised to unseat the current governors.

But that’s the thing with our politics, our politicians make emotional decisions, repeat same tactics that bear little or no fruit and get personal with each other at the expense of the nation. Senators now want to be governors, rather than finding ways to seal the loopholes through the law. How naïve, yet we know part of the problem has been MCAs who are only too excited to gobble up tax payers money rather than legislate useful county laws.

And while we’re on MCAs, a number of them missed the conference because they failed to adjust their calendars to rhyme with the devolution conference. It’s pointless to underscore here that the MCAs are one of the biggest stakeholders in devolution and yet failed to pass an adjournment motion allowing them to attend the fourth devolution conference. After four solid years it appears the MCAs still need training on how to conduct House business that coincides with important issues. Their unnecessary standoffs with governors over county budgets have led to stalled projects costing the county more in form of legal fees from unsatisfied contractors. Their lavish and otherwise useless benchmarking trips have led to wastage of county resources.

As we prepare to exercise our political democratic right on 8th August let us think about devolution and consider leaders who believe in it especially at the MCA level. Let’s be keen on their promises and see if they really understand what devolution is about. The same rod should apply to those who want to be Governors and Senators too. Let’s protect devolution at the ballot.

 

Research shows Youth Political Apathy is linked to Leaders’ Aloofness

Posted by on 3rd March 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Mzalendo’s recent research on the civic attitudes and political opinions of Kenyans on Facebook revealed some very interesting facts. While assessing voter apathy was one of the research objectives, we got a glimpse into one of the possible reasons at least among the youth. Over 8300 people responded to the research and 70% of them said MPs are only interested in votes and not in their opinions. Could this mean the youth think it unwise to vote if their opinion is not considered? About 6 million Kenyans are on Facebook, most of them youth as our research confirmed.

Only a mere 3.4 % of the respondents were of the strong opinion that MPs cared about what they think. On the other hand, 65 % of the respondents said MPs do not care about them and 17.2 % remained non-committal. These findings may also explain the recent opinion polls that showed majority voters were planning to send home over half of the current MPs come August. When asked about MPs responsiveness to the public’s needs again the respondents re-emphasized that their leaders didn’t care.

Parliament business in the current session has been heavily affected as MPs miss House sittings to attend to their re-election campaign. Parliamentarians’ behavior supports the public’s claim of MPs aloofness as the latter are inaccessible until the campaign cycle when they’re trying to get re-elected. And still going by our findings the re-connection is not in the interest of the electorate but the candidate who is keener on being re-elected rather than understanding the public needs.

Our findings also revealed that 64.4% of the respondents were likely not to vote in the coming August 8th elections compared to only 10.9% who were very likely to vote. The youth are less interested in the voting exercise as they feel the aspirants have little interest in what they have to say.

Interestingly though, was the fact that despite the behavior of our elected leaders, majority youth (55 per cent) say they believe they can affect legislation, although not so much women. The confidence that they can affect legislation is only curtailed by the inaccessibility of the avenues in which they can have their input considered. In order to put this hope alive, Parliament may consider innovative approaches to find ways to include the youth online in the legislative process.

Our findings reveal a very politically informed youth with 86 per cent of the respondents knowing when the elections will be held, their constituencies and their MPs also. Additionally, 70% of the respondents are well informed about Parliament. Moreover, 47.2 % said that they had a good understanding of the political system.

Further, the research results revealed that 55% participants were confident of their capacity to influence legislation. This shows that the youth are craving for forums to give their valuable opinions on matters discussed in Parliament and the governance structure as a whole.

However we realized majority youth are not familiar with the oversight roles of Executive (President), the Legislature, and Governors. This may part be due to scarcity of easy to understand information on this front. This vindicates the accusation that Kenyan citizens are subjected to minimum, if any, civic education hence lack of participation in budgeting and vetting processes. Aspirants to elective offices and incumbents need to take note of these findings as they undertake their election campaigns and plan how to deliver on their future mandate.

The research shows exposing more youth to mzalendo.com and other forums with important political information about the country, helps increase their knowledge and improves the quality of their engagement with government and elected leaders. The findings point to a more detached and less informed women, so there’s a need to investigate further why women are disinterested in politics and how to engage them better.

All in all it is clear the youth are quite informed and are interested in playing a key role but are growing suspicious of politicians and therefore appear to distrust the system. The research findings are available here and here.  However, considering that 77 % of the respondents (mostly youth) had already registered to vote by mid-November, we highly encourage them to exercise their democratic right to vote. Actually, this would be a good opportunity to add their voice and send home those leaders they no longer feel care about their opinion and try new leaders.

 

 

Harambee Spirit Not An Excuse to Abdicate Roles

Posted by on 24th February 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Kenya is possibly one of the few if not the only country that has attained middle income status but still heavily relies on donations to run its affairs. The drought that’s ravaging the country has now been given up to the donor family to handle with Kenya Red Cross at the fore front. This is despite the fact that it’s a cyclic event and should therefore be manageable. One wonders whether we shall fundraise to end the Baringo bloodshed that is now appearing to be organized crime.

The 11th Parliament has under the guidance of nominated MP Johnson Sakaja rightfully drafted the Penal Code Bill as an attempt to check the Cattle Rustling menace that has mutated from a cultural activity to alleged militia at the disposal of certain politicians. This group has graduated from theft with violence to blatant killing of Kenyans, particularly in the ASAL regions yet there’s little or no swift justice.

On the day IEBC launched their Mass Voter Registration, President Uhuru was on the same day also commissioning modern gear for police use in terror war. It beats the point to display such heavy artillery yet Kenyans are dying from the hands of bandits with way inferior weapons. The MPs from the regions most affected are now asking that we declare cattle rustling a national disaster. This in essence is an admission that as a country we are unable to handle this challenge and are therefore asking for intervention from well-wishers and the donor family.

It’s really surprising how this Armored Police Vehicles (APC) are easily available and effective in dispersing street protests yet the same effectiveness cannot be seen when Kenyans are attacked by bandits hiding behind cultural activities. The Ministry of Interior under the leadership of CS Nkaissery should deploy the APCs where they are most needed and nip this act in the bud. And if politicians are involved they should be arraigned in court and charged accordingly. We can’t declare everything a national disaster, even things within our ability to handle.

And while we’re on cattle rustling; Members of Parliament who defended this act should be the main suspects. It’s unimaginable that a representative of the people has no qualms with someone who steals people’s property, mimes and rapes women rendering them poor. Anyone who defends such criminal activities as culture needs to be a guest of the state.

Meanwhile, majority of poor Kenyans have resorted to fundraising to afford treatment in private hospitals outside the country as a result of the biting doctor’s strike that has stalled services in public hospitals. From the Parliament hearing where the doctors representatives and Health ministry officials argued their case on the validity of the CBA, it now appears the ministry was malicious from the very beginning. Former Health PS Mark Bor stunned the hearing saying the document is illegitimate as draft to inform deliberations between the Council of Governors, the Public Service Commission and the Salaries and Renumeration Commission (SRC). If this is not wickedness on another level, then we don’t know what is.

A middle income country should have a reliable public health care. The notion that individuals within government are attempting to fail the public health to drive profits to private hospitals is another form of betrayal. Health Ministry and Treasury officials of the school of thought that implementing CBA will collapse the private hospitals should do the honorable thing and resign. Until we have people who have the public’s interest in office we shall continue fundraising for everything that we should easily get from our public institutions.

Our leaders have abused the Spirit of Harambee as envisioned in our Constitution by abdicating their duties to fundraising despite our taxes. We can’t be fundraising every time there’s drought and there are people we are paying to mitigate the same. We can’t keep fundraising for friends to access health services yet we have both appointed and elected officials who are paid by our taxes. We have to stop accepting this distorted view of Harambee spirit and start demanding fruits for the heavy taxes we’re paying.

As we gear up for the campaigns let us take note of candidates committed to making the public service work. Governors who have made a mockery of devolution and abetted the collapse of public institutions while devolving corruption should be shown the contempt card in August alongside other elected leaders who have failed in their representation. In August, we must stand on the right side of history and vote selfishly. Kindly visit your local IEBC constituency offices to either register to vote or verify your details in preparation for polling day.

 

Politics aside Doctors CBA 7 Have Shown Us What Leadership is About

Posted by on 18th February 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The last time Kenyans rallied together for a national political cause was in 2002. We were all excited at the thought of doing away with a despot and begin our journey towards proper democracy. Kenyans have since 2002 reverted back to their tribal cocoons propping up individuals who could bring the cake closer if not home.

The CBA 7 are therefore a breath of fresh air considering that they are a group from diverse backgrounds but have stood their ground for what they believe. Personal and political interpretations aside, this is how all of us should approach this coming elections. What is in it for us? This is a question the youth should ask of our top contenders from both coalitions. The women and other special groups like people with disabilities and the old should rather than align with “their man” ask themselves, what they stand to gain from the next occupant of the House on the hill.

Thankfully, Activist Okiya Omtatah persuaded the court to direct IEBC to extend the Mass Voter Registration (MVR) by three more days ending Sunday. Those who were cut off by their reluctance or last minute culture should have no reason to fail to register. IEBC constituency offices remain open till 7th May.

And while we’re on IEBC when will this important institution ever be ready? Everything gets them flat footed. The Electoral Agency CEO Ezra Chiloba twitted his frustration with the Court’s ruling annulling the award of a Sh2.5 billion tender for printing ballot papers. The 145-page judgment by Justice Odunga, criticized the manner in which the procurement process was carried out, ruling that, “Fundamental departure from public sector governance practice is the idea that board members should be engaged in procurement activities.”

This commission is putting out so many fires it is unsettling considering how close we are to the elections. Already their decision to hire KPMG to audit the voter’s register has been challenged in court. Again, is IEBC prepared to deal with this in the event the challenge is successful or we shall have them sigh again at their lack of foresight? Needless to mention the myriad of challenges we’ve witnessed with this last MVR campaign.

Also while the IEBC Chairman has begun on a good note trying to get both political sides on the table to calm temperatures; it was rather strange for the electoral agency to meet key politicians in their backyards. Meeting the President at Statehouse moments before announcing their position on Diaspora voting; meeting Opposition leaders at Capitol Hill and finally meeting Jubilee officials at their Pangani offices only makes the politicians own the process rather than the other way round. Elections are about us-Kenyans and how we want to be governed and not how politicians want the elections to be carried out. IEBC need to make this clear and argue from a point of strength, not visiting people in their comfort zones.

Back to the CBA 7, while we may waste precious time arguing about the political influence that is playing out, one thing is clear. Their resolve for the welfare of their 5,000 members from different backgrounds and more importantly the doctors who have stood by them regardless. When people stand together for a common cause, ignoring the many things that make them different from each other and focusing on what makes them human, success follows.

The doctor’s strike has had adverse effects on the common man and sad as it is, we have something to learn from their resolve to stand by each other. Can we the people stand by each other on August 8th and focus on people who only have our interest? Like the doctors let’s stop aligning with “our man” and align with those with our interest only. But to do that, register to vote this last two days of Mass Voter Registration (MVR), and then identify true leaders you can rally around. And on that note, ignore the suit-voting idea that leading politicians are telling you. Choose your leaders carefully, both in parties and independent candidates too. That’s how we get proper leaders.