The just concluded People’s Shujaaz Awards offered Kenyans a fresh lens through which to look at Parliamentarians. Despite the despondency that Kenyans show when a thought on Parliament crosses their mind, People’s Shujaaz brought a ray hope.
These are the few lessons we learnt from the campaign:
Lesson one, there is demand for Parliament to change how it operates. The Legislature has to change the way it communicates to the people. Parliament needs to re-engineer its image. For a long time now Parliament’s website has not been up to standard. There is need for Parliament to modify itself and embrace new technology to communicate efficiently and effectively. To date Parliament lacks social media outlets for real time updates.
Lesson two, is that there is a group of Kenyans who have a permanent negative attitude towards Parliamentarians. They perceive them as a lot that is irredeemably greedy and nothing good can come out of them. This group of Kenyans remained skeptical and saw the Awards as just another dubious attempt to try and sanitize Parliament. This shows Parliament’s herculean task to try and redeem its image and endear themselves to Kenyans.
If this negative attitude prevails, there is a risk of blurring the good work that some Parliamentarians have done. It is true that there is a clique of self-centered MPs but not all of them.
Lesson three, from personal interactions with a number of MPs, we found that it is difficult for an individual MP to have their bill, motion or legislation reach the floor of the House for discussion. For this reason, there are so many bills that are pending with the legislation office in Parliament because they haven’t found favor. Sometimes the whole process is political and if one is against the establishment their bill may not see the light of the day. Bills, motions or petitions that propose progressive ideas may be hijacked and turned into a policy paper by the Executive so as to draw away credit from the proposer of the Bill.
Lesson four, Parliamentarians are anxious to receive positive coverage but the media is obsessed with negativity. There is a good number of Parliamentarians who burn for this country. Those who have proposed brilliant ideas but no one is there to tell their story. These type of leaders need to be celebrated, someone needs to give Kenyans hope by showcasing the good things that happen in Parliament amidst the negativity.
Lesson five, Kenyans appreciate good work. In the few three weeks that the online and SMS voting was live, Kenyans voted in large numbers. Due to the gap in telling good stories, in most cases most of them were surprised that good MPs still exist, and appreciated the good issues they advocated for. In the end, even if mainstream media may not report everything. Parliament’s communication office needs to find a way of telling Parliament’s stories to citizens.
Has your MP protected your interests this year? Please write and tell us about it.