Affirmative action; balanced representation or advancing interest of the marginalized?

Posted by on 5th October 2018

Categories:   Uncategorized

Politics and politicians in Kenya are the unwanted gifts that keep on giving. We hadn’t even mulled over that chaotic impeachment of the Nairobi County Speaker or that strange condition that requires she travels first class, and now MCA Mary Njambi decided it was time Nairobians realized they’re paying for someone who never wanted the job, let alone knowing her job description.

What was more disturbing about this disclosure was the nonchalant manner in which the Nairobi city MCA narrated her initial lack of enthusiasm in the job and the appointing authority’s insistence that she was the person for the job.

In light of this revelation, is it therefore far-fetched, to imagine the unnamed appointing authority; who must be acting on behalf of the party was equally clueless about the functions of an MCA – a nominated MCA for that matter?

It’s not hard to imagine majority Kenyans don’t know the functions of their elected leaders. I mean, the fact that we vote in the same individuals and spend an entire election cycle complaining, confirms we don’t get what elective leaders are supposed to be doing; otherwise we would vote differently.

However, it is one thing for sections of the society to not know the functions of say, an MCA, and it’s totally another for an MCA to admit ignorance of the role for which she holds.

Considering the government is telling the overburdened tax payers to tighten their belts further as it tries to navigate out of this economic crisis, isn’t it about time we had the uncomfortable discussion on the role of nominated leaders; especially now that we’re paying heavily for some of them who are not only ignorant of their role but also never wanted the job to begin with?

The reasoning behind this premise is that, elected leaders (Senators, MPs and MCAs) all somewhat knew what the electorate wanted and managed to convince their constituents enough to get voted. To that end therefore, we can argue the elected MPs know their JD; whether they deliver is a story for another day.

Nominated Members of Parliament and County Assemblies on the other hand are individuals who may (as in the case of MCA Njambi) be disinterested in the job they’re being offered or are not driven by the same passion as their elected colleagues because they lack a constituency they really care for and understand.

It’s therefore important to debate the role and indeed relevance of these special seats especially when we can’t quantify the return on investment.

At the core of this debate is, what role is affirmative action playing in our Parliament? Is it purely to balance representation? That is, ensure marginalized groups: the youth, women and people living with disability (PWDs) have a seat? If that’s the sole reason then there’s nothing to debate further. We must accept that we’ll always have some nominated MCAs, MPs and Senators who are not worth their salt but will somehow reduce the number of male domination or create a semblance of inclusion of the youth and PWDs.

However, if affirmative action goes beyond balanced representation and is indeed concerned with championing the interest of these marginalized groups; then we need to debate about the caliber of people chosen to represent these groups to ensure they truly represent their concerns in Parliament.

Additionally, we need to have a further debate on the right of recall. At the moment it only touches on those elected. Nominated Senators, MPs and MCAs therefore are not answerable to the electorate because the law is silent on how the electorate can deal with them when they’re underperforming – with regard to the groups they’re purported to represent.

When an MCA goes on live Radio and boldly reveals she informed the appointing authority she has no idea what the role entailed and she was still nominated and continues to draw salary for a job she can’t do by virtue of that admission; we are failing as a nation if we can’t make laws that allow Wanjiku to recall such an individual on grounds of incompetence.