Cancer and other Diseases can be dealt with if we had a Proactive Parliament

Posted by on 5th February 2019

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When Kibra MP Okoth Kenneth begun his crusade about legalizing marijuana it looked too random and rather out of place for a man who had cut out an image of a gentleman; never shouting himself hoarse in public rallies. A man the country had come to associate with performance. A doer more than a talker if his Mbagathi CDF School is anything to go by. Fewer people outside his family knew he was battling cancer.

In an interview that shocked his constituents, the MP who had turned forty not too long ago revealed he had stage four cancer and that it couldn’t be cured as such he will manage it by a tablet a day. Since then a number of people have begun piecing together his push for legalizing of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Although he had made his stand clear it was for responsible use; the message hadn’t really hit home until the media published his cancer story.

Although Hon. Okoth has been one of the most performing legislators and pretty much all rounded in so far as oversight, lawmaking and representation is concerned, it’s not lost on us that majority MPs tend to think about dealing with issues only when it has affected them personally.

Not too long ago when MPs begun the debate on the Data Privacy Bill, rather than delve into the serious breaches that leave the country under threat. They ended up amusing each other with stories of a conman who was swindling them money, completely oblivious of the weighty issues that Bill was expected to address and the fact that Kenyans are conned by convicts from remand every other day but don’t make a fuss about it.

The past year MPs treated the country to a lot of unnecessary drama promising to vote against the President’s memorandum on the Finance Bill, 2018. In hindsight, it appears as though they were playing to the gallery, taking us through the motions yet they knew they weren’t going to veto anything.

Already there are plans by MPs to increase their pension while their constituents work in places where they get paltry or no pension schemes. This is the kind of self-gratifying behavior that irks the general public.

As Parliament’s next session begins this February, we appeal to their senses that as the year begins we shall have productive, people centered debates. Already there is a possibility that this year’s Finance Bill will get the tax payers to tighten their belts even further. We have about four months before the budget is read, our hope is this time round MPs will actually concern themselves with the budgeting process and scrutinize that document accordingly before passing any Bill related to the budget.

In the meantime, they should also demand at the very least that the committee on health challenge the Ministry of Health to help the country understand why cancer is suddenly a common a disease as flu. What has changed? How can the public be informed about the possible dangers or the alternative lifestyle that could help prevent these diseases? Considering its treatment – if one is lucky to identify it early – costs an arm and a leg, wouldn’t prevention be a necessary approach?

As an organization that monitors the work of lawmakers on the floor of the House we know only too well how it is easy to blame and hard to appreciate those MPs who against the negative energy, strive to deliver. The Kibra MP is one such Legislator who has strived to give his constituents the best. We are saddened by his story yet encouraged by his resilience to fight cancer. That notwithstanding, it’s time MPs sponsored Bills in Parliament and fight for the right of every Kenyan to get universal healthcare or affordable healthcare at the very least.

Kenya needs stronger ideological parties for a healthy democracy

Posted by on 30th January 2019

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Since the March 9th handshake the country has experienced relative peace and unity. However, questions still linger nearly one year later about what that gesture between the President and his Opposition counterpart really meant for the ordinary Wananchi beyond a peaceful environment to go about their business.

More importantly, what does this mean for political parties and their role in shaping democracy? While the meeting sealed by a handshake was between two individuals, their followers and political parties they lead fell in line albeit shakily trumpeting the same message of building bridges.

For nearly a year, the opposition coalition NASA has failed to actualize its mandate as the opposition. Despite numerous economic scandals involving high ranking government officials, the opposition parties have remained ineffective. In fact, the better part of the year was treated to infighting among the coalition partners who felt “left out” whatever that means. Which in itself reveals a rather ugly underbelly of the opposition coalition. Were they really in it for the change or for the ‘spoils’?

And if a leading opposition party like ODM chose to “work with the government” what does this mean for other political parties in the opposition like Ford Kenya, ANC and Wiper? Outside of the coalition that brought them together to challenge Jubilee, what is their ideology? Are they able to pronounce themselves on the ills in the society allegedly perpetuated by the government?

Interestingly, all these three parties now appear to have joined ODM in supporting the handshake’s Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force that’s going round seeking views of Kenyans on the way forward for the country. They’ve all submitted their proposals with the exception of Wiper Party – which is also likely to give its views going by the mood of its party leader, Kalonzo Musyoka.

Also worth mulling over is that at the top of the agenda of the handshake appears to be a referendum that’s apparently necessary to help change the Constitution to make it more inclusive. Something those opposed to it like the Deputy President, think is about creating jobs (Prime Minister and two assistant positions) for a few leaders at the expense of Kenyans. Indeed ODM, Ford Kenya and ANC have expressed themselves on this matter claiming the winner takes all system is what is causing so much anxiety and making some communities feel left out.

While this blog is not taking any stand on the referendum – because there’s no question that’s been put across yet, it is worth questioning the sincerity of those making these proposals. Firstly, pre-2010 Constitution we had a recognized position of the leader of Opposition; so we can argue it wasn’t a winner take all situation, yet there was glaring inequality and unbalanced regional development. Would creation of positions for key leaders of communities therefore solve this? We remain skeptical about that.

However, if we had robust political parties where members meet often and not for purposes of dealing with crises or plotting power games but revisiting their manifesto and looking for ways of pulling together to deliver on the promises made, the country would be better for it.

Right now, Jubilee is failing terribly at this with the ongoing implosion that they’re not willing admit. The opposition parties on the other hand are not showing any alternatives – if anything, it appears we have no opposition since the handshake.

Sadly, this also brings to the fore another important debate about the number of political parties in the country. Does it make sense to have the registrar of political parties listing on their website 78 political parties when only three to four political parties are actually engaging on national matters and attempting to deal with the common man’s problems, although unsatisfactorily?

More importantly, what’s the rationale in disbursing funds to these political parties when their effect can’t be felt at the grassroots level?

Until we get serious with the political parties and ensure the party leaders are worth their salt and that the party mechanisms are devoid of mischief and corruption there’s little we shall be building across any bridge, simply because the Executive and the Legislature that play the biggest role in how a country is run are products of political parties.

Security Begins with the Government not the People; but a cohesive country is the antidote to terrorism

Posted by on 24th January 2019

Categories: Uncategorized

Last week terrorists attempted to break the spirit of the country when they attacked DusitD2 hotel and office complex in Nairobi. In a first for the country the security officers acted swiftly preventing more lives from being lost. More than 700 people were rescued while 21 others perished.

The President while addressing the country praised the elite forces involved in the rescue and reminded the public security begins with them. Many critics find that last part of the statement problematic because it looks as though the government is always running away from taking responsibility and looking to blame the public. In this case, the blame is that the people are not being vigilant enough.

To nobody’s surprise the security guards manning institutions, malls and supermarkets have suddenly become very thorough; begging the question, how long, until they relax? Another terror attack? Already the talk about Nyumba kumi initiative that was mooted following the Westgate terror attack in 2013 has become the new talk of town.

Perhaps what we need to ask ourselves is, why are we seemingly disinterested in our neighbors until terrorists attack? Why isn’t it a normal instinct to be friendly? But a more necessary debate is, why should the people be told security begins with them every time an attack happens when they pay taxes to the government to protect them? Kenyans are the most heavily taxed people in the region that it’s arrogant of the government to attempt to throw the blame around. But first things first.

Terrorists thrive on division to succeed: their tactics include creating rivalry between Muslims and Christians (Westgate and Garissa University attacks) and ethnic animosity (Mpeketoni and the matatu explosions in Eastleigh). In all these examples the terrorists wanted either the Christians to retaliate and thus have ready recruits from Muslims or attack on the Somali ethnic community hence achieve the same recruitment. At the center of their activities is the exploitation of weaknesses a country possesses to their advantage and this is why the government needs to come out clearly on its strategy and take full responsibility before telling the public that security begins with them.

Take the Garissa University attack for instance. We needlessly lost 147 students in part because the area has little government presence. The security apparatus took forever to respond which in turn has made so many non-locals move (which by-the-way part of the reason TSC is having challenges posting teachers in North Eastern). What the terrorist did was to exploit the inequitable distribution of resources for maximum damage.

Instead of displaying security forces with their new gear during electioneering period to scare opposition supporters into submission; send these forces to every corner of the country that all Kenyans can feel safe living and working in any part of the country. It’s already a difficult task working to pay taxes, to add the burden of security on the people.

Thankfully, our security officers were very swift in the Dusit2 Hotel attack. Can we guarantee the same response in Isiolo? What of Marsabit? So security begins with the government and then the people follow; not the other way round.

More importantly, terrorist are rendered powerless where there is cohesion. Indeed not too long ago, a Muslim bus driver refused to identify Christian passengers and lost his life but in the process foiled the terrorist’s attempt. These kind of brotherliness and unity ought to be encouraged.

That kind of unity where every part of the country stands together can be better realized if the government did its bit to fill every gap these wicked men exploit. And these gaps include balanced economic development, to prevent increased poverty that leaves the youth vulnerable to terror groups. Depoliticizing government policies to bring down political tension helps address any ethnic hatred that could be exploited.

A country where people don’t feel a President must come from their tribe is a country that is unsafe for terrorists to operate in. A country where education is not about getting jobs but actually learning to integrate with society and offer meaningful solutions to life’s challenges is a country that’s unsafe for terror activities. A country where majority are happy and have some form of satisfaction is capable of having citizens who are their brother’s keeper not because it’s a government directive but because of the values instilled over the years.

MPs should watch out not to entrench “our turn to eat” mentality even as they demand better

Posted by on 14th January 2019

Categories: Uncategorized

The New Year has begun on a rather dramatic note. From Jubilee and ODM internal wars that has seen the resignation of Jubilee Vice Chair, and a relentless call for freedom of speech by ODM ‘rebel’ MPs from the Coast.

Interestingly, the implosion in Jubilee and the wrangles in ODM are allegedly linked to the Deputy President William Ruto. It is public knowledge that the DP intends to take over from President Uhuru when his term ends in 2022 and that has been the genesis of all the quarrels in both parties.

Jubilee Vice Chairperson, David Murathe for instance, has been against DP Ruto’s ascendance to Presidency; something that he cited as the reason for his resignation from the party, although critics see it as DP faction pushing him out of the party.

ODM on the other hand has been trying to tame Coast MPs who have been associating with the deputy president on grounds that as a party they will field a candidate and their members had no business therefore supporting a candidate from another party. The ‘rebel’ MPs appear undaunted arguing their association with the DP is in the spirit of the handshake; taking issue with the party officials whom they accuse of trying to gag them.

But what we should be wary of is the utterances Mt. Kenya MPs are making against their party leader and President of the Republic, Uhuru Kenyatta. After a video of Gatundu South MP, Moses Kuria went viral on New Year’s Eve; a number of MPs from the region came out accusing the President of ignoring his backyard and focusing on opposition regions.

Although Hon. Moses Kuria has since come out to clarify the contents of that video, saying he was accusing the Kiambu leadership and not the president; it appears that clarification didn’t do much considering the different shape the conversation has taken with Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri forming a “Washenzi movement” after the President told them off.

In his response the President told the MPs who were complaining that, the days when the President solely focused on a region he was hailing from were over and that development would reach every corner of the country. The slur on Washenzi notwithstanding, this was a very good response coming on the backdrop of a country where citizens kill each other to elect their own.

About a year ago, sections of citizens in this country wanted to secede and to show how serious they were, they never voted in the fresh October 26th Presidential Elections. This is because they didn’t feel as part of the country; particularly because the fruits of development, allegedly didn’t trickle down to their areas because they’re a strong opposition base.

In fact the cyclic violence every electioneering period has always been about “our turn to eat” mentality where smaller tribes coalesce around a candidate they believe is likely to bring the cake home. It’s therefore sad to see MPs who should know better trumpeting the same thinking thereby entrenching tribalism in an office that is supposed to be a unifying one like the Presidency.

Besides, it’s rather ludicrous that an MP with a Sh. 100 million annual NGCDF kitty would ask what development the President had brought in their region; even in the era of Devolution where we have Ward Representatives and a Governor.

The MPs around Washenzi movement are therefore engaging in backward politics that has no place in the present Kenya. Considering none of them explained to their constituents how they used their NGCDF funds or get specific on the issues they felt the national government had neglected; it appears the attacks are merely political.

2018 was marred with a lot of useless political rhetoric that only got ordinary Kenyans mark-timing. In 2019 we ask the politicians to spare Wanjiku these useless stunts meant only to impress a few politicians.

In the same breath, we challenge the media to play their agenda setting role effectively. We can’t be talking about 2022 politics day in day out when our children are getting the short end of the stick in matters education or when ordinary citizens are being robbed in broad day light as a result of the challenges that have dogged the health sector; including the scandal ridden NHIF funds. This is not too much to ask.

An MP’s Guide to Public Participation

Posted by on 20th December 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Derrick Makhandia

(Guest Blog)

As the year comes to an end, you’ve probably heard of several Acts being challenged in court on grounds that, either the general public or people likely to be affected by the Act weren’t consulted during the making of the Act. Public participation especially in the legislative space is a fairly new concept and there are no standardized laws or procedures regulating how it should be done; yet, this is no excuse to by-pass it, and the courts will hear no excuses either.

There are several things the court will consider, but to help you, this is a general guide to avoid the frustrations of having your Bill declared unconstitutional due to lack of public participation.

To begin with, do it early. You have already developed a draft and you intend to table it. You need to know that once you table it, several forces come into play that will make it more difficult to amend your Bill. It is important to consult widely before you finally table the Bill. This will allow you to amend it more easily.

However, if there is concern that your idea might be “hijacked” and tabled before you, then table it as soon as reasonably possible but make sure you conduct more civic engagement on it before it advances to later stages. You can still introduce amendments even when the Bill is tabled. Furthermore, nothing stops you from engaging the public even after the Bill is tabled.

Secondly, keep a small crowd when conducting a public participation forum. But don’t take this to mean segregating members of the public. A small crowd allows you to have a more meaningful engagement which should be the objective of public participation. Consequently, don’t underestimate Wanjiku. You will be shocked by how much Kenyans know. A local farmer or a boda boda understand a lot about this country owing to their nature of work. Don’t be dismissive. Listen.

Nevertheless, you shouldn’t leave out the experts. Where necessary, deliberately seek the opinions of experts. Even though ordinary citizens understand the context of their challenges, experts offer you highly technical, informed and researched information. If for example you are sponsoring a Bill on nuclear energy or biotechnology, the input of experts will be more beneficial.

Another important piece of advice is that you keep records of your consultations. Our courts make decisions based on evidence. A record of your consultations is necessary to prove that you have done your part. Also, make sure your records are well labeled. If there is a participant list, ensure it has the name of the event, venue, time and particulars of the participants. Remember, a transport reimbursement list is NOT a participant list.

Remember what we said about meaningful engagements? Yes, to do that, make the actual activity interactive. You are interested in people sharing ideas, not a lecture. If at the end of the exercise you have not learnt anything new, then it was flawed. First, share your inspiration and provisions of the Bill, then focus on getting feedback from the participants. Do the least talking, but guide the discussion to elicit exchange of information between everyone in the room including you as equals. If need be get a neutral moderator.

And while you’re at it, read between the lines. Not all opinions will be straightforward. If you are discussing a Bill on mineral benefit sharing and someone says the profits should not be paid to Treasury, then the underlying problem could be lack of trust in the institution due to corruption. You may want to input a clause or section that will ensure transparency in the Bill.

In the same breath, you don’t have to incorporate all (or any) the information you have received into the Bill. But allow yourself to get convinced. Be flexible in your position. Do not take a hardline. Do not make the effort a checklist. You have a moral duty to put meaning into the exercise. Act in good faith.

The same goes for engagement. Be flexible in your approach. It doesn’t have to be a physical engagement. You can do emails, conferences and even social media. However, the sad truth is that we are yet to achieve such levels of technological embrace. If you use this platform, let it not be exclusive. Use it to gauge and get opinions but to be safe, supplement it with the traditional method. Lastly, but not least, and this is the most unpleasant point. It takes money to conduct the exercise. You cannot run away from this but you can get support from institutions, NGOs and even funds you have access to. But be prudent with the money nonetheless.

Evidently, there is no formula to how public participation should be done. There is no magic number which you must meet to say you have carried out substantial public participation. But if you must squeeze out a number from me, 5 forums with diverse target groups isn’t that bad.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Consider what other countries are doing. Even locally, Makueni County can be a good place to check out. This key points also stem from the experience we’ve had while visiting different parts of the country promoting our Bill Annotation platform Dokeza. Kiswahili word for annotate.

We’re nonetheless grateful to the lawmakers who took public participation seriously and we shall continue amplifying such efforts in future.

The writer is Mzalendo’s Programs Officer, Parliamentary Affairs.

Forget EACC what we need is a serious debate on Chapter Six of the Constitution

Posted by on 17th December 2018

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If an anti-corruption commission has a problem interviewing or vetting their next CEO in public, there’s cause to worry. Late last month, journalists were shocked to learn they were barred from witnessing the vetting of individuals interested in the post of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), CEO following the end of Halakhe Waqo’s six years non-renewable term.

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise considering a lot of the institution’s activities are not open to the public including their investigations. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) – since the new boss came in office – hasn’t shied one bit from letting the public know who they’re investigating. In fact, only recently, a court order stopped them from putting up on social media, mug shots of suspects they were investigating.

Indeed, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has promised to go after the big fish and proceeded to name them even when it looked politically incorrect to do so. It’s only the EACC that feels obliged to protect the people they’re investigating.

When the civil society under the National Integrity Alliance (NIA) banner were pushing for the red card campaign to block leaders lacking integrity from being elected last year (2017), the EACC was pussyfooting; telling the members of the alliance they could not reveal names of those being investigated on grounds that one is innocent until proven guilty. This was a great opportunity for the EACC to ride on the good will offered by the civil society under the red card campaign to reveal these individuals and bolster the move to strengthen Chapter Six of the Constitution but they took a pass.

Never mind, the people they protect from public scrutiny are likely to use their offices to frustrate the investigations against them. No wonder, they have had some success in asset recovery but zero success in successful prosecution of high profile individuals.

That Halakhe Waqo’s deputy, Michael Mubea, who should have been the obvious favorite was passed by the EACC board, and an outsider recommended is proof all is not well at the Integrity house. Worse still, the ongoing vetting by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee is not likely to get the country much, whether vetting is kept from the public or not.

Firstly, Parliament, just like the EACC has lost public confidence when it comes to investigation of corruption scandals. They bungled nearly all the inquiries over bribery allegations this year. Where MPs were expected to be honorable, they either chose to protect the accused on grounds of “their community being targeted” or completely absconded house business to create a quorum hitch. Those with little disregard for Wanjiku allegedly took bribes to vote against key reports in the House.

If members in the 12th Parliament have shown such a high affinity for bribery and the fine things in life, going by that infamous PSC Bill sponsored by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee; why should we expect the vetting of the anti-corruption watchdog to yield anything?

Besides, all those who’ve led this institution have performed dismally from Aaron Ringera’s Kenya Anti- Corruption Commission (KACC) to the re-branding to EACC; nothing has changed and if the allegations against the outgoing officers are anything to go by, it’s only getting worse.

The question we ought to deal with is: do we really need the EACC? If yes, is there a need to restructure it? Perhaps, give it a special mandate as one of the nominees suggested during the vetting. Give it only high profile cases involving very senior government officers thereby freeing the institution from dealing with every criminal case that the Police and DCI can competently handle. This way, we can stop unfairly criticizing the understaffed investigators and hopefully give the institution a clear target.

In the meantime, if any vetting was to be done at the EACC it should be on the staff. One individual being grilled in Parliament can’t affect an institutionalized culture where more than half of the staff are allegedly gatekeepers.

Perhaps the ongoing vetting of individuals running for the EACC CEO position should rekindle the much needed discussion on Chapter Six of the Constitution. To that end, it’s about time we revisited the Leadership and Integrity Act that gives life to Chapter Six. And once and for all streamline all the loopholes making it easy for corrupt individuals to find their way into senior public office.

If we get it right on Chapter Six, agencies like the DCI, DPP, EACC and the Judiciary are likely to have a more productive time and with it proper use of tax payer’s money.

Parliament 2018; the Year in Review

Posted by on 11th December 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Slightly over a year ago when MPs and Senators took their oath of office; nobody could’ve imagined a Jubilee and NASA lawmaker agreeing on anything. Coming on the backdrop of a divisive and controversial election that saw the nullification of the Presidential elections; the 12th Parliament started on the wrong footing.

Parliament has officially adjourned until February 2019, although National Assembly will be having a special sitting on Tuesday 18th. Here’s a review of the August House, the past 15 months.

The 12th Parliament’s performance has been dismal to say the least. Firstly, they wasted nearly half of the year fighting useless wars between the government and opposition MPs that only injured the common man. The least said about Opposition NASA MPs’ decision to abscond Parliamentary sessions, yet drawing salaries and sitting allowances the better.

There’s little tangible evidence that MPs or Senators did anything meaningful the first few months up until the handshake. In a rather surprising turn of events, Parliamentarians from both the ruling Jubilee and opposition NASA found new cooperation after the President and his opposition counterpart shook hands on the steps of Harambee House and announced the Building Bridges Initiative shortly after.

The handshake and the falling in line by MPs from both sides was a great learning opportunity for Kenyans. It revealed a most unprincipled, probably uncaring group of leaders. While the decision by the two opposing leaders to come together brought with it peace and ended the violence, mostly in the opposition turfs – perpetrated by the police – it also showed how the common man is but a pawn in a rich man’s game.

Nine solid months have passed after the much publicized handshake but baby Moraa, baby Pendo and all those who lost their lives during elections are yet get any justice. In fact none of the opposition supporters who suffered personal loss as a result of the political violence have gotten any form of justice. The MPs representing these areas have also since forgotten having adopted the government’s slogan on the Big Four Agenda.

The first year of the 12th Parliament was characterized with petty fights – sometimes physical – mostly in the National Assembly. As a matter of fact, Senate just like in the 11th Parliament remained the sober House, often carrying out their debates with decorum. Indeed, the Senate debated more Bills the past 15months compared to the National Assembly.

Another highlight of the 12th Parliament the past year was corruption. The country in general was hit hard by a wave of corruption touching on senior government officials leading to the loss of billions. While these scandals kept the Parliamentary Watchdog Committees so busy; they also revealed to us the greedy nature of our legislature. There were cases of duplication of roles as both Houses ended up investigating the same scandals – inviting the same suspects to respond to similar questions which made the public question whether there was proper value for money.

The duplication of investigations also brought back the sibling rivalry between the two Houses with the National Assembly accusing the Senate of boar dorm and greed; forming committees with a view to investigate what was already being investigated at the National Assembly, just to earn sitting allowances. Interestingly, the same committees set in both Houses to investigate the scandals were also found wanting with numerous allegations of MPs and more recently Senators being bribed to shoot down reports.

In short from the sugar scandal that saw sugar farmers make losses, NYS season II (Sh9 billion), Kenya Power (Sh5 billion transformers), Kenya Pipeline (Sh95 billion), Maize scandal (Sh11.3 billion) to the Sh1.5 billion controversial Ruaraka Land saga among others; the investigations by Parliament have achieved nothing besides giving the legislators sitting allowances in the committees. No money has since been recovered.

It’s safe to say 2018 in general was the year of corruption scandals. Worse still, the government has been on a borrowing spree that has seen the national debt rise to worrying levels but our MPs haven’t done much to challenge this, except for the increment on 8% VAT. In a dramatic passing of the 8% VAT through the Finance Bill,2018 the House leadership; including the National Assembly Speaker, leaders of both majority and minority as well as the whips allegedly engineered a quorum hitch to see the Bill sail contrary to the wishes of Wanjiku.

Overall we can say the handshake effectively killed the voice of opposition in Parliament thereby killing the oversight role of the Legislature as majority MPs in the opposition supported government Bills that were unpopular, including the Finance Bill, 2018.

The 12th Parliament has a long way to go in so far as having meaningful debates are concerned if the past year is anything to go by. A lot of key Bills were debated from either partisan or biased perspective with little regard for what the common mwananchi really wants. A case in point was the two-thirds gender Bill. It became an issue of male MPs vs Female MPs and this became the public debate completely drowning the main point behind the two-thirds principle. We hope future debates on such emotive topics will done more responsibly.

Lastly but not least, the media has continued covering the lawmakers more outside the House; in burial and public rally functions where MPs make utterances and promises that remain controversial. It’s our informed opinion that if the media covered MPs more while debating in the House, Wanjiku will come to understand more the role of MPs and therefore make realistic demands on their elected leaders.

Majority MPs say the right things on radio and TV talk shows but are unable to follow up these conversations on the floor of the House leading us to conclude they’re playing for the galary. It’s for this reason that we run an annual award in honor of those lawmakers who remain focused on issues of great interest to Wanjiku. As the President honors diligent Kenyans on December 12th at Mzalendo we honor those Parlamentarians who sponsored Bills, moved motions or petitions on behalf of the majority Kenyans as People’s Shujaaz Awards.

It’s time Kenyans pushed their Elected Leaders to ask Hard Questions on the Borrowing Appetite

Posted by on 4th December 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Treasury is looking for a syndicated loan to pay off the Sh77.25 billion (another previously syndicated) loan taken in 2015 that’s due next year (2019). The debt the country is hoping to clear with this syndicated loan is one which nobody knows what it was spent on.

Actually, that’s the nature of the syndicated loans. Banking experts will tell you a syndicated loan, among other things doesn’t require the public be informed on the details. That explains why such loans are extraordinarily expensive because; the secrecy and the fact that it is availed quite quickly without any need for disclosure of the projects or whatever it is going to be spent on makes it all the more expensive.

It’s not just the loans that the government is not willing to be accountable to its people on; even the grants they’re getting are shrouded in secrecy. A few days ago, Tinderet MP, Alex Kosgey expressed his frustrations with Treasury after it appeared apparent the government wasn’t going to divulge the deal that saw European Union (EU) give loans and grants amounting to Sh520 billion to Kenya. He lamented that Treasury won’t even say how much was the loan and how much was the grant.

The contempt the government has for the great people of this republic is mindboggling. Firstly, the Office of the Auditor General came under scathing attack following his revelations that the 2014 Eurobond couldn’t be accounted for. And as if that wasn’t enough, the government goes for a syndicated loan that doesn’t require they divulge details.

President Kibaki under the Grand Coalition government managed to bring down the government debt to GDP in 2012 to 38.2% an all-time low but the Jubilee government has managed to reverse this in the 6 years it has been in office, with a 57.1% debt to GDP in 2017. This data is according to the Trading Economics site. Never mind the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommends that ratios of public debt to GDP should not be higher than 40% for developing countries.

One of the strange phenomena that indirectly leads to this borrowing craze that can’t be accounted for is that whenever the budget is read, MPs hardly interrogate it in light of the previous budget and particularly stalled development projects. The result therefore is a situation where, new projects are started while previously initiated projects have stalled having gobbled up a substantial amount of the budget with no form of accountability.

In fact in July 2018, MPs were divided over the President’s directive to government accounting officers whom he warned against sanctioning new projects without completing those that are ongoing. Majority opposed to the directive complained that their areas would suffer at the expense of previously launched projects in other constituencies. They weren’t concerned about the national debt or whether the monies were being used prudently. They wanted something visible in their constituencies to guarantee their election in 2022.

Worth noting is Treasury, apparently publishes a quarterly report by their Debt Management Office. Few MPs scrutinize it to get proper answers over our seemingly inability to manage public debt. From IMF and recently the World Bank, accusatory fingers are pointing at this critical office within Treasury but nothing has come of it; at least not from our elected leaders.

This nonchalant approach to the dangerously rising public debt is seen in their recent push to have rent-free house, a government vehicle, an expanded medical cover, travel allowances and an expanded constituency outreach operation as reported by the Daily Nation. The Bill that will see all 416 MPs enjoy this new benefits despite already existing perks like car grants, mileage allowance and mortgage facility is based on a recommendation by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee report.

Not too long ago, when the country was divided and MPs unable to debate effectively on any issue due to the political heat; they miraculously came together to condemn the state of their three-star meals. In a rare show of unity the MPs demanded a complete refurbishment that will see the services rival that of a five-star hotel, complete with masseuse.

Despite the good efforts of MPs like Alex Kosgey, their unanimous push to increase their perks at such a time and despite being one of the best paid legislators in the world negates any good intention and shows them as completely aloof.

Parliament being the true voice of Wanjiku must realize their core duty, whether representation law-making or oversight should have Kenyans at heart. Their desire to live lavishly at the expense of the majority poor is no longer tenable and as a people we must begin exercising the right of recall. In the meantime, Wanjiku must push for their elected leaders to not only put an end to this borrowing craze but also demand evidence of what the money borrowed has been used on and action taken where there’s embezzlement.


The Gender Bill Debacle and How to Make Women Electable

Posted by on 29th November 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

The country is likely to go into another electioneering period only this time it will be MPs and Senators crisscrossing the country seeking our votes. That’s if they fail to pass the two-thirds Gender Bill this week.

The 2010 Constitution, under Articles 27(6 and 8) require that no more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies be of the same gender. The two-thirds gender Bill by Majority Leader Aden Duale, therefore, seeks to amend Articles 97 and 98 on membership of the National Assembly and the Senate to streamline it and ensure Parliament is constitutional.

After two failed attempts to enact the Bill in the 11th Parliament, High Court Judge, Justice John Mativo ruled that in the event parliament fails to pass the gender Bill into law, any Kenyan can petition the Chief Justice to advise the President to dissolve parliament on grounds that it was unconstitutional.

National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale has re-introduced the Bill again in the 12th Parliament hoping to rally his colleagues this time round to pass the Bill and prevent a very likely dissolution of the House of its failure to meet the constitution requirement.

Already there’s a hearing on the same by Activist Okiya Omtatah this week and there’s every indication that this time round, the Chief Justice will have little choice but to advise the President to dissolve Parliament. Moreover, there seems to be an ongoing silent war between the Executive and the Legislature over the latter’s push to determine their own salaries and benefits without the involvement of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), something the President doesn’t look so impressed with. Local papers report that this is the reason the MPs are playing hard ball on the gender Bill despite Jubilee MPs being whipped by the President and NASA MPs by the coalition leader Raila Odinga.

Aside from the power games between the arms of government, there are genuine concerns facing this Bill. Firstly, there are fears that it’s likely to be abused by party owners to bring into Parliament, their “girl friends” which will only serve to embolden the attitude of male MPs and the society in general towards women. The affirmative action that saw the creation of Women Reps for instance has been termed on several occasions as bonga points and not in a an attractive way.

Vocal Jubilee MP and Gatundu South MP is perhaps one of the few who has articulated the issue pretty succinctly. In a Facebook post linked to him, the MP allegedly indicated that he will not be voting for the gender Bill since his efforts to engage women MPs to move away from a reward based system to a meritocratic one has fell on deaf ears.  He proposes to remove political parties from the exercise by introducing an independent panel to deal with applications from interested women. The MP also tackles another thorny issue on youth representation. He wants the seats reserved strictly for those who fall under the legal definition of youth.

His suggestions are quite reasonable. Firstly, the removal of political parties from picking the candidates would effectively cure the nomination of “girl friends” who have little understanding of politics, let alone interest to serve. Secondly, the youth in this country are treated as second rate citizens and are hardly included in anything meaningful. The idea to only accept applications from youths as per the constitutional definition will help increase the number of youths in Parliament who can champion for the needs of this demographic though it could sideline older women. Currently, even the Young Parliamentarians Association that’s supposed to cater for the interest of the youth has about 34 MPs who are youths by our constitutional definition. No wonder, youth issues remain a thorn in the flesh.

There’s also the fear of a blotted wage Bill. Already there are a number of Kenyans signing the petition to reduce the number of MPs under operation punguza mzigo. But this is stemming from the idea that we’re overrepresented yet the key reason is the perception that MPs are only interested in their issues and not their constituents. These are thoughts that could harm the public perception on two-thirds gender Bill hence the need for a sober discussion on the matter.

In our view, seeing as this is a constitutional requirement, the MPs as the lawmaking body can’t afford to operate in an unconstitutional atmosphere. They need to pass this Bill regardless of the issues raised. We can deal with such challenges as they arise and once we have a constitutional legislature.

In future we can have the nominations done the way we appoint commissioners. In an open and competitive environment that makes the nominees feel dignified and respected by their colleagues and the public and not beholden to party leaders. We trust MPs to do the right thing.

Of Building Bridges and the Slow Death of Opposition in Parliament

Posted by on 21st November 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

In a country like Kenya where those who form the government don’t get a convincing lead in terms of votes or it remains controversial; the views and interest of those who vote for opposition must be guarded. But what happens when the same opposition “joins government”?

There are genuine fears that the President’s handshake with the opposition leader Raila Odinga on March 9th effectively killed the opposition. Something the opposition led by the vocal ODM leaders continue to deny. Senate Minority leader James Orengo is on the record saying the handshake hasn’t affected the opposition’s ability to play their role.

NASA co-principals, Musalia Mudavadi has maintained the opposition is alive and well, even intimating that he was the true face of opposition in light of the handshake, yet he commands a very small number in Parliament; suffice to argue there’s no alternative voice beside the government’s going by the voting pattern on key motions.

If we thought the passing of the controversial Finance Bill, 2018 signaled the end of opposition going by the behavior of the House leadership that fateful day – both majority and Minority leaders engineered the quorum hitch. Then the appointment of Raila Odinga as the African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure and his Nasa Co-Principal Kalonzo Musyoka’s appointment by President Uhuru to head the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) on peace in South Sudan, served to confirm the death and burial of opposition in Kenya.

Indeed, even the other NASA co-principals, Moses Wetangula and Musalia Mudavadi are reportedly having meetings with aides of either President Uhuru or his Deputy William Ruto.

The sad bit about all this, is that while the opposition leader keeps talking about his March 9th handshake with the President at every opportunity and reassuring his support base that their interests are still taken care of; nobody besides him, the President and the 14member committee task force on the building bridges initiative knows what the outfit is all about.

Solid eight months have now passed since the President and his opposition counter-part buried the hatchet to give peace a chance, explaining that there’s a need to build institutions and deal with electoral violence among other key issues.

Of interest, is the fact that, it’s been nearly 6months since the 14-member task force on Building Bridges initiative was gazetted and mandated to, “outline the policy, administrative reform proposals, and implementation modalities for each identified challenge area; and conduct consultations with citizens, the faith-based sector, cultural leaders, the private sector and experts at both the county and national levels.”

Yet the public remains clueless about this outfit.

More importantly, what was the point in coming up with this taskforce, when the issues the President and the former Prime Minister both raised on the steps of Harambee House on March 9th have been extensively tackled in the National Accord and Reconciliation Act, 2008 by the Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC) and enacted shortly after the 2007/2008 Post-election violence (PEV)?

It’s through KLRC that the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) came to life. The report has been gathering dust more than four years since President Uhuru Kenyatta received it. So why side-step such a comprehensive report only to create another taskforce to drain taxpayer’s money when all the report needs has been goodwill (that is now available since the handshake) to implement it?

The National Commission and Integration Commission (NCIC) was also formed courtesy of the KLRC to deal with the same issues the President and the opposition leader claimed were destroying this country; particularly the evident lack of national integration or reconciliation. Wouldn’t it be prudent to take stock of what NCIC has been doing and decide whether to begin a process of shutting it down completely if it has failed or identify areas that need strengthening?

One only needs to see how reports by watchdog committees like the Senate PAC report on the controversial Ruaraka Land are getting derailed to confirm that the opposition is truly dead. As for the Building Bridges Initiative, it is nothing short of the useless commissions the long serving President Moi used to form to take people round in circles when there was a clear way forward.

If the President and the Rt.Hon. Raila Odinga’s handshake had the country in mind and not personal gain, they should disband the Building Bridges Initiative and implement TJRC as well as the contents of Agenda Four. Anything short of that is taking the voters for a ride – particularly opposition supporters.